Naxalbari Review: A riveting portrayal of India’s Naxalist insurgency period
Cast: Rajeev Khandelwal, Tina Datta, Sreejita De, Satyadeep Mishra, Shakti Anand and Aamir Ali
Director: Partho Mitra
Produced by: Arjun Singgh Baran and Kartk Nishandar
DOP: Hari Nair and Modhura Palit
Action Director: Aejaz Gulab
Screenplay and Dialogues: Pulkit Rishi and Prakhar Vihaan
Original Background Score: Paresh Shah
Rating: 4 Stars (out of 5)
From thrill and action to love and relationships - Partho Mitra’s absolutely enthralling new web series, Naxalbari, has it all packed in stellar format. This newest web series on the block transports you straight into the grim world of India’s red uprising. While we have all heard and read about the Naxalite movement that has affected thousands of Indians over the last few decades, this narrative offers an interestingly fresh perspective into the insurgency as we see it through the lens of a STF agent.
The gripping web series, comprised of nine episodes, opens with a massive blast in eastern Maharashtra’s Gadchiroli in which a ruling party Member of Legislative Assembly (MLA) is killed. The blast, which is orchestrated by a naxal leader Binu Atram, opens a can of worms. Sent on the trail of the case is cop Raghav Joshi (played by Rajeev Khandelwal), whose father is the Commissioner of Police in Mumbai and wants his son to rough it out to learn the ropes of effective policing. Raghav and his team initiate their investigations into the case and get embroiled deep into the dark world of the Naxalist armed revolution and learn that the movement is not just restricted to the jungles and has now started to spread its tentacles into bigger cities. What unfolds is a realistic portrayal of the world of the insurgents with some heart wrenching scenes and sharp dialogues, which use colloquial words and multitude of languages to show us the kosher picture.
What hits home hard is the element of realism about the way the events in this crime thriller unfold. The Naxalist uprising is laid bare in front of the viewer as we march with the forces straight into the deep forests where the Naxals are concentrated. Naxalbari tells the tale with a difference as it we view it from the perspective of security forces who are on a mission to curtail the uprising that is brewing in Gadchiroli.
While the plot of the web series is set is Maharashtra, it gets its name Naxalbari from a small village by the same name in West Bengal’s Darjeeling district, where the Naxalite movement started in the 1960s after the police opened fire on a group of poor farmers, who were demanding their right to crops cultivated on a particular piece of land. Nine farmers and two children lost their lives in the cross-fire between the cops and the farmers.
Actor Rajeev Khandewal throws in one of his best performances to date as he essays the role of agent Raghav, a spoilt big city brat, who gives his father all the reasons to worry. However, his transformation into an efficient agent, who follows the trail of the naxals and leaves no stone unturned to solve the case is phenomenal.
Also impressive on the virtual screen are Tina Dutta who plays Ketki, Sreejita Dey as a female naxal, Satyadeep Mishra as Pahan and Aamir Ali as Keswani.
Actor Aamir Ali also deserves a special mention as he enthrals with his rich performance as he gets into the skin of Keswani, which throws up an unexpected surprise in the last episode that completely changes the course of events that leave viewers wondering what is going to happen next.
The tightly written and well enacted plot keeps you on the edge-of-the-seat with not a single dull moment. The plot changes frequently and has its fair share of twists and turns that fill your heart with intrigue. In the midst of all the thrill and bloodshed are side plots of love and relationships that we see through Raghav’s eyes. As Raghav embarks on a mission to unfold the truth and digs deeper into the world of the rebels, he also ends up unfolding some truths about his own past.
At the end, we are left with a lurking feeling that hundreds of people – both from the security forces and naxals – continue to be killed in armed conflicts and the ground situation remains largely unchanged.
The first season leaves us on a cliff hanger.
So, if you are a lover of historical plots and non-fiction, this one is just the right pick for you this long weekend. Never before has the war against the Naxals been shown like this on the silver screen.
Naxalbari premiered on ZEE5 on November 28.
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