AALAAP Movie Review: A juvenile propaganda film

It’s an unabashedly one-sided film about winning over Maoists through music

Film: Aalaap; Cast: Amit Purohit, Pitobash, Aabid Shamim, Harsh Rajput, Murali Sharma, Vijay Raaz, Raghubir Yadav and Abhimanyu Singh; Director: Manish Manikpuri; Rating: 1.5

When you see people like Chhattisgarh ex-DGP Vishwa Ranjan, who was perennially under fire for the pathetic human rights abuse in the state during his term, and state Chief Minister Raman Singh being thanked before the film, you know that Aalaap at best will be a one-sided state propaganda film. To find it to be one isn’t surprising. What does surprise is that the filmmaking is as juvenile, simplistic, illogical and outright dumb as its ideology.

Four young adults, after watching soldiers being blown up by a Maoist landmines in Dantewada, Chhattisgarh, are restless at this mindless violence. Angry, they finally realise that they have the ‘weapon’ with which they can fight Maoists – music. Exactly how music is supposed to end any violent struggle anywhere, one must find from the talented and debutant writer-director Manish Manikpuri.

Besides this very basic and fundamentally flawed premise, the film’s errors are too many to recount. The biggest is that it is an unabashedly one-sided and one-dimensional film. Maoists are equated to terrorists and one after another characters scream at the screen talking about how Naxalism is the worst thing that has happened to the country.

What is not fair, however, is to completely blind out the other side which claims the state to be the aggressor and that the tribes turn to Naxals to protect their hearth and homes. There isn’t even one-line lip-service paid to the side of the tribes who have seen 644 of their villages burnt (official figures), thousands killed including women and children and scores of women raped in the pogrom unleashed by the state to give their mineral rich lands to corporates. The death of soldiers and civilians needs condemnation. The death of thousands of tribals needs equal condemnation. Does the filmmaker even consider a tribal to be a human to care giving his side as well?

There isn’t thus an iota of doubt that this is a state propaganda film. And as such films go, the history of cinema is rife with examples including Casablanca. Recently, The Hurt Locker was picked up by the American state, awarded with hordes of Oscar Awards and made into a propaganda because of its pro-war leanings. As you will notice, no matter how twisted their ideology, the quality of both the Hollywood films was exemplary. Indeed one can even argue that for a propaganda film that is wrong in many ways, to be right at least when it comes to their technical specs, is an absolute must.

You have no such luck with Aalaap with its entire gamut of filmmaking being as terrible as its ideology, excelled only by wrong casting and terrible dialogue writing. A small saving grace is provided by a few tracks by the music band Agnee. Sadly their music too fluctuates between the inspiring and downright insipid.

With the state-sponsored Operation Green Hunt taking lives on both sides of the divide, this insensitive film seems like a terrible nightmare one hoped one had not seen. It’s an insult to each – civilians, soldiers and tribes killed in the conflict zone.