Rakht Charitra: Suckered Again

25 Oct
<i>Rakht Charitra</i>: Suckered Again

Here’s a sentence I type less and less often as the years go by: I was truly excited to watch Ram Gopal Varma’s new movie. A fictional account of the blood-soaked real life of Andhra Pradesh politician Paritala Ravi, Rakht Charitra sounded interesting and right up RGV’s alley. Gore, politics, revenge, it had to be a knock out of the RGV park.

Well, I don’t know which angel RGV decided to piss off by taking a dump in its bed, but Rakht Charitra is terrible. Not in a lights come on and you look over at your date and immediately apologize for picking this movie of all the tens available kind of way, but in a shoulders slumped in defeat as you slowly huddle into your miserable seat and sadly shake your head way.

Rakht Charitra is an orgy of all the hacky bits of filmmaking that have become the RGV hallmark of late, from mysterious/dizzying camera angles to boomingly obvious background scores to attention-destroying close ups of every other actor’s nostrils… now with the added benefit of the worst narrator ever employed by a movie. Bar none. His one direction seems to have been: “Pretend every word you speak is a breech baby to which you’re giving birth.”

And what words they are! After introducing us to the town of Anandpur, the kind of skeevy, dusty, violence-strewn place that we’ve now come to expect of our rural interiors at the cinema, our narrator helpfully informs us in his over-enunciated, weirdly accented manner that blood is the accepted way to settle things here – especially when it’s a matter of ego, women or privilege. And therefore, he continues, the history of Anandpur is a history of blood. A rakht charitra in fact! So clever.

Apparently RGV only expected idiots to come watch his movie (and yes, I feel like one now, thanks for asking!) because this distressing pattern doesn’t end after the introduction. Instead, the narrator regularly puts in an appearance to thunderously explain a scene, after which you see the scene take place.

  • “The snake is coming out of his lair!” – the villain is about to leave his house.
  • “She didn’t know this then but he had set out on a long journey.” – and our hero hops on a scooter and rushes off to his faraway, troubled homeland.
  • “His ego was hurt by X event so he asked his assistant who was behind this deed.” – three guesses what happens next.

The sad part about all of this, the reason I’m so viciously disappointed, is because there’s actually a good movie hidden somewhere in the middle of this mess, performed by actors who’re pretty good at their jobs.

I feel especially bad for Vivek Oberoi, a man on the Ben Affleck road to redemption, who turns in a what I suspect was a fine performance if only I could penetrate that cacophony of tricks RGV unloads on top of it. There was his (unintentionally) hilarious entry scene, for instance, wherein he exudes menace, riding a Bajaj scooter and opening the unoffending gate of a suburban house in a nice neighborhood so he can ask for his girlfriend’s hand in marriage. The one standout scene, before it succumbed to the everpresent trowel-full of obvious ham, comes late into the film when he stands before the pawn he’s just utilized to his best advantage, standing bathed in the golden glow of the sun, a well-barbered young man in shining white, all the better to appeal to public opinion.

I try really hard to go with the movie presented in front of me, rather than the movie I think ought to exist in its place, but every so often I come across one that is the equivalent of an old friend who greets me by slapping a dead fish in my face. It gets rather difficult to look past the fish to the friend standing beyond. I honestly feel RGV is a man with a lot of interesting, creative ideas who, in the wise words of Tim Gunn, doesn’t know how to edit. So he just sticks everything in there.

Anysmellydeadfish, the movie begins with an easily manipulated politician called Narasimha Reddy whose righteous friendship with his lower caste protege Veer Bhadra lasts all of two watered-down Scotches after it is given the evil eye by a painfully obvious manipulator called Nagamani Reddy (Kota Srinivasa Rao). The fallout results in a simmering caste war that promises to play out at the local elections, threatening to unseat the Reddys from their power base. Nagamani, with Narasimha’s blessing, then takes his grudge just that teensy envelope-pushing bit too far and assassinates Veer Bhadra.

His mantle of idealism thus falls on elder son Shankar (Sushant Singh), who carries it with grief, pride and a healthy dose of guerrilla warfare. This obviously gets him murdered in short order as well, leaving just Pratap (Vivek Oberoi) to carry out the family mission: kill all those who wronged their family and, time and energy permitting, society as a whole.

