'Neither propaganda nor awareness'

In a still from 'Chakravyuh'

Abhay Deol talks about 'Chakravyuh' and why the film doesn't takes on sides while highlighting the Naxal issue


In Chakravyuh, Abhay Deol plays a common man-turned-gun-toting Maoist rebel Kabir. After playing a 40-year-old IAS officer in 'Shanghai', Abhay will be seen as a Naxalite in his first action-packed film. The film is a story of two friends caught on the opposite sides against the backdrop of Naxal movement. However Abhay is quick to add that no sides are taken in this film. "Through my character Kabir (a Maoist rebel) he represents one point of view and through Arjun (a cop) he presents another point of view. Both share opposite ideologies about the Naxal movement," he adds.The actor who has always experimented with his role talks about the film and the challenges involved in making a political drama.

Excerpts from the interview:

What inspired you to take up the film?
The script. Honestly, it always has to be the script and it helped that Prakashji was the director. I was keen to work with him. Having said that, for me,  a script has to be convincing enough. It is not that I would work with a director just for the heck of it.

How did you research for your role. Were you aware of the problems highlighted in the film?
Of course, I was. You just have to turn on the television. I didn't do much research because I read a lot. The one story I was familiar with is the Soni Suri's story, a tribal lady who is stuck between the police and Naxals. It is quite tragic. She would always be taken in for questioning by cops because they would think she is a Naxal supporter and after the cops would release her, she would be questioned by the Naxals. She was an educated tribal woman who was actually neutral to both the sides. Also, you get to read every day about jawans being killed by Naxals and vice versa and people who are taken into custody like Binayak Sen. You are constantly reading about them all the time. This is one of the reasons I liked the story because I was familiar with the issues and knew the backdrop. Prakash Jha has given a very intelligent 360 degree view of the situation through Arjun who is a cop and through Kabir who is a regular guy.
Read: Esha Gupta on 'Chakravyuh'

What were the challenges involved?

I enjoyed making this film so I can't look at it as a challenge. I won't say it was a smooth ride as making a film is not a cakewalk. I had to run around a lot since this is my first action film. I did a lot of stunts and  cycled a lot. It was very taxing but I do Krav Maga, a form of martial arts so my body is attuned to physical exertions. That kept my energy and stamina up. During the shoot, Prakash Jha was fully prepared and we didn't have to re-shoot  any scene or put in long hours. I am used to long hours while shooting. I am used to working for 14-15 hours on an average and here I was working for just 10 hours.

What kind of research did you do for your character?

Compared to 'Shanghai', this was much easier. There, I played a South-Indian character so I had to learn Tamil and also changed  the way I looked etc. It was much more retrained performance and the background of the character made the changes necessary. Shanghai wasn't as physically challenging as 'Chakravyuh'. Similarly, here, I didn't have to undergo a makeover for my character. If you love what you do, it becomes less of a chore and more of an experiment.
Pics: All about 'Chakravyuh'

Has 'Chakravyuh'  used cinema as a medium to address problems?

Cinema can only be a medium. Period. It can be used to spread awareness as well as propaganda. It is a very powerful medium and it will be what you make of it. It is a platform. It is an opportunity. We want people to come and watch our film, appreciate them so we bear the responsibility to use it in a positive way. A film like this where Praksah Jha has tried to highlight an issue which is very relevant to our times gives a 360 degree view of the situation without taking sides. You can't trivialise the issue. You are marrying entertainment with facts. This is the most mature way to put across such an issue.

Are you a director's actor or do you prefer interpreting your character?

I had read the script before and we had a week-long discuss cum workshop. I went armed with questions and Prakash Jha explained everything to me. Of course, basic guidance is always given on set.