Prakash Jha's best-kept secret in his new film Chakravyuha exploring Maoist insurgency is out. Om Puri plays the real-life character of the controversial capitalist-turned-Maoist Kobad Ghandy.
Ghandy's fascinating journey from Malabar Hill to the Naxalite jungles of Karnataka has flummoxed fascinated and fired the imagination of generations of social scientists. At 63, Ghandy's saga continues to be in enigma of social protest and insurgency.
Apparently, unknown to anyone Om Puri deeply studied Kobad's life and career before playing the character modeled on Kobad Ghandy, and came away deeply impressed.
Says a source close to the project, "Prakash Jha's original plan was to take elements from Kobad Ghandy's life and incorporate it into Om Puri's character. But Om got progressively drawn into Kobad Ghandy's life and teachings and urged Prakash to make his character as close to Kobad as possible."
Om who's currently in Canada is guarded but doesn't deny the parallels. "I can't deny that my character is akin to Kobad Ghandi. I play a professor and an educationist who gives up a cushy life to become a Maoist."
At the risk of again offending his political detractors Om admits he is impressed and influenced by Kobad Ghandy's teachings. "I truly believe in what Kobad said about the poor. Kobad said, 'I don't believe in a democracy that doesn't respect the poor.' I believe that. However, I don't subscribe to the Maoists' means of bringing social change. I don't think blowing up railway tracks and damaging public property is the solution. Surely there has to be a less violent means to bring about social change."
Om doesn't fear the backlash that he might have to face for playing such a controversial character. "I truly believe Maoists are not terrorists but rebels. Having said that I play a character in the film. And my own beliefs are separate from the characters that I believe. But if people see my voice speaking in unison with Kobad Ghandy about social equality then I don't mind his ideology being attributed to me."
Prakash Jha was guarded in comparing Om Puri with Kobad Ghandy, "It's too risky to compare characters in our films to real-life people. Someone somewhere is bound to get angry. So let's just say people are free to read similarities between Om's character and the gentleman you've mentioned."
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