Chanakya Movie Review: A dismal action thriller
A supposedly high-concept film that is dumbed down too much, which proves to be its downfall
Chanakya follows the life and adventures of RAW agent Arjun (Gopichand) and his friends at the academy. The story progresses as they begin to lead double lives as undercover agents, with Arjun's alter ego being Ramakrishna, a bank employee leading a simple life. His targets are Qureshi and his son Sohail (Upen Patel), who lead terrorist operations from Pakistan. An unannounced and unexplained slip up leads to Qureshi capturing Arjun’s four friends and shipping them to Karachi. The rest of the film follows Arjun’s heroic and clever attempts to rescue his friends and take down the villain.
Cast: Gopichand, Mehreen Peerzada, Upen Patel
To say the least, this film is uneven. The characters speak in the most pedestrian manner about issues of national interest and safety, making this seem like a high school drama made with a grand budget. Arjun, who swears by his duty, suddenly quits to save his friends. During a serious scene, he confronts his Chief saying, “What’s the use of RAW, if it's not able to save its own soldiers' lives?” Within a few minutes he undergoes a sudden transformation and ends up giving patriotic speeches. Shifts like this are both disconcerting and confusing.
Aren’t RAW agents sworn to secret lives and detachment to worldly emotions? When did this become personal? Why is a trained agent trying to save his counterparts on his own? And why are agents trained from the same academy hanging out together with their families in bars in the same city? Where is the discretion? These, and other such questions kept bugging me throughout the runtime.
The portrayal of RAW as a simple, mediocre and superficial agency is what annoyed me the most. The other thing was the characters behaving erratically. For instance, Zareen Khan who plays a RAW agent in Karachi, Zubeida (the most generic Pakistani name they could find) has her gun pointed at Arjun (who has gone rogue) one second, but the next second she is doing his bidding, going against direct orders.
Also it’s a little difficult to take the film seriously when the hero plans an encounter with the villain in Karachi and the shot cuts to a hotel on Necklace Road. Zareen Khan and Gopichand have a whole conversation with Hussain Sagar lake in the backdrop.
Mehreen is there in the film as well. Her character is the usual single child bereft of parents’ love who likes to act cute and stupid. But let’s not even go there.
There's a lot going on in this film, but nothing really excites us. There are a lot of heroics and nationalistic dialogues to mask the emptiness but they barely do their job. In a word, the film is generic. If the director thought he was dumbing it down for the galleries, he perhaps went too far.