Red Alert is one of those films that are like the elective courses that you take to pump up your resume despite the fact that they mean little to you. They'd sure look good on the actors' - specially the lead pair's, since the rest have had better films - resumes, but as far as value-addition to the audience is concerned, there's little to speak about.
The story is a rather copybook sort of take on the whole Naxal issue. Narsimha (Suneil Shetty) is a cook who is accidentally sucked into a Naxal camp in Khammam district. The comrades there (Seema Biswas, Ashish Vidyarthi, Ayesha Dharker, etc.) are an angry, nasty bunch whose anti-establishment stances make no sense to the domesticated and sensitive Narsimha. All Narsimha wants is to go home to his wife and kids, with the money he was promised he'd be paid.
The dalam goes about killing police forces and ambushing local leaders' homes, and in one of their attacks, comes across the completely zonked-out Lakshmi (Sameera Reddy), a woman who has been raped by an entire police station. She is exhorted to take up arms against the "system", since "wielding a gun gives you courage like nothing else can".
Lakshmi, like Narsimha, doesn't entirely agree with the movement. However, she doesn't ask questions, unlike her more conflicted counterpart - Narsimha keeps springing up with moral and logical doubts ("who exactly are we fighting, when both sides consist of our own people?"), that fall on irritable ears.
Red Alert has seemingly been crafted with a decent amount of effort and intention, but for an art movie, the script is unimaginative and pretty cold. It mostly feels like a primer on the topic of Naxalism, with an elementary take on the issues that surround it. With standard-issue situations, dialogues and expressions that you've probably seen in every other movie that deals with civil violence or terrorism, the film keeps evoking an "I've seen better" feel.
A sedate script would still have been acceptable, but Red Alert keeps straying off into irrational territory, that spoils whatever the film has going for it; for example, the ridiculous climax involving the Naxal mastermind (Vinod Khanna).
The issues of authenticity are probably best left alone, but all we'd have expected from a film that seeks to win awards at film festivals is that at least one line - or even a phrase - of the Telugu spoken in it be faithful to reality. Instead, whenever the makers want the story to feel legitimate, we have an entire Mumbai cast made to mouth incorrectly constructed and pronounced bits of Telugu.
Well, Suneil Shetty has been miscast in this role that requires him look and feel vulnerable. Sameera Reddy has nothing to do except to go without make-up, but she's a pleasant watch. Seema Biswas, Ayesha Dharker and Ashish Vidyarthi are among the actors in the highly-skilled ensemble, who've been doing the same thing over and over again in all their flicks.
The visuals are gritty and real, and to the film's credit, there's no over-the-top violence save for a couple of scenes. However, they still don't boast of imagination and creativity, much like the music.
Well, if watered-down civil violence and drama is your cup of tea, then we won't snatch away the experience from you, but you really shouldn't take the trouble.