Reviewing The Reviews: Chakravyuh

28 Oct,2012


Key Cast: Abhay Deol, Arjun Rampal, Manoj Bajpayee, Esha Gupta, Anjali Patil, Om Puri

Written By: Prakash Jha, Anjum Rajabali, Sagar Pandya

Directed By: Prakash Jha

Produced By: Prakash Jha


Prakash Jha films cannot be dismissed outright. For the better part of his career, Jha has tried, not always with success, to capture the bleak reality of small-town India. Because he is not a typical Bollywood all-business-no-brain type, his films are viewed, at least by critics, with some respect. Still, for the informed viewer, it is hard not to be sceptical of Jha’s Maoists-for-Dummies film Chakravyuh, especially since the plot comes from Jean Anouilh’s Becket which is also the base for Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s Namak Haram. Jha’s film may have a point of view, but lacks both finesse and a strong emotional core. The ratings from the wise ranged from 2.5 to 3. And poor Arjun Rampal comes in for major flak!


Shubhra Gupta of the Indian Express rightly analyses, “Jha makes it easy for us to hate these black villains, and stay safely ambivalent about the others: the Naxals have a valid point of view, but killing cops, or anyone else, is not good; the cops need to prevent the innocent villagers from becoming victims, but it’s a war, and there will be casualties. You can see the director’s job is cut out because he is on a tightrope: too much overt justification or sympathy for either side would receive flak from the other. But this makes Chakravyuh, with entirely predictable character-arcs and outcome, a lesser film than it could have been.”


Suprateek Chatterjee in the Hindustan Times writes, “Some performances, such as those by (Manoj) Bajpayee and (Anjali) 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.”


Priyanka Roy of The Telegraph writes, “This is a film that doesn’t really know what it wants to be. Director Prakash Jha ventures bravely into the dark and under-exposed world of Naxalism, but Chakravyuh is a victim of Bollywood excess, reeking of jingoism, larger-than-life characters and the inevitable song-and-dance, all of which tend to drown out the message that the film strives to put across.”


Meena Iyer of The Times of India is kind: “Chakravyuh is a hard film to make and marks must be given to Jha for sticking his neck out. Staying true to the subject, he gives us an insight into uncomfortable truths unfolding in our backyard. He is one of the few filmmakers with such audacious work to his credit. Jha must also be complimented for the scale and performances he has extracted from his lead cast. The men – Manoj, Arjun and Abhay – are compelling; of the girls, Esha starts on a shrill note but improves later. Newbie Anjali Patil shines. You may not like this movie if socio-political entertainers are not your cup of tea.”


Shabana Ansari of DNA fence-sits: “A socio-political thriller set in the country’s red corridor where Maoist insurgents oppose industrialisation because it leads to the displacement of the tribal population, Chakravyuh has its heart in the right place. Jha has once again woven fictional elements and characters with real incidents and people to present a film that touches the right chords. But somewhere along the way, he succumbs to what can only be described as the Bollywood’isation’ of a socially relevant subject – there’s male bonding, dialogue-baazi, non-stop action, blazing guns, and also an irreverent item number thrown in! No, really!”


Sukanya Verma of is unimpressed: “Jha steers clear of innovation and opts for the soft-corner-for-the-girl cliche and not some radical shift of ideals to convey Kabir’s sudden craving to switch sides. Chakravyuh, despite a decent premise, is a victim of clumsy plot and inordinate length. Apart from ambiguous purpose and the topsy-turvy dynamics of Adil and Kabir’s friendship, dialogues fail to dazzle and songs appear out of place. It’s almost hilarious when Om Puri’s waxing eloquent about ‘Aam aadmi ke liye kuch bhi nahi hai’ (There’s nothing for the common man) is immediately followed by Sameera Reddy’s furiously shaking belly in a needless item song targeted at frontbenchers. The irony is unmistakable. In the end, Chakravyuh is nothing more than an average action flick in the garb of relevant cinema where socio-political turmoil is nothing more than a prop and gun-toting militants in uniforms and bandanas hollering ‘Lal Salaam’ fill up the frames.”


Karan Anshuman of The Mumbai Mirror was one of the positives: “The film is massive. Hundreds of coordinated extras fill up scenes. Yet, one feels Jha’s method is getting somewhat repetitive. The technical formula that served him well so far is beginning to look dated with an overall neatness missing. Do such films need item numbers any more? Must the effectiveness of the message come at the cost of style? But then again if a Bhansali can produce a Rowdy Rathore, give me a Chakravyuh over it any day. Watch this film for its lucid, dramatic presentation of a nation’s problems. The commercial aspects notwithstanding, at the heart of it, Chakravyuh is the first effective film on the Naxal-Maoist question.”


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