Chakravyuh: A let down from Jha

MUMBAI: In 1973 Hrishikesh Mukherjee made Namak Haraam, an adaptation of the English film Becket (1964) an all time classic. Namak Haraam was a classic of its time too and since then, every filmmaker worth his salt has dreamt of making his own version of Becket. While many toyed with the idea, no one could put together a script worth half a Becket. Now that Namak Haraam and Becket are faded from memory and unknown to today‘s generation, Prakash Jha has taken the plunge. His latest offering, Chakravyuh, is a rehash of the great classic.

Earlier, Jha took liberties with three classics: the epic tome, The Mahabharat; the all time Hollywood classic, The Godfather; and Shyam Benegal‘s classic, Kalyug, to make his Raajneeti. This time he tries Becket at his own peril. The film is woven around the Naxal problem in India vs corrupt politicians and trigger-happy policemen. In that, the police have a carte blanche: kill a Naxal when you see one, rape his woman to complete the ‘justice‘. That is how Chakravyuh proceeds.

Arjun Rampal and Abhay Deol are bum chums. Rampal is one born with the proverbial silver spoon but he uses that spoon to feed his poor, no-background friend, Abhay Deol. No footage or effort is wasted on establishing their friendship, how it happened or the depth of it. The director says that they are great friends who will waste their life on each other so you accept it; period.

When Rampal joins the police academy (since when did rich boys chose this profession?) he forces his pal Deol to join too. Also in the academy is Esha Gupta, Rampal‘s lady love. They both qualify but Deol is a rebel and is rusticated for attacking an officer. After that, he vanishes from the scene for the next seven years while Rampal and Gupta pass out with flying colours. As the film begins, they are married; he is a super cop now and she heads the intelligence wing! She is in police uniform at all times; he is inevitably in mufti and riding an SUV. That is about as much glamour as you can afford in this kind of a film.

Rampal and his police keep falling prey to same old ploy where an ‘informer‘ plants the Naxals‘ whereabouts, the police attack and are picked off like sitting ducks by the Naxals. Rampal is hit by a bullet and that is when his bum chum, Deol, suggests he penetrate the Naxals as a police mole to help Rampal defeat them. Deol, having joined the Naxals to help his pal destroy the movement, soon starts empathising with the Naxals‘ problems. He realises that they are the ones denied justice. He takes up the cause of the discriminated and goes on to become their protagonist at the cost of alienating his friend and benefactor, Rampal.

The equations have changed, friends have become foes. But, sadly, the film has lost its plot by now. There are encounters between the police and the Naxals and the process goes on and on. This film has no story to tell really. From script to execution, everything about it is poor; include the star cast to that which has no draw. What is a principled, educated policeman like Rampal doing protecting his corrupt masters, the politicians? How does the title fit in?

The cast of Chakravyuh reads like the maker‘s office roll call, consisting mainly of Jha‘s regular faces. It does not matter if they don‘t really fill the bill. Of his main players, Rampal, Deol and Gupta, none has a well-defined role. The only one who steals a march is the little known Anjali Patil. Om Puri and Manoj Bajpayee don‘t help much because of their sketchy characters. And it is high time Murali Sharma changed his expressions and mannerisms. The music is a letdown and the film offers nothing in the name of entertainment.

Prakash Jha‘s story, screenplay, direction and the very idea of making this film fails to justify why anyone will pay 200 to 300 rupees to watch it.

Chakravyuh is poor beyond redemption.

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