‘Bastar: The Naxal Story’ Review: The Movie Makes A Lot Of Noise But Has Zero To No Impact

Is it safe to say propaganda movies are a rage these days. There is no dearth of movies that cater to only bashing a sector of people without an iota of nuance or subtlety. Of course, as soon as someone points this out, there’s going to be hordes of replies claiming that the real stories are far more gruesome than the fictionalized version of them. Nevertheless, these movies seem to come packaged with an agenda that is obvious right from the start. Bastar is yet another feather in Sudipto Sen’s hat after the infamous The Kerala Story, released in 2023. Bastar covers the story of a village festered with Naxals. The film was released on Zee5 Global on May 17, 2024.


Bastar begins with a bail plea argument for intellectual Narayan Bagchi, who was arrested on the charges of conspiracy to kill CRPF officers and leaking information about their movement to the Naxals that are running a parallel government in Bastar, Chhattisgarh. The Naxals killed a villager who wanted basic education for his kids after he hoisted the Indian flag in his village. Hostility towards the Indian government was on the rise thanks to the Naxals and their sympathizers. The Naxals based in Bastar and other villages in the neighboring states have Lanka Reddy as their leader, who is backed by left-wing intellectuals Vanya Roy and Professor Yamuna, who seem to be able to get their hands on information about the movement of the forces inside the forest. How do they know these details? Well, who cares about these plot holes? Amidst the court case, IPS officer Neerja Madhavan, along with an armed group of locals backed by Rajendra Karma wants to take down Lanka Reddy and bring Bastar back under the control of the local government. As the fierce battle on the ground and in court ensues, there is a general confusion about what exactly is happening in this movie.

The general mood is that everyone in the movie is angry and loud. Anger as an emotion is justified since it is about the plight of the villagers as they are crushed by the Naxals and the government forces. The forces are also helpless, and so are the Naxals, who are fed up with the “democratic” government. The sad part about the writing of the movie is that it is plain generic, and there is hardly any research done to make a compelling narrative. Naxal killings and the extreme left ideology are a reality, but presenting a story for the sake of it and inciting plain anger out of it is not the way to tackle any ideology. The screenplay is shallow and hardly spends time explaining what happened. The director Sudipto Sen and the writers name-drop terms like left liberals, media, Bollywood, and bureaucrats one too many times but do not care to explain their actual role in propagating left ideology. If you claim something, you need evidence to back it up. Sadly, most of these subtleties are lost in the crowd of revenge, loud dialogue, and gory scenes that are triggering. Naxal killings are a sensitive issue, especially for those who have faced brutality from close quarters. These plotlines don’t do justice to the memory of the actual forces who gave up their lives while fighting these local terrorists. 


The movie aims to inflame the sentiments of regular audiences who have no idea what exactly happens in the heartland of our country. The same audience would not work for the social upliftment of the locals in places like Bastar. The screenplay uses the bail hearing as a way to proclaim the forces to be monsters, while the forces claim the left liberals and the sitting government at the state and the center add to the agony. This beating around the bush and blame game is not the way to present a story. It would only further incite unsolicited violence. 

The condescending nature coupled with harsh dialogue that is devoid of emotion is the biggest drawback of the film. The writers hardly explored why people become Naxals, though there is immense emphasis on how they become one. If only the narrative had presented the story from both sides, Bastar would have been watchable. The usage of the ‘mother card’ constantly throughout the film, along with it showcasing Neerja’s pregnancy, is tiresome. This is a lazy narrative utilized because the film lacked a basic, steady plotline. The only character that could be sympathized with in the film is the tribal leader Rajendra Karma, who seems to be desperate to save his village and the locals and keep them from taking the violent route. The writers and the director did not have a pinch of sensitivity to his portrayal of a man who had lost a lot of family members to Naxal violence.


The random intellectual bashing is what the movie is all about, and it is exaggerated to the point where it gets repetitive. The naming of the infamous university but beeping it out in the final cut is the most hilarious thing in the film. If they had the guts to include the name in the screenplay, why did they have to mute it during the release? This shows the lack of courage from the filmmaker’s side and proves the point that the narrative in the film is purely for ornamental sake and there is no depth to it. There are plenty of loopholes in the film that the makers have conveniently overlooked. Also, is Raima Sen the official villain in every propaganda film? She is getting typecast in films of this nature, and as an actor, she deserves better. The direction could be lauded because Sudipto Sen is in control of the craft, but besides that, there is nothing effective that makes you feel moved by the Bastar story. 

The performance by Adah Sharma as the IPS officer Neerja Madhavan is loud for no reason. Since the story expected her to be extra from the start, her performance kept the mood of the film high. There are very few scenes where she is not shouting or yelling. The only actors who are worth watching in the film, even though there is little screen time, are Yashpal Sharma as Utpal Trivedi, the lawyer fighting for Neerja and her team; Shilpa Shukla as Neelam Nagpal, the lawyer fighting for the so-called “intellectuals”; Kishor Kadam as Rajendra Karma; and Indira Tiwari as Ratna. These actors stood out because they are wonderful actors. Their talent deserved better writing. Bastar unnecessarily makes a lot of noise, and there is no impact of such emotions in the narrative. 


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Smriti Kannan
Smriti Kannan
Smriti Kannan is a cinema enthusiast, and a part time film blogger. An ex public relations executive, films has been a major part of her life since the day she watched The Godfather – Part 1. If you ask her, cinema is reality. Cinema is an escape route. Cinema is time traveling. Cinema is entertainment. Smriti enjoys reading about cinema, she loves to know about cinema and finding out trivia of films and television shows, and from time to time indulges in fan theories.

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