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Cinema isn't capable of bringing about social change: Prakash Jha

There have been a few films on the Naxal issue in Bollywood (Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi, Red Alert, Aalaap). How different is Chakravyuh?
(Laughs) I haven’t watched all these films. The only film I remember watching is Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi. Based on my research and understanding, I have tried to keep my film as simple as possible.

What significance does the title Chakravyuh hold?
Why do we keep a unique name? So that people remember it. The name represents the sentiment of the film. I have always opted for new titles like Gangaajal, Apaharan and Aarakshan. Chakravyuh is about two friends (played by Arjun Rampal and Abhay Deol), belonging to different backgrounds, who get into a situation from which there seems to be no escape. They are at war with each other like the two societies of India — the deprived tribal society which has raised arms, and the rest of the state. And there doesn’t seem to be any escape from this.

Does the fear of being partial to either side of the issue bother you while making such a film?
No. I have to remain neutral. I have to find out why something is happening and why this psyche is developing, and weave it into the portrayal onscreen. Who am I to pass a judgment? But I can try and understand why. Even in my personal life, I don’t like making judgments. Instead of judging, I would rather be rational.

How difficult was it for Abhay Deol to play someone from a small town?
Why should it be difficult? He is an actor. He wasn’t challenged to do that earlier but now he has got into the action role pretty well. There’s lot of raw action in the film and his persona suits the role really well. He plays a vulnerable, emotional character and it has come across pretty well. I appreciate his approach to work.

Unlike Manoj Bajpayee, Arjun Rampal and Abhay Deol, your leading lady Esha Gupta (who is playing a policewoman) is not familiar with more realistic cinema or your style of working.
In Esha, I found the kind of personality I was looking for. When I signed her, none of her films had released; I saw her capability through a screen test. She has performed pretty well and so has Anjali Patil, who plays a Naxal in the film. They are very keen actors; they know what the script demands. The system is the same with everybody — we do a lot of research and reading and try to understand the character before we shoot over several sessions. I try to inform my actors about the history, sociology and the various implications.

What kind of research went into Chakravyuh?
We went through whatever has been printed over the years. We travelled to that area, talked to the cops and Naxals, and spent time with them. My kind of cinema requires inputs.

What is Prakash Jha’s kind of cinema?
Social, content-based.

What makes you keep going back to Amitabh Bachchan and Ajay Devgn, who headline your next film, Satyagraha?
They both are good human beings and very powerful performers who resort to minimal acting.

Does it make a difference to you that Kareena, your Satyagraha heroine, is married now?
No. I knew that Kareena was going to get married.

When you make issue-based films, are you trying to extend your role as a filmmaker? Are you hoping that they become catalysts of change?
I just want to open these issues up for understanding and discussion. I don’t think cinema is capable of bringing about social change but I am sure it can educate and inform people, and emotionally move them. But a whole lot of other factors and motivations are required to bring in a change in society. Nevertheless, this is the medium I use to express myself so this is how I do it.

Your previous film Aarakshan had to be edited before it was screened. Since Chakravyuh is based on Naxalites, what responses and consequences do you anticipate?
I didn’t edit my film for any state. Punjab and UP banned it and there was some disturbance in Maharashtra. But I won the case in the Supreme Court and my film was released everywhere. In Chakravyuh, I have tried to depict what the situation is. I don’t know what will happen in the future. I am not qualified to judge or take a stand. I have tried to put up honestly whatever I have observed, so I think there shouldn’t be any problem.

But reality bites…
Yes, but what can we do about it?

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