Chakra is supposed to be the protagonist’s search for his father’s stolen Ashoka Chakra, but it ends up being the audience’s search for a single moment of cleverness or skill
Serial robberies happen in posh localities in Chennai on Independence Day. Encounter specialist Assistant Commissioner Gayatri is assigned to the case. She wastes no time in valourously rounding up dozens of poor people without probable cause — flower hawkers, gas cylinder delivery persons, newspaper boys and so on. She also gets her team to beat them up mindlessly, without so much as telling them what they’re being questioned for. Thankfully, Major Subash Chandra Bose, aka Chandru, steps in to save us from the idiocy of this. Unfortunately, he can’t save the film.
Debutante director MS Anandan’s Chakra, starring Vishal and Shraddha Srinath, is a hodgepodge of predictable twists punctuated by intolerable lectures. For a police procedural, Chakra takes a rather fantastical view of how criminal investigations work. Chandru keeps insisting that he is from the ‘military’, implying that it puts him above the state police is some invisible hierarchy. No one questions his presence in a local investigation, within the country, during peacetime.
In fact, every one from his ex-girlfriend to the city’s police commissioner, seem to enjoy his interference, taking orders from him willingly. If there is any community ripe for calling for the ban of this film, it’s the cops — the way everyone proactively surrenders to the might of Vishal is rather embarrassing.
Even if you’re willing to suspend your disbelief at this, the writing jolts you awake every 5 minutes. There is severe competition between the hero, heroine and the villain about who is the worst written character of all (spoiler alert: It is Robo Shankar’s).
The hero’s journey is a line of miraculous coincidences, dropping clues on his lap with a deafening thud. The writers are confused about whether the heroine is the lead investigator on a critical case or a subservient wife of male fantasy. She’s introduced with one mass scene, gun, punch dialogue etc., only to be relegated to taking notes and scheduling meetings a few seconds later. She is also regularly interrupted, condescended to, and insulted in front of suspects.
Their relationship itself is utterly lacking; there is no romantic or sexual tension; there is neither any camaraderie nor does he have any respect for her. So much so that he once lectures her about the consequences of anger — like Padayappa, but with puppy eyes. And she ends up lying in a hospital bed during the climax while Chandru solves the crime and closes her case.
The villain is worse. If there was one thing going for Irumbu Thirai (seen as the prequel to Chakra), it’s the villain. PS Mithra and his collaborators had written Arjun’s character with enough evil to make our stomach churn about the possibilities. Arjun, too, was a match for Vishal. Chakra relies too heavily on the twist in identifying its villain that it doesn’t consider the need to write a real and believable person.
A criminal mastermind — cyber-criminal, invisible puppet master etc. etc., who meticulously destroys the digital footprint of the crime — leaves behind a thumbprint on the scanner used to authenticate the destruction! (It is another matter entirely that even with the thumbprint, Chandru doesn’t try to get a fingerprint to match it with, but goes and plays chess with the villain for mass film moments). The flashback into the villain’s childhood, presumably written to explain the ruthless psychopathy, is ill-timed and caricatured. The role is also miscast, but the way it’s written, I can’t imagine anyone doing any better.
It’s not just that role, though. Shraddha Srinath is unconvincing as AC Gayatri. She looks so uncomfortable and side-lined that she makes Vishal look like Sivaji Ganesan’s reincarnation. Robo Shankar is neither comical nor a relief. KR Vijaya, as Chandru’s grandmother, gives her earnest best. But she is too little too pointless to be of any help.
This review will not be complete if I don’t point out the relentless posturing throughout the film. Vijay Mallya jokes are forced in. Politicians are mocked. In a sidebar scene — earlier released as a sneak peek — Chandru lectures a random stranger about questioning crony capitalism.
He brings the entire board of an internet company over to the police station and threatens to imprison them for a cybersecurity breach, but no one knows on what grounds. And the entire board of “busy people”, as they claim, show up without any legal representation. The worst part isn’t any of this, though; it’s that he sends them away after simply lecturing them and throwing empty threats. They play no role in moving the film forward except give Chandru a chance to bully some rich people.
Chakra is supposed to be Chandru’s search for his father’s stolen Ashoka Chakra — a symbol of the family’s legacy. It ends up being the audience’s search for a single moment of cleverness or skill.
Fortunately for Chandru, he finds his symbol. The audience, on the other hand, leaves a few hundred rupees poorer, is all.
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