Chakravyuh: A ring-side view


Prakash Jha's Chakravyuh
Prakash Jha’s Chakravyuh

Chakravyuh was definitely one of the movies I was keenly awaiting, essentially owing to the subject of the movie i.e Naxal violence.

Owing to my interest as well as the fact that I was fortunate to report from several of the ‘affected’ areas, with my limited exposure and knowledge, I am hereby documenting my thoughts which I had keyed into my phone as the movie played.

a. The movie is woven around a simple story. Starts from the point of the ongoing violence and then moves to peel layer after layer of this complex situation we have on our hands.

b. Chips are down, as they mostly are in these areas, for the men in khakhi. That is when an unsuccessful businessman-friend (Abhay Deol) makes an unusually bold offer of infiltrating the ranks of the Red rebels to his best buddy, the main protagonist SP Adil Khan, played not-too-well by Arjun Rampal. By this gamble, Deol aims to offer Rampal what security forces very often, genuinely lack – actionable intelligence.

c. That Deol gradually finds his heart with the Naxals and turns against his friend is how it further moves.

d. Locations, terrain, climate, costumes are true to the situation and full-marks to Prakash Jha for that.

e. Where the movie fails is actually where the heart is i.e the portrayal of conflict. The movie shows the security forces (largely shown as the Central Reserve Police Force i.e CRPF and the police) fighting the Reds like two traditional armies do, fire against each other in plain sight with large number of men on hand.

Well, in my opinion it never is that way for either of them.

Guerilla tactics that the Naxals specialise in does not afford the luxury of numbers, in fact it aims to counter that very element by a much smaller, dedicated team. History of successful attacks by the Reds is replete with how they use stealth, tactics and much fewer numbers. Sadly the movie ignores this.

f. Mobility, for the forces, in the affected areas is strictly to be carried out on foot. Jeeps, larger convoys of security personnel invite land mine explosions. Chakravyuh again fails to depict this crucial aspect as it shows Rampal leading operations with a large convoy, in fact even engaging the Reds while sitting in his SUV!

g. In the infamous ‘Tata-Birla’ song, Naxal sangham (over ground workers) members are seen moving around freely amidst the public carrying a party flag, as the police is watching. Again am not sure if the Reds carry out such brazen acts, which will only end up exposing those who are to remain hidden to the security forces.

h. Weaponry and tactics is another area where the movie could have done so much better. In fact literature that I have been able to lay my hands on shows the Reds as being master tacticians with a thorough knowledge of the terrain, language and culture, something that the ‘transferable’ forces can never match them with.

From personal experience, I will state that it is not uncommon to find even senior officers from security forces actually admiring the ways of the Reds.

To an extent the movie is accurate when it shows SLRs and 9mm pistols being used, but that is where it ends. There is barely any mention of the AKs, a favourite no matter which side you are on. Another very potent tool for the Reds is the usage of the Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) and mines, the movie barely touches this. Other aspects where the inaccuracy exists is in the depiction of the usage of Mine Proof Vehicles (MPVs) and helicopters (Chetak helo is used with the lady officer firing from in it!!) in conflict.

i. The movie also shows the Reds very liberally indulging in the usage of ammunition. That is way beyond reality. Naxal leaders are known to almost ration the same. Owing to logistical issues, Reds are very careful in the number of bullets they fire. In fact the senior you are, the better gun and more ammo you are given in their ranks. Even the ‘jan-adalats’ seldom act like firing squads as the movie shows. For reasons mentioned, the Reds would prefer slitting throats or limbs of the ‘guilty’.

j. Where you can not fault the movie is in the correct depiction of the intelligence woes which our security forces face, i.e existence of double agents and how  ‘tips’ from sources are traps, as the movie goes to show. Again the portrayal of malaria emerging a bigger killer than bullets and the fortified and alienating police stations are very much as they exist in reality.

k. At the end, you can’t help but agree with the film maker who shows how the common man is of little value to the powers that be. Laws and government machinery at the disposal of the rich is something we see even in our urban habitats. That must give you an idea of how it must be for those in our villages where media, education and awareness barely exist. This thought has often moved me and the film maker does full justice on this score.

All in all, I would recommend this movie especially for the uninitiated.

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