RED ALERT: THE WAR WITHIN
The deep forests of Andhra Pradesh—a boiling cauldron of Naxalism—form the menacing backdrop of Anant Mahadevan’s film titled, rather dramatically, Red Alert: The War Within. It is not just an ambitious subject, but one charged with political immediacy.
The cast comprises able actors such as Ashish Vidyarthi, Ayesha Dharker, Seema Biswas and others—with Suniel Shetty playing the unlikely lead. The story is based on the real incident of a villager embroiled in the Naxal war against the system. He wants to be part of the system to earn his bread and feed his family. The “revolution” is pointless to his limited humanity. Will he be persuaded into the fold? What kind of fate awaits him? The answer the film offers is satisfyingly ambiguous, although the plot’s conclusion is illogical and ludicrous.
The 2-hour film, written by Aruna Raje, tries to expose the misgivings around modern-day Naxalism. She consciously does not espouse who is right and who is wrong, choosing mostly to sit on the fence on this issue of international importance. Fiction can often give us the “why” and “how” of a subject we are already forced to confront, more powerfully and imaginatively. Red Alert doesn’t quite do that.
The story is about Narasimhan (Shetty), a simple villager interested in a few bucks. The other characters—a cruel and impassioned Naxal leader (Vidyarthi), a Maoist intellectual (Murli Sharma), feisty women revolutionaries who feel empowered by the gun (Biswas, Dharker and Sameera Reddy)—are inherently more complex. Mahadevan extracts impressive performances from his cast (Naseeruddin Shah plays a role that lasts one scene, that of a pathetic drunkard unable to grapple with reality minus inebriation. It is a powerful single-scene role, like the actor’s small ode to realistic cinema).
Shetty’s performance gives away the fact that the actor is trying very hard. Shetty is not known for his acting skills—here he does not transcend that reputation. There are some visual flourishes, although the tone and texture of the entire film is realistic and in documentary style.
Red Alert won’t make you rethink Naxalism. It says nothing that you don’t know already. With a more powerful lead performance, the timeless belief that war is futile could have been better conveyed. The film has been dubbed in three languages, including Chhattisgarhi, and released at more than 500 screens across the country. Not fodder for real—or armchair—intellectuals, but deserving of a watch.
In 2001, John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale put destiny to the test in the romcom Serendipity. A few years later, circa 2007, director Satish Kaushik teamed up with writer Shiraz Ahmed (story, screenplay, dialogue), actors Kareena Kapoor and Shahid Kapoor to borrow liberally from the Hollywood film and test fate, Bollywood style.
Milenge Milenge begins with college girl Priya (Kareena) hoping that her tarot card reader’s prediction, that she will meet Mr Right at 7am on the 7th on a beach, will come true. Chance takes her to Bangkok where she counts down to that time and date. Immy (Shahid Kapoor) and his friends have broken into a girls’ hostel and he happens to hide in Priya’s room. He feels an instant attraction to her. Without any hesitation, he steals her diary. Immy embarks on a plan to woo her. But in order to do so, he must break the first of her three conditions.
She falls headlong in love but the revelation of Immy’s deception tears them apart. Three years later, on the eve of their respective marriages to other people, Priya and Immy embark on a final mission to find their soulmates.
Given the idealism of teenage romance, the story could have touched a chord. But the dated style of film-making, acting and production are detrimental. This is the kind of Hindi film where the heroine sleeps with full make-up and her hair is as blonde as Pamela Anderson’s.
The biggest let-down is that you do not feel for the protagonists. The role of destiny is convincing enough. On the contrary, the situations are too convenient. The chemistry between the lead pair is lukewarm and while Shahid brings some edge to his performance, Kareena is on autopilot. The supporting cast of Satish Shah, Aarti Chhabria, Delnaz Paul and others overdo their roles. This movie seems (ill)-fated.
Red Alert: The War Within and Milenge Milenge released in theatres on Friday.