Chamku: An honest and Gritty Saga
By MovieTalkies.com, 28 August 2008
Vijayta Films' 'Chamku', directed by Kabeer Kaushik, who had earlier made 'Sehar', is a moving saga about a man trapped and hounded by the system, which is supposed to protect the rights of the individual. The film is a stark take on the manner in which the system uses and abuses human lives. Kaushik's film is honest, gritty, with very little in between to make the reality more palatable. Kaushik tells the story as it is and reveals his mastery over the medium in the manner in which he unfolds his story. In fact, one of the highlights of the film is the stylish yet perfectly apt manner in which the film unfolds. He repeats the opening line of the film, which is voiced by the protagonist, later in the film as well to make an ironic statement. The manner in which the events unfold in the film and the manner in which the director draws us into the narrative is praise worthy. One may argue that one has seen enough of these films indicting the system, but the difference here in 'Chamku' is the director. He stands at the helm of affairs and builds his narrative skilfully, going back and forth constantly, and giving us appropriate glimpses into the life of the protagonist at appropriate times.
The film, stars Bobby Deol in the role of leading protagonist Chamku. He is the son of a poor farmer, whose parents are gunned down by a ruthless Thakur. He manages to survive only because he is saved by a group of Naxalites, led by the benign Baba (Danny Denzongpa). He grows up with the Naxalites, learns to live in the forests and shoot to kill. But one day, this episode in Chamku's life comes to an abrupt end when the Naxalites are busted by the cops. Baba loses his life while Chamku and his colleagues are captured, only to be killed in one of those staged encounters by the cops. But Chamku survives yet again. But this time it is the cops who save him. They leave him with no choice but to work for them killing and disposing of terrorists, criminals and certain political figures, as when deemed necessary by the Home Ministry and the intelligence services like RAW. The man behind recruiting him for this job is a Police officer called Kapoor (Irrfan Khan) and his junior, played by Ninad Kamath. There follows a series of killings and assassinations, all staged by the state. There is no road back. But despite this, life and love visit Chamku and something in him is awakened when he meets Shubhi (Priyanka Chopra), a Montessori school teacher. They fall in love but she is unaware of the secret life that he leads. Events take a turn when during one of assassination bids, Chamku misses his target as he spots the Thakur (Akhilendra Mishra), the man who gunned down his parents. In all these years, Thakur has become a force to reckon with. He is now a big bookie and quite untouchable. But Chamku is determined to exact his revenge. However, life takes another turn when the cops turn the tables on him and leave him at the Thakur's mercy. But Chamku emerges unscathed and finally cuts the knot that binds him to the state.
There is a lot about the story which is not novel or new. One does feel that at the story level, a little more detail about the Naxalite period in Chamku's life would have been more interesting. One never learns about his ideology or the conflicts between the rich landowners of Bihar and the Naxalites. A We That part of the narrative seems rather rushed, even though its memories keep haunting him throughout the film. But one never really learns much about Chamku, the man, but only about what happens to him. He remains a mystery right till the end of the film. Also, the whole love angle seems more forced than natural. But what redeems the film are the actors and the manner in which the director shapes and moulds his narrative.
Bobby Deol as Chamku, gives a very competent performance of a man, who is alive but is lifeless, till he meets Shubhi and the Thakur. Love and revenge give him a reason and motive to live. He speaks volumes with his eyes and displays a minimalistic approach to the role, which works wonders for the character. He is more than ably supported by Irrfan Khan, who plays the RAW officer, who literally holds Chamku's life in his hands and never allows Chamku to forget it. The actor as usual, does a brilliant job as he plays the cold blooded efficient and ruthless officer, whose only Achilles heel is his little daughter, which is revealed only in passing. Irrfan plays it so matter of fact, that his character is instantly credible and ominous, at the same time. He is well supported by Rajendra Gupta, who plays his senior officer, in a small but effective role. Ninad Kamath plays the cop with a heart well. Rajpal Yadav is hardly exploited. He hardly has anything much to do. Akhilendra Mishra overacts as usual, but is riveting. But the actor one would have liked to watch even more is veteran Danny Denzongoa. His benign presence as the head of the Naxalites really lights up the scenes. Unfortunately, he is bumped off too soon. Sulabha Arya is effective and endearing. The only two characters who do not seem to fit in well are Priyanka Chopra as the female love interest, and Ritesh Deshmukh. It has nothing to do with the actors but the fault lies with the script. One feels that neither of the two characters and their compulsions have been worked in well enough.
The film's music is apt and authentic to the situations in the film. There is melody and it is a moving score created by composer Monty Sharma. The cinematography and editing of the film are first rate. So is the script and the dialogues. But what is really outstanding about the film is Kaushik's touches as a director. It is those which lift the film and make it a moving saga of the human condition trapped in an inhumane system.