When Milap Zaveri, a Director known for making comedies like Jaane Kahan Se Aayi Hai and Mastizaade decided to venture into the realm of short films with a violent-looking thriller called Raakh, anyone would be forgiven to wonder how he would handle the tonal shift and what the reason behind the step was. After seeing the film, the answers to both the questions are pretty simply. Firstly, Milap proves to be a master visual storyteller adept at bringing layered narratives and complex characters to life. Secondly, throughout the film you sense him screaming as much as a tortured Shaad Randhawa, just so that the audience sits up and takes notice of his myriad talents waiting to burst out.
Those hidden talents of his are no more visible than when he takes a run-of-the-mill revenge tale and turns it on its head into something utterly unnerving and unexpectedly unpredictable. A man’s wife has been raped and murdered and he wants revenge on the perpetrator who walked free. But from the opening scene itself you’re made to guess if the revenge is justified, when you see the alleged perp, nailed and spread-eagled, bellowing out that he’s innocent. It’s only later that Zaveri smartly and ever-so subtly pronounces him as a remorseless, stone-cold predator.
You wait in nail-biting anxiety as one scene after another plays out with the bereft husband playing psychologically with his captive’s wits and the captive struggling between maintaining his inflated machismo and swallowing his pride to play on his abductor’s sympathies. You shriek as little sounds we’re used to in daily life are enlarged to remind you that things are only going to get more disturbing. And you gape in sheer horror not because of how diabolical the end is but how, almost anti-climatically, a shocking twist occurs to throw the whole scenario into a tailspin. Alas, it’s this very twist that also pulls at your heartstrings and evokes pith at the plight of a loved one snatched away before their time.
Realizing Zaveri’s razor-edged vision are Vir Das and Shaad Randhawa, who’re at the center of this claustrophobic (the entire thing plays out in a sound-proof room) cat-and-mouse game. For a man who’s tickled our funny bone time and again, Vir has gone in for a complete image makeover in a role no one could have imagined him playing, and boy, has he nailed the part like a pro. He showcases a disturbing and vulnerable side of his that will shock and awe you at the same time. And Shaad, for his part, finally make everyone sit up and take notice of his hitherto untapped acting potential. He’ll make you loathe and despise him and wish for his character to meet a horrid end, which is as good as a villain could be in any film. Richa Chadha’s visage is just used in flashback montages, and she serves her role dutifully.
There’s nothing more gripping than a dark, violent story told from a psychological perspective, and Raakh is exactly the kind of film that encapsulates such themes. It’ll shock you, give you goosebumps, and make you ponder on its narrative long after the credits roll. Watch the whole film below:
Images Source: S.K. Productions