Prakash Jha’s Hindi film focuses on the Naxalite movement in India – a cause little known beyond the region. This militant communist group – named after the West Bengal village in which they staged an uprising in 1967 – is today an almost nationwide force. Their stated aim is ‘to liberate India from the clutches of feudalism and imperialism’.
Honest cop, Adil (Arjun Rampal), heads a rural wasteland where the Naxalites are increasingly active. His buddy, Kabir (Abhay Deol), plans to infiltrate the gang by joining them, and he is quickly adopted by the Maoists as ‘he sings well’. Kabir realises that the militants are defending the locals from land-grabbers and a corrupt establishment. He switches loyalties – which leads to a bloody confrontation with Adil.
Given the contentious subject-matter, this simplistic film had the potential to be a gritty and complex action drama. Instead, for the first two hours of its lengthy running time, Jha reduces the on-going conflict to a clichéd, cops-and-robbers style shoot-em-up. He switches gear for the climax: the film becomes the staple (and stale) tale of two brothers on the wrong side of the law.
The film attempts to expose the police brutality and political manoeuvring which is endemic to India, and idealistic Adil learns that ‘nobody cares about the poor’. But it’s hard to take the singing and dancing rebels seriously. The inclusion of a hot ‘item’ number in which a sexy starlet invites us to ‘unlock her stopper’ reminds us that this is essentially a formulaic, mainstream Bollywood movie. Worthy but disappointing.