India: New Bollywood depiction of Maoism — outlawed rebels with voice and song

[A rare cultural and commercial depiction — Bollywood, no less! — of the growing Naxalite/Maoist rebellion.  See, below, a video clip (in Hindi) of a song perrformance in the film, followed by commentary from bourgeois cultural media critic in India; an article describing Maoist reaction to the film; and an article from an Indian-Canadian publication which draws connections between indigenous conditions and rebellion in India and those in Canada. — Frontlines ed.]

CHAKRAVYUH: A re-look into Maoist agitation across the country

By Enkayaar, Glamsham Editorial, October 17, 2012

It may be fortuitous that just a fortnight after the death anniversary of the revolutionary Che Guvera has been celebrated around the world by his fans on 09 October, Hindi cinema would be having another look at the resistance against the state and the system through Prakash Jha’s CHAKRAVYUH. Che Guvera is one of the rallying points against the atrocities of the state as perceived by those who are living on the fringe of development.

The location chosen for setting the content of CHAKRAVYUH is the area around Chattisgarh, Orissa and parts of Andhra Pradesh that continue to be the destinations where the Naxalist movement is gaining ground on a daily basis and the writ of the state does not run at all in these areas. Revolt against the state that is gaining ground is on account of the fact that the benefits of development aimed at the common man still do not reach them in spite of 65 years of independent India.

Most of the directors who make socially conscious movies at one point or the other flirt experiment with the genre of naxilite movement in the modern times, in the sixties and seventies this genre was identified with dacoit films. Last successful film from the modern times which focused on revolt against the state successfully was Sudhir Mishra’s HAZAARON KHWAISHEIN AISI starring Kay Kay Menon, Chitrangada Singh and Shiny Ahuja. The last successful decent film was Rahul Rawail’s DAKAIT which was shot in authentic locations in Chambal and starred Sunny Deol and Meenakshi Sheshadri.

CHAKRAVYUH has an ensemble star cast with Arjun Rampal, Abhay Deol, Manoj Bajpayee, Esha Gupta and Om Puri. It is a timely reality check for the multiplex audience, as the issue has political overtones, what with resistance in one form or the other breaking out in the hinterland, where 90% of our population resides. Rural India still lives on hope and those who are able to sell dreams to these rural people- which continue to remain a dream get a following. What has changed however is that the cynicism of the state machinery especially at the lower levels, and the enticements and the quick Redressal of grievances that the alternate political system that is developing provides, becomes the trigger for conversion to the spirit on a much larger scale. One only hopes that CHAKRAVYUH provides some answers to this vexing solution about which the state does not seem to have a clue, and not limit itself to posing the problem.


Chakravyuh tune strikes a chord with Maoists

 Jaideep Deogharia, TNN Nov 2, 2012

RANCHI: The makers of the movie ‘Chakravyuh’ may have anticipated a good response to their film, which highlights the plight of common man owing to rising prices through the song ‘Mehangai’, but little did they know that the Maoists, on whom the film is based, would lap it up as well.

Maoists operating in Bihar and Jharkhand have hailed the effort of the filmmakers and congratulated them for vociferously criticizing the corporate houses of pursuing their vested interests. Manas, spokesperson of the Bihar-Jharkhand north Chhatisgarh border regional committee of the CPI Maoists, said, “We have heard a lot about the movie and are eager to watch it. We don’t have access to movie theatres and television but our sources have told us about the movie and we would definitely like to watch it.” He added that the film reviews in newspapers have made them all the more curious about it.

Talking of the song whose lyrics are ‘Bhaia dekh lia hai bahut teri sardari re, ab toh humri bari re’, Manas said that it touches upon the basic issue of price rise that concerns the common man. “The song further reveals that the price rise has been triggered by the corporate houses who have been allowed to loot resources at throwaway prices and make massive profits,” he said.

Though the filmmakers have tried to play it safe by incorporating a disclaimer saying that they have no intentions to hurt sentiments or target corporate houses, Manas picking up some lines from the song said, “Birla ho ya Tata, Ambani ho ya Bata, sabne apne chakkar me desh ko hai kata, is true in letter and spirit and it seems that for the first time mainstream media has acknowledged what we have been saying since a long time.”


October 28, 2012 by

[Abhay Deol stars in Chakravyuh. IANS]


Bollywood’s latest production, Chakravyuh, has a message for indigenous struggles both in India and Canada. Though the story of the film is based on the ongoing Maoist insurgency in over 200 tribal districts of India, it offers a perspective on the indigenous politics in Canada as well.

The story reveals how big corporate groups and politicians have connived to dispossess tribal people from the mineral rich areas of India. Their goal to maximize profits by taking over natural resources offers no concrete plan to rehabilitate the indigenous communities. The corrupt police officials and vigilante groups working for the rich also help in forcibly taking over the land by using state-sanctioned violence. As a result the continued exploitation of the indigenous people for years has turned many of them into active supporters of Maoist insurgents who want to overthrow the Indian government through armed rebellion. The state machinery, instead of showing sensitivity by taking political initiatives or checking police barbarity, blames Maoists for not letting development and progress come into the lives of the tribal areas.

Although the plot of the story is not new – a friend turning into foe after being exposed to reality, here a police spy (Abhay Deol) infiltrated among the Maoists becoming a militant after witnessing the state repression on the tribal people, it offers a fresh perspective on Maoist movement. A similar plot was used in Avatar, which was also a powerful comment on corporate greed of natural resources belonging to indigenous territories.

One of the songs of the film goes “Jungle is like our father and river like a mother, we won’t shy shooting at whoever dares to take them away from us.” Another song is a satire about inflation and spiralling cost of food and other necessities because of the economic liberalization. The song attacks prominent business houses of India with a disclaimer warning that it should not be taken in the literal sense.

It however goes to the credit of India’s Film Censor Board that this film did not face much challenge, according to screenwriter Anjum Rajabali. However, Rajabali who wrote the original script 15 years ago, had to wait for a director who would be willing to turn his story into a film. Due to marketing compulsions, nobody was willing to take the script.

A social justice activist himself who wrote many film scripts on issues like politics, corruption and caste based exploitation, Rajabali revealed that the idea first popped up in his mind when the current Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, first introduced economic reforms in India as Finance Minister back in the early 1990s. He believes that such economic policies brought more poverty in spite of the “India Shining’’ image being sold by supporters of Singh’s doctrine.

Years later, both Chakravyuh’s director, Prakash Jha, and Rajabali have successfully disseminated the message of how India’s independence has benefited only a small population of the privileged families because of the yawning gap between the rich and the poor.

The film also helps in understanding indigenous issues in Canada. The resistance against the Gateway Pipeline project, which the aboriginal communities see as a threat to their livelihood, has to be situated in a geo political context of indigenous peoples’ struggles to defend their right to land and natural resources. That the big powers do not even care to listen to the population that is supposedly going to benefit from their development agenda speaks about their arrogance. It is this sense of economical or cultural superiority that is causing anxiety and anger among the less privileged groups, forcing them to resist.

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