Chanakya movie review: Gopichand's inconsequential spy thriller wages war against human intelligence
Directed by Thiru, Chanakya, a spy drama, is an assault on the senses, and it’s so badly written that nothing saves it from being a colossal bore.
In Gopichand-starrer Chanakya, which focuses on a RAW agent’s covert mission to catch a dreaded criminal, the war is not between India and Pakistan. It is not even about a secret war raging between India’s Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) and Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).
Here, Thiru, the director of the film, wages a war on the collective human intelligence. This is a film where mating of dogs is used as an allegory to a budding love story between its lead characters. This is also a film where a terrorist’s son challenges a RAW agent to prove his track record in his own backyard. Leave alone the lack of nuance while portraying the geo-politics of the region, the film does not even do justice to the genre. It treats covert missions as a child’s play. Chanakya commits the crime of being a big bore for most part of its narrative.
The film follows the journey of Arjun (Gopichand), one of RAW’s best agents, who also leads a double life as Ramakrishna, who works as a bank employee. For years, RAW has been planning to capture Qureshi, who has been behind some of the biggest terror attacks in India. Despite knowing Qureshi is in Pakistan, RAW is helpless. In one of his missions, Arjun goes to Syria to nab a key member of Qureshi’s gang. It sets him off on a journey which brings him face to face with Qureshi’s son Sohail (Upen Patel). The rest of the story is about whether Arjun would succeed in his mission or not.
Telugu cinema has had its own share of spy thrillers in recent times. Films like Goodachari and PSV Garuda Vega have already set the bar for what to expect from films in this genre. Chanakya is nowhere in the near vicinity. In its attempt to make Arjun’s mission more personal, the film loses sight of what it is aiming to achieve.
One of the key questions in the film is about the value of human lives, especially those who fight and die for the country. Although there is a reference to this topic in the film, the context is not properly established, which makes it tougher to root for Arjun’s journey. He is a secret agent gone rogue, and that too for a personal reason, but what derails the film the most is how it treats the conflict between Arjun and Sohail. At no point does it feel like Chanakya is about an Indian spy risking his life to rescue someone in Pakistan. The story might have unfolded in a big Indian city, and it would not make a difference. The idea of the son of India’s most wanted terrorist challenging a RAW agent to come to Pakistan to prove his skills is not only silly but unbelievably stupid.
Chanakya has plenty of such poorly written sequences. It makes no effort to show a different side of a spy’s life or even narrate its story in an engaging manner. The only time when the film is mildly engaging is when all the characters are on the run. The background score tries to build the tempo to a crescendo to convey the stakes involved.
For Gopichand, this could have been a perfect film to do justice to his action-hero image. But for all the drama and action, Chanakya does not even offer a single scene where Gopichand, the actor, stands out. Once again, it is the writing which fails him. The stunt choreography too is quite mediocre for most part. The only silver lining is an elaborate chase sequence set in Karachi. The romantic subplot between Gopichand and Mehreen Perizada is terrible as it hampers the proceedings. Zareen Khan, who plays a secret agent in Pakistan, makes an effort to leave an impression, but there is barely any emotion even when she opens up to him about her past. Upen is treated like a cardboard character, just like how he has been stereotyped in most of his other films.
Thiru does not quite strike a balance between what he wants to say through the film and what he shows. On one hand, it sounds like a simple story about a spy who has to go on a mission to Pakistan, but Chanakya does not quite get the rhythm right until quite late into the narrative.
When a spy drama is treated as a masala movie where characters openly challenge each other, you know it has landed in a quagmire. And we are sucked into it too. Two big thumbs down for this film.
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