It’s been almost a year when theatres were asked to shut down due to rapid rise in the cases of Coronavirus in the country. Two of the films playing in theatres at that point were ANGREZI MEDIUM, produced by Dinesh Vijan, and KAAMYAAB, directed by Hardik Mehta. In an interesting turn of events, ROOHI, the film that releases today and kickstarts the movie-watching season in cinemas, is helmed by both these personalities. So does ROOHI manage to entertain and enthral the audiences? Or does it fail to entice? Let’s analyse.
ROOHI is the story of a possessed girl. Bhawra Pandey (Rajkummar Rao) and Kattanni Qureshi (Varun Sharma) work as crime journalists in a small town, Baagadpur. They also specialise in ‘pakdaai shaadi’ aka bride kidnapping, an accepted custom in Baagadpur. One day, their boss, Guniya Shakeel (Manav Vij) orders them to kidnap a girl, Roohi (Janhvi Kapoor), from a nearby town, Mujaribaad. Bhawra and Kattanni manage to kidnap Roohi while she is with her father (Rajesh Jais). As per the ‘pakdaai shaadi’ custom, after the girl is kidnapped, she is straight away taken to the marriage venue. Bhawra and Kattanni are also supposed to follow suit with Roohi. But after the kidnap takes place, Guniya calls them and tells them that the groom’s uncle has passed away suddenly. Hence, the marriage will now take place after a week. Till then, Bhawra and Kattanni are told to keep her as a hostage in an abandoned property in the hills of Ambiyapur. On the first night, Bhawra goes to offer dinner to Roohi only to realize that she is possessed. Kattanni, at first, doesn’t believe but later, even he sees the possessed side of Roohi. However, instead of being frightened, Kattanni falls for the possessed Roohi. Bhawra, on the other hand, is in love with the non-possessed Roohi. He decides to help her and get the witch out of her body. Kattanni however is averse to the idea as loves the possessed Roohi and if Bhawra succeeds, the witch will leave Roohi forever. What happens next forms the rest of the film.
Mrighdeep Singh Lamba and Gautam Mehra’s story is interesting and novel. The writers try their best to bring something new to the table. Mrighdeep Singh Lamba and Gautam Mehra’s screenplay, however, is interesting only in parts. A few scenes are exceptional and bring the house down. But the serious portions don’t make the desired impact. Mrighdeep Singh Lamba and Gautam Mehra’s dialogues are witty. But the dialect is too authentic and is incomprehensible at many places.
Hardik Mehta’s direction is average at best. On the plus side, he handles some scenes with élan. Also, he sets the mood right, especially in the horror scenes. Even the various towns shown in the film are uniquely depicted. For instance, the bizarre bride kidnapping custom in Baagadpur, the spooky hills of Ambiyapur and the practice of desi exorcism in Chimmatipur add to the film’s novelty. On the flipside, the climax is disappointing. The film also ends on an abrupt note. One hopes that the makers would provide some backstory about Roohi’s past but that never happens. The same route was also followed in STREE , where the mysterious girl’s (Shraddha Kapoor) track ends on a cliffhanger. In the case of ROOHI, it doesn’t make the same impact as STREE. Also, here the goings-on are rather confusing and the dialect is difficult to understand. Several dialogues are sure to go bouncer for many viewers.
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ROOHI starts off on an interesting note, depicting the concept of bride kidnapping in Baagadpur, that too through the eyes of a foreign reporter (Alexx O’Nell). The film gets better once Bhawra and Kattanni kidnap Roohi and set base at the spooky, abandoned factory. The scene where Bhawra narrates about the possessed Roohi to Kattanni is sure to raise laughs. The scene where Kattanni, instead of running away, falls for the possessed Roohi is unique and unexpected. It will bring smiles on the faces of the viewers. The interval comes at an interesting juncture. Post-interval, the film begins to fall but a few scenes especially of the marriage with the dog and Bhawra’s conversation with the old lady (Sarita Joshi) add to the humour and madness. The climax, though unpredictable, is disappointing.
Talking of performances, Rajkummar Rao is in his element as expected. Due to his adorable performance, one doesn’t hate him even though he’s playing a kidnapper in the film. And his comic timing is spot-on, especially in the scenes where he’s running away from the possessed Roohi. Janhvi Kapoor is a big surprise. She hardly has any dialogues but gets her act right with her expressions. And she also is convincing as the witch. Varun Sharma is marvellous and manages to raise laughs. In the last 30 minutes, however, he doesn’t have much to do. Manav Vij suits the part and his performance is fair. Sarita Joshi (credited in the film as Padma Shri Sarita Joshi) is hilarious and one wishes that she had a longer screen time. Alexx O’Nell is lovely. Rajesh H Jais, Anurag Arora (Tantrik), Sumit Gulati (Paras; Roohi’s groom in the end) are okay.
Sachin-Jigar’s music is appropriate for the film and it’s theme. ‘Kiston’ comes suddenly but is soulful. ‘Bhootni’ is hilarious while ‘Panghat’ is played in the end credits. ‘Nadiyon Paar’ is attached with the film’s print before the film starts. It is the best song of the lot and well shot. One wishes if it was a part of the film’s narrative. Ketan Sodha’s background score is well woven and also contributes to the horror quotient.
Amalendu Chaudhary’s cinematography is spectacular. The various locales in the film are well captured. Ayushi Agarwal and Abhijeet Shresth’s production design is quirky and adds to the eerie atmosphere. Theia Tekchandaney’s costumes are realistic. Nikita Kapoor’s prosthetics are very convincing. Manohar Verma’s action is fine while Red Chillies.VFX’s VFX is first-rate. Huzefa Lokhandwala’s editing is fine and could have been better and crisper in the first half.
On the whole, ROOHI rests on a unique concept, fine performances and some interesting funny and horror sequences. However, the disappointing climax and difficult-to-understand dialect might affect the film’s prospects at the box office.