Bastar: The Naxal Story is a compelling look at recent history

Adah Sharma and Purnendu Bhattacharya in Bastar: The Naxal Story. Photo: Spice PR

After The Kerala Story, I would have expected nothing less from the same team.

This searing and incisive look at another hidden horror of society—the Naxal (Indian Maoists) menace at its peak in 2010 in Bastar, a culture-rich segment of Chhattisgarh in central India, forms the base of this film.

The team of producer-co-writer and creative director Vipul Amrutlal Shah and director-story writer Sudipto Sen again comes together, along with writer Amarnath Jha (himself an ex-Naxal!), to fashion this new expose on the horrifying truth of how militant Maoists (which is their innate philosophy—toe their line or lose your life!) keep innocent villagers in mortal fear and away from basic amenities like food, schools and medical care.

The film begins with a simpleton, Milind (Subrata Dutta), who is butchered into 36 (!) pieces because he dared hoist the Indian tricolor on the land in his desire for peace. It details how at least one child from each home is forced to be surrendered to the ‘Red’ cause, or their entire family is annihilated!. It explains how such elements and this dangerous ideology find funding and nourishment from a despicable coterie of Indians and foreigners, including intellectuals, legal hawks, authors and more.

It then goes on to further depict how police officers and Indian soldiers are senselessly butchered, referred to as ‘dogs’ and how the supporting evil caucus brainwash and program even student wings in universities to support their cause as it is touted to protect and help the downtrodden.

This evil, which has been going on for over 50 years in India, is at least under decent control now, though certainly not yet eliminated. The film focuses on how a dogged team of CRPF (Central Reserve Police Force) officers, determined SPOs (Special Police Officers, that is village men and women who have been victims and are trained to fight by the CRPF) and courageous social workers fight against the terrible odds, led by Inspector-General Neeraj Madhavan (Adah Sharma), who does not shirk from duty even when pregnant.

The evil side is represented by Lanka Reddy (Vijay Krishna), the ruthless chieftain of the local Naxals, Lakshmi (Anangsha Biswas), who is his right-hand and as amoral and inhuman as them all, and their supporting team of the crooked lawyer (Shilpa Shukla) and professors and social workers (Raima Sen and Gandhali Jain) and the old leader, Narayan Bagchi (Purnendu Bhattacharya).

Neerja gets backing from Milind’s widow, Ratna (Indira Tiwari), now a SPO, whose son, Raman (Naman Nitin Jain) has joined the Naxals as he thinks that his father, Milind, was a sinner! Ratna is on a personal mission as well—to exterminate her husband’s killer, Lanka.

Arraigned against the good folks are also inefficient politicians and Neerja’s bosses, and they are battling the demons with only positive attitude, dedication and their integrity as weapons…

The film shows some unsettling brutality in the modus operandi of the Naxals and this gore may put off some adult audiences as well. But rest assured that the reality is far more graphic and savage and this film, clearly, had to depict things within censor clearance needs.

Adah Sharma, once again after The Kerala Story, is outstanding, perhaps even more so, because we see a persona that is completely and authentically commanding and gritty. Her eyes express myriad emotions and her tone and body language flow so effortlessly.

Indira Tiwari as Ratna is terrific. Again, her eyes speak volumes, and one can almost feel the pain in them. Anangsha Biswas is fabulous as Lakshmi, and I also liked Naman Nitin Jain as the misguided Raman, Nidhi Mayuri as his sister Rama and Kishor Kadam as the social worker on the side of the right (pun intended). And Raima Sen (doing almost a reprise of her role in The Vaccine War) and Shilpa Shukla are effective, if routinely negative.

Bishakjyoti’s background score is evocative and his song, Vande veeram, tugs at our heartstrings with its powerful words by Amarnath Jha and stirring vocals (Javed Ali).

This is a scary and ruthless film that needs to be taken for what it is—a drama that shows us a reflection of a truth that disturbs, shakes and finally makes us salute all those valiant forces that want a thriving, integrated, progressed and powerful India.

Director Sudipto Sen and the screenplay are masterful, and the dialogues clinical and often as hair-raising as the situations. Technically upscale, again compared to The Kerala Story, it may not do that well in terms of business, but remains a much-needed eye-opening document of fact in the 21st century. For were not most of us completely unaware of this menace?

Indeed, we were. 

Sunshine Pictures’ Bastar: The Naxal Story  Produced by: Vipul Amrutlal Shah Director: Sudipto Sen  Creative Director: Vipul Amrutlal Shah  Written by: Sudipto Sen, Amarnath Jha & Vipul Amrutlal Shah  Music: Bishakjyoti Starring: Adah Sharma, Indira Tiwari, Vijay Krishna, Anangsha Biswas, Abhikalp Gagdekar, Sumit Gahlawat, Anamika Tiwari, Raima Sen, Purnendu Bhattacharya, Subrata Dutta, Naman Nitin Jain, Nidhi Mayuri, Gopal K. Singh, Sameer Triambakkar, Nischay Rana, Ramesh Kundu, Sukanya Dhanda, Shilpa Shukla, Yashpal Sharma, Gandhali Jain, Kishor Kadam & others





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