It only takes a trigger to make a person a devil and see their wrath being unleashed. Shaitan, the new Disney+ Hotstar special, takes us through the politics of rural Andhra Pradesh embroiled in Naxal conflicts. Amidst all this is a man who wants to do the right thing but ends up showcasing his dark side. This was something not explored by Telugu cinema, and it could have been interesting to watch what the outcome of the conflict would be. This show does it in a messed-up manner, but the climax of the show was surprisingly good.
Shaitan begins with the voiceover of Baali, allowing the audience to understand why he is the victim while the system considers him a criminal. Baali threatens the state home minister to back away from local politics because he is aware of the politics that the government is playing to get rid of him, but his power allows him to question the status quo. This proves Baali may have done something right, which forced the state to go after him. The whole sequence ends with a manhunt to catch and kill Baali, and they are successful in doing so.
Baali Commits A Crime
Taking the viewers to 1995, a young Baali, his sister Jaya, and brother Gumthi are witnesses to their mother being at the mercy of local police officer Yakub, who uses his power to sleep with her in return for financial support. This showcases how women have bowed down to the powerful men to make sure their lives are not made hell. Unable to bear Yakub’s harassment towards his mother and sister, Baali ends up killing him. Baali surrenders because there is no way out for him from this crime, and he is ready to accept the consequences. It is assumed that Baali was sent to jail, but this sets the tone for Baali’s family, who would not be messed with. The family went through a lot of trauma just to be able to live peacefully, but this is just the beginning of what they were capable of. One could also conclude that Baali and his family will not be hesitant to commit other crimes.
Baali Joins The Communist Party
Baali wants to get going with his life as a paid goon because that is the only thing he knows how to do right. This leads to him getting carried away at a communist gathering conducted by comrades who kill a local landlord. Inspired by their words and actions, Baali thinks this would be the right way to question and stand up to the system. Baali shows interest because he feels one needs to take drastic actions, such as killing, to draw people’s attention toward their cause. This mindset is dangerous because carrying out a crime to make a point never works in anyone’s favor. But here it seems the killing was a way to attract the attention of the people in power so as to let them know a faction such as theirs exists to serve the people. Landlord’s killing worked in favor of the party because Baali had decided to become a comrade.
Baali pursues Kalavati, a strong leader of the faction, in the hope that she’d help induct him into the party. They are unwilling to take him because of his record as a criminal, but he convinces them that their ideology needs a weapon like his to confront people defying them. This again implies that the local communist party needs a handyman like him whose mind works sharply, which will strengthen their stronghold in the village. Even with their top leader, Sambanna, arrested, the power of the communist group, aka the Naxals, is rooted, as they have plenty of supporters. Baali, a Naxal, goes to jail for attempting to assassinate the state home minister, where he meets Obuleshu Anna, another Naxal leader with a different ideology. He starts gaining influence in jail which impresses Obuleshu Anna and Sambanna because in him they see a ruthless comrade and they encourage him to take up violence. He becomes a staunch follower of Sambanna because he feels their ideology is meant for the upliftment and empowering the oppressed.
Baali probably does this to enhance his killer instincts, and for that, he would need Sambanna and Obuleshu on his side. Baali has now become a cold-blooded killer who does not think twice before carrying out a ghastly act, even if it means involving his younger brother in it. It can be assumed that Baali is on the path to becoming the next leader after Sambanna, which will allow him to have a party acting on his words. But to his family’s horror, his sister Jaya is sexually assaulted by one of the party members, Rajanna. Despite requesting that Sambanna take strict action against the culprit, the man refuses to do so. This shatters Baali’s illusion because the whole idea of this party is to help the needy, but Sambanna is unwilling to help his cadres. This proves that Sambanna and his party are a bunch of hypocrites who do not follow the rules laid down by the party and only protect each other. Baali orders his brother to murder Rajanna, and his first instinct being to kill the man instead of filing a police complaint shows there is no looking back for him from this murderous path. Rajanna’s death leads to a gruesome chain of events marred by violence carried out as an act of revenge. This is no stop to the party infighting, as this was bound to happen. The local police, led by Nagi Reddy, jump on the bandwagon and react with delight to the discord.
‘Shaitan’ Ending Explained: What Are Nagi Reddy’s Plans For Himself?
Rajanna’s death led to the party going against Baali. Kalavathi especially comes across as an insensitive person who is completely brainwashed by the party’s ideology and does not help Baali. Baali’s love for Kalavathi makes him divulge that it was he who had ordered Rajanna’s death, which makes her want to stay away from him.
