Prakash Jha deserves applause just for the fact that he’s made a commercial film about the Naxalite movement in India. Such subjects are best reserved for news articles and documentries. But Chakravyuh successfully uses this socially relevant subject and weaves it with a run of the mill story. That predictability is the only and the major problem with this gritty film.
If you’ve ever read a Tehelka article on the Naxalite movement in India, you’d know that at its core is the social upheaval between armed tribals and the law and order and that it’s one of India’s biggest hurdles in rural progress. There is no right or wrong because each side has its share of devils. Chakravyuh remarkably depicts this blurring shade of grey as it chronicles the battle between two characters at opposite ends. Arjun Rampal is the tough as nails cop who righteously fights for order. Manoj Bajpayee is the spirited Naxal leader who fights for the poor. And then there is Abhay Deol whose unclear standing on which side he supports defines the film and the real life situation too. But it is the track of two friends on opposite ends of duty and belief (Rampal and Deol) that appears contrived and not as genuine as the authentic milieu of Jha’s film. One understands the presence of this narrative tool is required to add commercial viability to the film but it ends up compromising on the impact of the film.
This could’ve been another GangaaJal or Raajneeti but sadly it doesn’t live up to the benchmark of Jha’s best. While gripping and impressive in parts, Chakravyuh constantly drops the ball in its storytelling.
What saves the film’s cause is stellar art direction that captures the parched and hostile environs of rural India to the T. And then there are the actors. They are pillars of Jha’s storytelling effort. Manoj Bajpayee is able in his role. So are Esha Gupta, Om Puri and Anjali Patil. But the show belongs to Arjun Rampal and Abhay Deol. Abhay fits into his eccentric and edgy character with ease. And even though Arjun looks a little too polished to play a hard boiled cop he manages a restrained and commendable performance.
Of course when the hero (Rampal) guns Naxal soldiers with Rajnikanth-like accuracy and poor Naxalites embarrassingly miss their shots with automatic machine guns you want to look away. But fact is, Chakravyuh also talks about all the right things and does justice to its subject. That should be the sole reason you should watch this film.