Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Not so red-Hot - review Red Alert

Director: Anant Narayan Mahadevan
Starring: Suniel Shetty, Ayesha Dharkar, Seema Biswas, Naseeruddin Shah, Makarand Deshpande and Ashish Vidyarthi, Vinod Khanna
Rating: **1/2

Given how the Naxalite movement is assuming dangerous proportions in the country, Red Alert is an extremely timely theme to tackle. Anant Mahadevan’s name as director doesn’t inspire all that much confidence for a serious subject of this kind — he’s made masala fares like Dil Maange More and Aksar — but its sheer relevance makes you sit up and take notice.

With writer Aruna Raje on board, the film starts off by acquainting you with some facts about Naxalbari that is spreading its tentacles across the country, and is posing a huge internal security problem. You’re told the story is a real-life one and tracks the life of a poor cook, Narsimha (Suniel Shetty), who is asked to drop off food at a forest for a group. Little does he know that they are Naxalites. The police manage to get there by following Narsimha and what follows is heavy cross-firing. The Naxals don’t let Narsimha leave and the group’s leader in particular (Ashish Vidyarthi) is quite rough with him. The former needs money to send to his wife and children, but his requests are constantly dismissed.

The film’s setting is a small town in Andhra Pradesh and much of the first half gives you a fairly realistic idea of how Naxals live and function.
Red Alert succeeds in bringing out the ideological extremism of the Naxals, wherein they seem so consumed by their cause that they fail to recogonise the day to day problems of the ordinary citizens.

Narismha finally escapes the camp and finds himself in an unenviable situation, where both the Naxals and the police are chasing him. But he decides to go with the ‘lesser evil’ in the end.
Red Alert — while it does not make outright villains of anyone, takes a politically correct position where it stresses on how the Naxal movement is misplaced and is harming the very people it’s claiming to help. There is no ambiguity in this respect. Narsimha represents this exploited class that feels threatened from both sides.
The film is engaging through its first half and succeeds in unmasking some of the ‘martyrdom’ associated with Naxalism. It asserts that there can be no excuse for violence. But beyond that, there are no insights or a complex study into the problem.
The second half is no different from a regular commercial film, where the hero is on the run. It loses steam after what appears initially to be a genuinely different film. The ending especially takes a filmy turn while suggesting other alternatives to Naxals.
Yet, it’s a decent effort from the team of Red Alert. The performance from the cast — Suniel Shetty (effective), Seema Biswas, Ayesha Dharkar, Naseeruddin Shah (only there for one scene!) Sameera Reddy, Makarand Deshpande — are uniformly good. But Ashish Vidyarthi in particular is superb. It’s a bit of a shame that the actor has not got enough roles to showcase his immense talent.
Director Mahadevan’s treatment is realisitic and he creates some moments of simmering tension in the first half. Sadly, his bent as a commercial filmmaker takes over in the second half, and what you get is a film that falls short of its potential.

- Sandhya Iyer


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