Baali hoped that, as a woman, Kalavathi would understand Jaya’s predicament. It is not clear why the writers presented Jaya’s character with hints of antagonism because she was introduced as someone who understands the pain of the oppressed. With no choice in hand, Baali’s mother kills Kalavathi with the help of Jaya and Gumthi, fearing Kalavathi will betray them. She does this to save her family from going extinct at the hands of the party. Killing Kalavathi and justifying it sets a dangerous precedent. But again, carrying out murder is the only way Baali and their family know how to solve problems ever since the killing of the cruel policeman. Their fear of retribution from the party is legit because the party members are ruthless toward the people who defy them, and Baali will not be treated any other way. The police are aware of the infighting in the party and take full advantage of it to make sure the Naxals end up eradicating themselves. This was the opportunity the police and the government were waiting for because more rifts would mean the police having to do practically nothing.
Nagi Reddy and his team help the Naxals by capturing and killing Baali’s brother, which worsens the matter. With his brother gone, Baali desperately finds an ally in the police. He took this decision because he wanted to come off as powerful in the game. It can be assumed that the police anticipated this move from Baali because he would want police protection so that his family remains alive. Nagi Reddy makes Baali their informant who would help the police decimate the Naxals, and Baali successfully does his job well. Sambanna did not expect these many killings thanks to Baali’s intel, which proves the man underestimated Baali.
The constant back and forth between Baali and Sambanna’s men is a ruthless sight because there seems to be no end to the bloodbath. This proves the theory that when two powerful people fight, there is always a third party that has something to gain in eliciting the conflict. The police successfully manage to create a rift between Baali and Obuleshu by throwing in the topic of Gumthi’s killer. Nagi Reddy’s utilization of Baali to end every faction of the Naxals is another feather in the officer’s cap. But Obuleshu’s retaliation leads to the brutal deaths of Baali and Jaya’s mother and Jaya’s husband. To give the man a brutal death, Jaya kills him, not before Obuleshu kills her too, thus ending Baali’s family. The killings are nonstop at this point, as the police are also unable to put a hold on the murderous rage that Baali is in. They feel they are grooming Frankenstein’s monster, which is slowly slipping away from their control. All of this happened because of the police and the state’s greed. Baali is now a one-man army willing to kill Sambanna, who was once his mentor.
The home minister inducts Sambanna into his party and gives him recognition by offering to let him run in the elections. This was a bid to get more votes from this constituency, which is under the influence of Sambanna. The Naxal agrees to the offer, because this way he would be given access to the state machinery allowing them to implement socialist reforms, but moreover the power would allow him to kill Baali.
The political move can be considered a smart one by the government to bring the Naxals under their thumbs and probably allow them to sustain themselves by giving their man certain power, which will give the supporters the illusion that the government cares for the oppressed. Sambanna also seems like a person who could be swindled away by the money he could make by entering politics. This is hypocrisy, but again, every political leader and party in this country are a bunch of impostors.
Sambanna’s newfound political power does not stop Baali from killing the man in full public view, which showcases his willingness to risk his life in the line of fire. Baali’s killing of Sambanna forces the police and the state to corner Nagi Reddy, Baali’s biggest ally. Baali is perplexed to see the police having a change of mind about his contribution to eliminating many Naxal leaders. He simply could not understand that he had become a liability for this government whose only motive was to stay in power for as long as possible.
Nagi Reddy’s refusal to kill Baali forces the state to ‘encounter’ the officer in a hope to bring him out of hiding. This circles back to the first scene, where Baali threatens the home minister to back off and let go of Nagi Reddy. Baali’s devoted to Nagi Reddy because of his dedication to doing things right for the uniform. This also showcases that after a point, there was no enmity between the two because they sympathized with each other’s goals. The open threat leads to a massive manhunt for Baali, and after a long chase, the police kills Baali, as shown in the first episode. Baali was killed purely for political gains because it would take no time for them to deem Baali a criminal who killed Sambanna, and spin it around as if Baali was the one who aspired to be an influential figure. Politicians are aware it is easy to manipulate these emotions into votes, and they would use every ounce of their power to make sure that happens.
Baali’s death might come across as an injustice only to a few, and they would probably die with that information because they have no power to change the narrative. The locals knew who Baali was, but they were not kind enough to his mother’s dilemma, and they would still show no mercy to Baali and his story after his death. One can say his death was in vain, and this is the case of many others who believe they are doing the right thing but end up getting caught in the crossfire only to be killed. Shaitan ends with Nagi Reddy giving up his uniform because he lives with the guilt of the force using him to kill Baali. His sense of betrayal does not allow him to stay with the force.
Nagi Reddy turns out to be a shrewd man who blackmails the home minister into offering him a by-election seat because he feels that only as a politician will he be able to bring about the changes he is expecting, but again, one cannot be sure of his real intentions. He might have entered politics purely for monetary gains because he realized the power lay only in controlling the narrative that goes out to people. There is no better way to do that than by becoming a political leader. This again proves Nagi Reddy might never understand what Baali and his fight for justice meant. This vicious cycle of phony political leaders coming into power carries on.