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A clumsy account of one of the most knotty socio-political issues confronting India today

It is a subject that mainstream cinema ordinarily wouldn’t touch with a barge pole. Still, Prakash Jha has raised it and then presented, somewhat clumsily, the arguments on both sides. Chakravyuh is a film on the most painful civil and ideological dilemma of the Indian state, the Naxalite movement, and what it says about India’s lopsided economic development and its ham-handed and corrupt attempts at resolving the conflict.

So, irrespective of Jha’s political position, credibility of plot and character would be the very minimum that such a complex and divisive issue would demand. And this is where the film collapses, with holes in the script the size of meteor craters. The story tells of two friends at a police academy, one of them methodical and the other anti-establishment. Naturally, the disruptive one, Kabir (Abhay Deol), is forced to leave, and turns into an occasional businessman and general drifter. The other, Adil Khan (Arjun Rampal), an establishment man with a good heart, rises to be an SP in an Adivasi-populated district in the heart of the ‘red corridor’.

Unable to control Naxalite attacks, Khan turns to his old friend and gets him to infiltrate the Maoist group and send information on their movements. Why on earth would a civilian with no apparent ideological conviction take on such a life-threatening task and why would his best friend put him in such danger? What’s in it for Kabir? Is it money, is it fun? This is never explained, and this is how the integrity of the telling is lost.

Moreover, are Maoists such nincompoops that they recruit Kabir and promote him in their command structure without checking his background to find out who his pals are? When intelligence is not granted to an audience, the desperation to establish political correctness boomerangs. It is painful to hear people titter through a film about the tragedy of a state in armed conflict with its own citizens.