Highlights of Bastar: The Naxal Story media meet and song launch

Aashin A. Shah, Amarnath Jha, Vipul Amrutlal Shah, Indira Tiwari, Adah Sharma, Sudipto Sen and Bishakjyoti at the song launch and media meet of Bastar: The Naxal Story. Photo: Rajiv Vijayakar

The song launch and press conference of Sunshine Productions’ second mission-oriented film, Bastar: The Naxal Story, was held at the Mukesh Patel Auditorium in Mumbai. The song Vande veeram, sung by Javed Ali, was showcased on the occasion.

The highlight was that some 35 residents of the region and CRPF (Central Reserve Police Force) jawans were specially flown down to the city by producer Vipul Amrutlal Shah and director Sudipto Sen for the occasion to speak about the veracity of the subject and their horrendous and heartrending personal experiences.

The film is based on Naxalism, a Maoist origin philosophy that has unfortunately flourished in the Bastar region in Chhattisgarh for over 50 years, and because of which, until now, unlike in our wars in which just over 8,500 soldiers have died, over 55,000 soldiers and policemen have been brutally, arbitrarily and senselessly slaughtered by them.

The film focuses on how the natives have accepted life under the domination of the Naxalites, but the bold CRPF are relentlessly fighting them. Adah Sharma, who plays an officer named Neerja Madhavan, is repeated by the producer and director after their 2023 triumph, The Kerala Story. Indira Tiwari (last known for Gangubai Kathiawadi, in which she played Kamli), composer Bishakjyoti, writer and lyricist Amarnath Jha and co-producer Aashin A. Shah were also present.

The very vociferous and passionate Sudipto elaborated on the Indian beginnings of Naxalism (projected falsely by supporters as a movement to uplift the deprived and the exploited poor) and also explained how it has now come to concentrate in Chhattisgarh in an area sans roads and infrastructure. “Any initiatives of making roads, schools or hospitals are nipped by the Maoists in the bud!” he said.

He further explained that history has proved that Communism, which originated a 100 years ago and has resulted so far in a 100 million deaths (that they proudly flaunt) cannot be attuned to today’s democratic and pluralistic society like India where everything from gods and foods to culture to language change every 100 kilometers. “But this menace has never been controlled even in the last 50-plus years!” he said.

When I asked him how he had thought of The Kerala Story and this film, he stated that the former was purely by chance. He had read something and delved deep into the subject. “People termed my film propaganda, but it was purely fact!” This film originated because of the credo’s terrifying start in his hometown, Kolkata, and in part also his own family’s involvement.

“My writer, Amarnath Jha, has also been involved in Naxalism, so I thought I should work with him on this subject. And there are very few filmmakers who are as sensitive and courageous as Vipul. But telling the truth in India is difficult as we are branded, and many try to stop us and threaten us.”

He beseeched the media to be responsible and help take the film to the masses, as they had done with their last film. “We have made this film with passion and spent on getting the best technicians!” he said.

The fiery Vipul Amrutlal Shah said, “From Namastey London to my Force and Commando franchises and The Kerala Story, I am always especially fond of patriotic themes. But while all those films were commercial, my last film and this one are made very realistically! I salute all these men and women and others like them who have suffered from the evil that is Naxalism. It’s high time it was eradicated and so also the prominent Left liberals who support them and portray the Naxals as saviors of the poor. 90 percent of us are unaware of this saga and we as a nation must unite and finish this evil from its roots up. We have lost too many of our forces as well as innocent villagers to this scourge!”

He mentioned two or three other points: “This time, we have not received threats. It’s clear that our opponents now know that we will fight openly and fearlessly for the truth. An allegation in the past against Sudipto and me was the figure of 32,000 exploited girls in The Kerala Story. But on June 6 last year, we have put up a 17-minute video on YouTube that shows the truth in our facts. Also, when any film is sent to the censors, they ask for documents supporting our claims before clearing it!”

Actress Adah Sharma stated that being a strongly patriotic girl, she was moved by her character, which is based on many real CRPF girls. “They are totally fearless, and you can’t imagine what they go through. One girl was 7 months pregnant and did not want to reveal that as she would have to go off-duty!” she stated.

The film Bastar: The Naxal Story team with locals and CRPF jawans at the media conference. Photo: Rajiv Vijayakar

Indira Tiwari wondered how such victims can be deprived of the basics of life. “How can you stop human growth and how can you not enjoy nature and its gifts meant for all of us? These people all have a different strength, and because they have suffered losses and know that they still are suffering, they are beyond all acceptance and pain, and talk of the atrocities they have suffered as mechanically as if they are discussing eating food. ‘This is life and how it’s going to be!’ is what they think!”

Amarnath Jha added, “I had so much material that 100 episodes would have been needed to narrate all, and when I was told I as to crack it in two hours, I did not know what to do. I went with Sudipto dada to Bastar and met people there, who were more open than these people who have come here to this conference as they were in their home zone. They did not have a single expression in their eyes, with some having seen even their entire families killed in front of their eyes! There was sustained shock, and that is was shook me and I got my story!”



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