NRI

Google fb32x32 twitter linkedin feed-icon-32x32

Film Review: Chakravyuh

Film Review: Chakravyuh

October 13, 2012

Yet another national issue brought to light, but suffers from becoming preachy and too long.



The best films are those that not only inform and enrich, but also manage to entertain us to a point that we don’t even realise we are being educated. The Hindi film industry is full of successful directors that are thriving by making the romances, the high-octane action, the comedies, or the epic period films.

And then we have Prakash Jha. In the past, Jha has brought known Indian social issues to the public eye with his high-pitched political dramas. With Aarakshan, he delved into the complications of the caste-based quotas in education. With Rajneeti, Jha showed the vengeful complexities of Indian politics. And now with Chakravyuh, he explores the world of the Naxalite movement, not only showing the difficult challenges the police have in defeating them, but also going into what propels the Naxalites to the crimes they commit.

Born 65 years ago, Naxalism is currently the biggest security threat to India and it’s a mystery that Indian cinema has barely explored the movement.

The film begins by following SP Adil Khan (Arjun Rampal) and his stubborn plight to stop at nothing to capture vicious Naxalite leader Rajan (Manoj Bajpayee). The story then gradually moves into the Naxalite world as Adil’s best friend Kabir (Abhay Deol), sees the struggle he is going through and chooses to infiltrate the organisation by becoming one of them. As he experiences life as a Naxalite and sees how his ‘laal salaam’ colleagues live, Kabir increasingly wonders whether he is fighting for the right side.

It is a gripping story, and Jha has done a wonderful job in taking a current affair and putting a commercial ‘Bollywood’ coating to it – though it definitely could have done without the item number (a hard-hitting Naxalite drama doesn't really need the suggestive pelvic thrusts of an item girl). The friends-turned-enemies convention is reminiscent of films like Company and Deewaar, and works a treat, especially because by the end of it, even we’re not sure whom we should be rooting for.

Where the film fails, much like Jha’s previous films, is in the overuse of expositional dialogue. Although there are powerful things to be said about the way the police and the Naxalites work, sometimes the large speeches come across a tad unnatural and more polemic than anything. At times like this, the entertainment stops whilst the education continues, and Jha, with writer Anjum Rajabali, have been guilty of doing this with their previous films together. These lessons can work well as dialogue in theatre, but become jarring in a cinematic context and could have done with a heavy dose of editing.

Another failure of the film is in the repetitive use of violence. Like Rajneeti where there was one attack after another on yet another politician’s family member, Chakravyuh is chock-full of policemen and Naxalites killing each other over and over again. As with anything in film, such as tears or scares, the more you see of something, the less effective it becomes. So unfortunately, when we start to reach the finale of Chakravyuh, having seen so many deaths already, the end comes across considerably limp.

The performances overall are good, with particular credit going to Rampal’s Amitabh-esque ‘angry man’ SP officer – possibly the best of his career so far. Unfortunately, Deol comes across too soft for the role of a man who becomes a hardened Naxalite, and his understated performance doesn’t fully portray the anger and hurt a character of his position would be feeling.

The less said about Esha Gupta’s performance as Adil’s wife the better. Albeit being gorgeous, she was seriously miscast; coming off as if she’d accidentally mistook the gig as a Vikram Bhatt movie. Newcomer Anjali Patil impresses greatly as a Kabir’s love interest, showing good promise for her career ahead. The only gripe, out of no fault of her own, is that she comes across too pretty to credibly be a senior leader of the Naxalites.

As with many a Hindi film before it, this would have benefitted with a good amount of editing to have become the powerful cinema it could have been. It’s an important story that relates not only to India, but to the whole world, where a small number of people hold the majority of the wealth whilst the vast number of people struggle below the poverty line, leaving them with no other option but to fight for what they believe they deserve.

There’s a great line in the film where Adil tries to reason with turned-Naxalite Kabir about the functionality of Indian law – “If the system is broken, don’t destroy it. Fix it.” In many ways, this could also be said for the issues facing Hindi cinema, that repeatedly falls short of truly breaking into the mainstream conscience internationally. Chakravyuh proves that Indian cinema is not lacking in good concepts – where it faults is in its execution.

For those Indian filmmakers missing their masterpiece by a whisker, I can only advise this: If the film is broken, don’t release it. Edit it. 

10 Comments

  • rahul
    By
    rahul
    26.10.12 08:46 PM
    hopefully abhay does more "queriky " cinema like OLLO and Dev D which suits his image. I think he is too early at this stafe to do socio politiocal movies and his target audince mostly consist of multiplex find him more intresting in roles which are little out there. His role in OLLO was his best role yet with his delhi lingo / Evene in ZNMD last year he had that unqiye character which accepted by audince

    he can be forgoven for Shanghai since it was still role withing is image but chakravyuh despite good effort prakash jha is not as realaible as anurag kashayp dibakart banarejee or evene zoya akhtar
  • rahul
    By
    rahul
    26.10.12 09:50 AM
    i finally saw chakravyuh to be honest i liked the film yes it had flaws like that horrenuds item song by sameera reddy appearing randomly but i found better than Rajneety and arakshan .

