Film maker Prakash Jha is known for highlighting socio-political problems through the medium of cinema. His latest movie, Chakravyuh, focuses on Naxalism, a serious and complex problem that the nation is grappling with today. However, Jha has failed to meet the high expectations of the people.
In the movie, the government supports big corporations and turns a blind eye to the poor tribal people, bends rules to assist the rich and influential and uses the police for the purpose. We are aware of these issues and the movie brings out these aspects quite well.
Then there is Mahanta, a steel company that wants to get its hands on the natural resources in the tribal areas. Mahanta cares about nothing else but its profits, even if it comes at the cost of the poor adivasis’ livelihood. The Naxals are supported by professors. They have their own laws and methods of meting out justice to villagers. The commanders of this Naxal movement approve of their violent struggle and do not seem to have any dilemma about raising funds through extortion. And the policemen are downright cruel.
Chakravyuh highlights how the government, businessmen and the police are being unfair to the adivasis. But does it mean that Naxalism is the solution? The film shows how the Naxals react to injustice, but stays mum on where this problem will take them. The Naxals can take revenge but can they provide ‘development’? The movie doesn’t answer that question. It doesn’t touch on the subject of the effect of the Naxal movement.
There is a scene in the movie where an upright police officer, during his first visit to an adivasi village, asks people to put an end to violence since it will not give them hospitals, schools and a livelihood. However, this point is never made again in the rest of the movie.
It is disheartening that a sensitive and intelligent director like Jha has conveyed an anti-social message by making a villain out of the government and heroes out of the Naxals.
I wonder if Jha believes that the adivasis can change the situation with just guns in their hands. Can our society resolve its problems or bring about a meaningful social change without the help of the government? I agree that it’s not a simple problem, but if Jha decided to take up the challenge of making a movie on a complex issue, then he should have dealt with the complexity in a more responsible manner.
Ashwini Kulkarni heads a Nashik-based non-profit group Pragati Abhiyan, which works for transparency in government schemes such as the NREGA.
The views expressed by the author are personal