‘Bastar: A Naxal Story’ True Story, Explained: Is Rajendra Karma Based On A Real-Life Person?


Zee5 Global film, Bastar: A Naxal Story gives a disclaimer in the beginning and tells the viewers that it’s inspired by a true story. It could be said that it takes its inspiration from a lot of true events, but I would state here that it is not an exact depiction of the events as the makers took a lot of creative liberties. So, let’s find out what all shown in the film actually happened in real life and where the makers took artistic freedom.

Spoiler Alert

Is the film inspired by the Bhumkal movement? 

The Bastar rebellion took place in 1910, and as history tells us, all the Adivasi population of the area mobilized and fought against the oppressive regime. The main issue was that the Britishers had put a ban on the exploitation of the forest resources even after knowing that a huge sect of people depended upon them for their livelihood. The Adivasis at that time were not connected with mainstream society, and they had their own ways of living. So basically, the Britishers left them to die, but they unified their efforts, and fought against the regime. Now, it could be said that bits and pieces of the narrative were loosely inspired by the Bastar rebellion, but the makers took a lot of creative liberties while doing so. So we saw at the end of the film that the village dwellers went against Lanka Reddy, and they caught him just as he was about to escape the state borders. Ratna, whose husband was killed by Lanka Reddy for hoisting the tricolor, killed the Maoist leader, and she took revenge on him. There have been many instances in the affected areas where innocent village people have picked up arms because it just became too much for them to handle the atrocities. The people who did not join the Maoist movement didn’t know where to go or how to live their lives. It’s because they are pressured by the rebel forces to abide by their rules, and what they want is to just live a normal life and make sure that their children prosper. So, I believe that the Bastar rebellion might have been an inspiration for the makers, but they have contemporized the narrative and added certain fictional plot points to make it a bit entertaining and engaging. 

Is Neerja Madhavan based on a real-life person? 

It couldn’t be said that Neerja Madhavan’s character is based on some specific IPS officer, but I would rather say here that it is an amalgamation of many law enforcement officers who served in the region. But I would like to point out here that a lot of creative liberties have been taken by the makers, and it is essential to point it out because, a lot of the time, the audience believes it to be the truth because of the way the entire narrative is executed and how the makers blur the lines between reality and imagination. Obviously, I won’t deny the fact that a lot of law enforcement officers lose their lives because of the ongoing conflict, but where I disagree with the film is that the issue is not so black-and-white in nature. Obviously, Sudipto Sen wanted to portray the entire concert of communism in a bad light, but the truth is far from what is shown in the film. 

Were 76 CRF jawans killed in Bastar? 

It is true that 76 CRPF jawans were killed in Dantewada in 2010. The film changed the context of the event, as it was not the vengeance of one guy, as depicted, that led to the attack. In the film, it is shown that Lanka Reddy wanted to take revenge on the law enforcement authorities as Narayan Bagchi had been arrested by Neerja Madhavan. Lanka Reddy went to the CRPF base camp, and he killed 76 soldiers in cold blood. It is shown that Neerja asked for back forces from the home ministry, but nobody helped her as they only wanted to look out for their own vested interests. However, the real reason behind the attack was not so personal, and there were other political reasons that triggered it. 

Is Rajendra Karma based on a real-life person? 

Yes, the character of Rajendra Karma is based on a real-life person named Mahendra Karma. It is true that he played a key role in the Salwa Judum movement, and ultimately, on May 25, 2013, he was killed by the Naxals, who attacked his contingent, as was shown in the movie. The Naxalites took responsibility for the murder, and they said that they had done so because he was the one who initiated the Salwa Judum movement. A lot of young people were part of the Salwa Judum movement, and the state government knew that if they wanted to tackle the Naxal problem, they had to opt for some unorthodox method. The Naxals had knowledge about the land, and that gave them leverage over the officers who came from outside and tried to maintain law and order. That is why, much like the special police officers, Mahendra Karma came to the conclusion that if natives formed a force, then they would be able to counter the insurgency. 

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Sushrut Gopesh
Sushrut Gopesh
I came to Mumbai to bring characters to life. I like to dwell in the cinematic world and ponder over philosophical thoughts. I believe in the kind of cinema that not necessarily makes you laugh or cry but moves something inside you.

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