    Also i feel sorry for abhay this year because with shanghai and chakravyuh he tried to be little "maisntream" yet box office tell another story even in chakravyuh i find him engaging as an actor without going melodramatic

    i belive if instead iof arjun if there was better actoor who comlicated abhay movie would have been moore engaging to wathc i also felt arjun was given more footage in film than abhay specailly in 1st half

    instead of arjun i belive someone like ajsya devgan would have beenm much better choice

    and abhay and ajay devgan in same film birng more curasioty than let's saay abhay and arjun in same film
  • rahul
    By
    rahul
    26.10.12 09:45 AM
    ^^ i beg to differ to be honest yes there were movies like khaani PST while i found PST rightfully desrveing hit but found khaani way overrated and cliched 3 idiots and Barfi had "stars" and witjhout thjese stars both movie hardlly would have been accapted

    problem is bollywood has is too fixated with box office that they always play "safe" unlike hollywood or other cinema. Take for example Shhanghai this year which i consider one of the boldest and riskiest m,ovie came out in bollywood yet failed because audince was too busy watching Rowdy rathore week before??? yes there are unique movie coming upo are hoits but when we look at larger picture bollywood is ruled by mindless "masala" genre i mean all u need just salman khan iin his non acting mode movoie is gurnateed bumper opening script aur actinng gayi bhaad main!!!

    now hollywood also have mindless trash like transformers twilight etc but these movies dont take prioroity over incepption Looper, Aargo.

    Why cant we have proper film like inception or even Looper where or makers get out of "safe" zone and box offixe once

    we are heading regressive cinema of 80's sadly and RR,Bodygyard, Singham are example of that and sad part is this "masala" pahse will last for another decade
  • Shai
    By
    Shai
    24.10.12 01:36 PM
    @SJC: I agree on most parts, especially with the lack of attention on Juhi's backstory, but it is possible to make a genre film with a social message that is also entertaining - just ask Chris Nolan who explored the war on terror with The Dark Knight, and then hinted at the Occupy Wall Street movement in the sequel. It's just a matter of subtlety and getting the balance right.

    @rahul: Come now, let's not get too pessimistic :) Though it's still not hitting the best quality, there's been some great risks that commercial Indian cinema has taken in the past few years with films like Noone Killed Jessica, 3 Idiots, Barfi and Kahaani to name a few. There's still hope yet!
  • rahul
    By
    rahul
    24.10.12 01:26 PM
    actually bollywood is horrendus stage lately where nothing but 'masala" fims
  • SJC
    By
    SJC
    17.10.12 03:20 PM
    i actually thought abhay was good in this. arjun was pretty strong too. his wife wasnt even that bad, her character was just a typical flimsy bimbo, but to be fair, i thought everyone put in a strong performance. the only performance that really seemed a bit clunky and speechy was om puri. i thought the film was powerful on the whole, despite the unecessary item numbers, though i did wonder how no one else recognised that abhay and arjuns characters knew each other when they reunited in front of a ton of police! the films main problem apart from being over long is that it was conflicted between wanting to be a genre picture (which it was good at), a social message film (ditto), and your typical masala movie (not wanted in this case). the other thing i felt was lacking a bit was that juhi's character's backstory wasnt believable enough and that the naxalites' cause wasnt really explored enough. it was like the film wanted to touch on it, but didnt want to go TOO far with it.
  • Shai
    By
    Shai
    16.10.12 02:17 PM
    @ceti Too true. But unfortunately even the item numbers aren't that great. At least Tees Maar Khan had a Sheila Ki Jawani to save it!
  • Shai
    By
    Shai
    16.10.12 02:16 PM
    Hi Rahul

    I fully agree with you in regards to the vast majority of Indian actors going OTT in terms of acting - don't get me started on Salman Khan (I personally think he has as much talent as a potato but his fanbase speaks for itself). Though Ranbir I can't fault after Barfi.

    I'm also not critiquing Abhay's great performances in Shanghai, Dev D and ZNMD. But he just didn't feel right for this role. 'Understated' may have been the wrong word - his acting wasn't bad in the film, he just didn't show much in the way of screen presence.

    Shai
  • ceti
    By
    ceti
    16.10.12 05:56 AM
    Solid review, and in fact exactly as I predicted. All the problems with Bollywood films are highlighted, and unfortunately, also detract from Chakravyuh's groundbreaking topic. Editing, editing, editing, and dispensing with over-the-top item dance numbers is the way forward. Quantity doesn't mean quality.

    I'm sure the two songs Mehngai and Cheen ke Lenge will go farther than the entire 150 minute long film.
  • rahul
    By
    rahul
    13.10.12 11:08 PM
    let me ask u what is wring being "under stated"??? does every emotion have to OTT and screaming lungs and crying their eye out. ASbhay belonds to diffrent type of acting which frankly is quite change from bollywood's always melodramatic acting.

    Just see abhay in climax of shanghai where he has scene with vetran actor like farokh sheikh and there he was "understated" yet effectiove enough to show his emotional range. Not every actor has to be over the top clown like ranbir or exxegaretd salman khan

    just saying

Leave a comment