Monday, February 09, 2009

Raaz: The Mystery Continues

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The first Raaz starring Bipasha Basu has nothing to do with this film. The mystery indeed continues here in name only, just like how the Thai horror franchise The Art of the Devil 2 having no relation to Part 1. It's a totally different story altogether with no return of characters from the first film, so this rose could be called any other name, and would it smell as sweet? There's a certain formula followed here and comes with the obligatory "logical" explanation, but the story could have been nipped and tucked a little to help in the pacing.

Fashion model Nandita (Kangana Ranaut who seems stuck in such roles, the last of which was the recent Fashion) and her fiance Yash (Adhyayan Suman) seem to hit all the right notes as a successful yuppie couple. At first we're told the relationship is on the rocks, but then a quick reconciliation over an awards ceremony meant happy days for both. For her, she's at the height of her career, and for him, being the successful producer-director of a long running reality television series called Superstition, which explores the many myths and beliefs in Indian culture, and goes about deconstructing and debunking them. So of course, things start to go bump in the night, but seemingly affecting Nandita more, to the point of insanity.

We get introduced to an artist Prithvi (Emraan Hashmi), who falls into a drunken trance with a few swigs, and ends up painting masterpieces of people he doesn't know, only to find that the impressions of his paintings are predictions of future occurences. Recognizing that his drawings lately have resembled the high profile model, he takes it upon himself to explain things, and this sets everything up for a romantic triangle, where his brooding demeanour doesn't put him in the good books of flamboyant Yash.

Things with Nandita start to get worst, and just as you wonder if there would be any inkling of Hollywood come smacking in the face of the film, there had to be some homage paid to movies like Ghostbusters (Kangana's rendition of the Gatekeeper, anyone?) and The Devil's Advocate, but this being Bollywood meant it's a clothes on affair in the display of deep-rooted scars in front of a church altar. Shades from Asian horror like The Ring also gets overused here. Songs have to be worked in, and this was done fairly smartly in having to set it in pubs, private serenading and a much unwanted dream-like fantasy of Prithvi lusting after Nandita (well, it did seem that way).

Director Mohit Suri employed every trick in the scare book in order to work up some boo-moments, some of which still get effectively delivered, while others dallied on the anticipation too long and backfired. From mirror images to shaky doorknobs, from copious amounts of blood stained walls to deserted underground car parks, sound effects in the theatre were maxed out to give that sense-surround creepy feeling, with whispers and creaky doors used to great effect. Alas the narrative failed to exploit the technical brilliance at the film's disposal, and investigations by both Prithvi and Nandita (the character of Yash does get forgotten for a while) take their toil as they take just too darn long to get to where they should (about 40 minutes!).

Unfortunately we don't get to see a lot of footage of superstition which could've been milked for various scenes. Instead, it becomes a rather bland X-Files episode where the superstitious and the non-believers go head on toward unravelling the mystery of the worshippers and rites of a remote town, with some environmental concerns thrown right in just because it's the in thing. The link that binds the characters together were too weak to say the least, becoming too trying especially in its final revelation with a last ditch attempt.

If it had tightened its pace and felt no need to explain everything in verbatim, this could clock way below 2 hours, and a tighter thriller could result. Not a bad experience for my first Hindi thriller, but it had room to be much better.

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