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Cast: Arjun Rampal, Abhay Deol, Manoj Bajpayee, Anjali Patil, Esha Gupta, Om Puri, Kabir Bedi
Director: Prakash Jha
Indian Express Rating: **
'Chakravyuh' talks of the growing 'red corridor' in several parts of the country, and how it came to be, and how it is playing out right here, right now. It is the latest in Prakash Jha's line of films which puts the spotlight on a burningly important issue, but which comes off less than trenchant because of mainstream considerations. How else can you do naxalism and 'mao-wadi-ism' and idealism and pragmatism, and still expect to entice multiplex viewers?
When SSP Adil (Rampal) is posted to a Naxal-infested area with orders to take stringent action, he finds that it is impossible to get any reliable leads on these `armies' that hide out in forests, armed and shielded by the surrounding villagers. And when Adil's old friend Kabir ( Deol) offers to penetrate the 'chakravyuh' , you know how it will all go because of the other elements in the story : an ambitious industrialist ( Bedi) who wants to grab mineral-rich `adivasi' land, greedy politicians only on the side of money, and a bunch of vicious cops only on their own side.
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.