‘Bastar’ review: Thoughtful, but half-baked

We’ve all known and read about the presence of Naxalites in Bastar, Chhattisgarh, but this film forces us to think deeper and gets the audience to empathise with those affected. And for this reason, it is a good watch. The same team, which delivered the blockbuster albeit controversial The Kerala Story – Adah Sharma, director Sudipto Sen and producer Vipul Amrutlal Sharma – has come together again for Bastar: The Naxal Story. 

Said to be based on true events, the film begins with a scene where a villager hoists the Indian flag and sings the national anthem. After a while, a Maoist leader kills him brutally for hoisting the Indian flag, establishing the dominance and depravity of Maoist rule in Bastar. Fear looms large; neither the government nor the public and not even the army dares to take action for they fear being killed. At the heart of the film is the Naxalite insurgency and the ensuing conflict with security forces, both of which bring into sharp focus the socio-political realities prevalent. Neerja Madhavan, a police officer played by Adah Sharma, unwaveringly patriotic, embarks on a mission to eliminate the scourge of naxal insurgency from the Hindi heartland and in the process gets accused of engaging in fake encounters. But, she remains undeterred.  

The emotionally charged narratives revolving around a mother and son make a strong presence. To avenge the murder of her husband, the mother joins the police force, while the son joins the naxalites out of a lack of interest in education. It would have been great if the makers could explore the psychological motivations in depth, but the film barely manages to delve deeper. What is their motivation for doing what they are doing? How has the government tackled the naxalism situation so far? These and many other questions remain unanswered. Adah Sharma shows grit and determination but fails to impress because her character seems half-baked.

Overall, this film is watchable, because it talks about an issue that merits attention. 

Film: Bastar: The Naxal Story

Director: Sudipto Sen

Cast: Adah Sharma, Indira Tiwari, Vijay Krishna, Shilpa Shukla, Yashpal Sharma

Rating: 2.5/5