Sound and fury signifying very little
Direction: Prakash Jha
Cast: Arjun Rampal, Abhay Deol, Anjali Patil, Manoj Bajpayee, Esha Gupta
Rating: ** 1/2
There are films that try to tell emotionally complex stories and succeed in making an impact. Chakravyuh, unfortunately, is not one of those films.
The plot, inspired by actual news stories from the past two years, seems interesting enough. Adil Khan (Rampal), a highly-ranked police officer, is transferred to Nandighat, a seemingly fictional village in the heart of the Red Corridor, after a band of Naxalites led by the charismatic Rajan (Bajpayee) massacres 84 policemen. Khan is soon convinced by his childhood friend Kabir (Deol), a hotheaded idealist, to send him into the forest to join the Naxalites as his secret informer. Kabir's perceived ability to intercept police communications impresses Rajan as well as his comrade Juhi (Patil), and they soon accept him as one of their own. The backdrop of this entire story is a familiar controversy, involving a corporation called Mahanta Steel (no points for subtlety there), the state government and poor Adivasis.
To be fair, Chakravyuh does get a few things right. The violence, though a tad excessive, is well orchestrated. Certain set-pieces, especially one that shows an entire village being razed, are executed well. Some performances, such as those by Bajpayee and Patil, are restrained and manage to add some authenticity and dignity to the proceedings.
Alas, all of this is undone by the film's frenetic pacing, raucous background score (nary a silent moment, with many cues sounding suspiciously similar to Hans Zimmer's The Dark Knight score) and puerile writing. There's no intelligent layering here; characters arrive on screen, announce who they are and what they do - and then proceed to do exactly that. Also, this might seem like a minor quibble, but in 2012, can we expect at <least> half-decent visual effects? Shots of explosions in this movie look like they were created by first-year animation students.
Rampal's performance is wooden and, in certain parts, unintentionally hilarious. Ditto for Gupta as his wife Rhea, an impossibly good-looking police officer who favours spaghetti tops and shorts post work hours. Deol and Om Puri, as Govind Suryavanshi (a Marxist, clearly inspired by Kobad Ghandy), are competent enough, saddled as they are by the one-dimensionality of their characters.
Chakravyuh is, ultimately, a victim of typical Bollywood excesses. A little more subtlety, a little less jingoism, and it might have worked better.
Arjun Rampal and Esha Gupta shed inhibitions for Chakravyuh