Unfortunately, once Narasimha and Nagamani have been despatched, with a modicum of elan I might add, Pratap finds his troubles aren’t over. Now Pratap is a wanted terrorist and Nagamani has left behind his infamous son Bukka (Abhimanyu Singh), who “changed the definition of vile” the ever-knowledgeable narrator informs us over a montage of said Bukka being suitably changing the definition of vile. Sigh.

Happily for Pratap, Bukka is an equal opportunity son-of-a-bitch and has succeeded in pissing off Shivaji Rao (Shatrughan Sinha), a carpet-bagging movie star turned politician, whom he hilariously scares away from Anandpur with a few well placed bombs. Outraged that he, the man who regularly beat up entire armies single-handedly on the big screen, was forced to turn tail and run offscreen, Shivaji wants to know: “How can a demon like Bukka exist in a democracy?”

“What do you mean how?” asks his befuddled assistant. “He exists therefore he is.”

I chuckled far more heartily than this little sally deserved but at a certain point, you take your joy where you can get it.

Thus, Shivaji and Pratap join forces – Pratap’s no dummy after all, and he’s powerfully attracted to Shivaji, the most Machiavellian figure he’s ever met, and his amazing ideas like keeping Pratap out of jail by turning him into a politician so he can murder all he wants while staying above the law. Oh, Nagamani, if only you and your pitiful tumblers of Scotch were alive to watch and learn, abashed, the art of skillful manipulation from a man who prefers to stroke the heads of gold tigers than rapey sons.

As the problem of Bukka is solved, with more helpful exposition from the narrator, Pratap sets about his business, cleaning town and taking names. In between all this is an honest cop (Ashwini Kalsekar) who shows up to remind you that honesty never pays, especially in an RGV movie; and various wives, widows, sisters, hookers, pillion-riders, billboard models and girlfriends, all of them sad, desperate and sinned against, except for Nandini (Radhika Apte). Pratap’s college sweetheart turned wife, she is the sort of fool who calmly listens to her beloved telling her he’s indeed a much-discussed murderer who plans to murder again and decides that’s just what she’s looking for in the father of her children. Off she goes to walk silently by his side in the forest and give meaningful looks in the background. She’ll get hers, I guess.

In the sequel! Wherein Pratap will be presented with his butcher’s bill. But apart from the little “scenes from our next movie” they tacked on to the end of this one, I have no idea what that will look like because here’s a sentence I will never use again: I am truly excited to watch Ram Gopal Varma’s new movie.


Posted by on October 25, 2010 in Entertainment, Movies, Review, Video


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17 responses to “Rakht Charitra: Suckered Again

  1. maxdavinci

    October 25, 2010 at 4:56 pm

    that wasn’t priyamani, she’s in Part-2

  2. subbu

    October 25, 2010 at 4:58 pm

    Contrary to your experience, I liked the movie. And the telugu narrator was different too, i would have been put off if a Amitabh bachhan type voice was narrating.

    PS: Nandini character is not Priyamani, its Radhika Apte.

  3. Amrita

    October 25, 2010 at 5:04 pm

    Max – Thanks! It’s all fixt now!

    Subbu – Did you see it in Telugu? I wonder how that’d play out for me. If only the narrator had been an Amitabh Bachchan type narrator! This was like if AB had done the narration in Telugu. Totally weird. And unnecessary.
    Glad somebody’s money was well spent though 🙂

  4. bhel

    October 25, 2010 at 5:05 pm

    To you I say, what every movie fan says after reading a very good review of what sounds like a very bad movie, “Better you than me.” Hopefully, writing it was at least mildly cathartic.

    Btw, I am still waiting to read a review of a movie you like. :p

    • Gradwolf

      October 25, 2010 at 10:57 pm

      Did you read Raavan? *runs away*

  5. CheeC

    October 26, 2010 at 4:57 am

    C’mon, any movie whose review’s blessedly Cartesian bookends (“I was” therefore “I am”) beg me to overlook its flaws, can’t be all bad. 😛

    EVEN if its raison d’etre seems to solely be flipping the dialogue-writers of Red the bird? Yes. Even then. I mean, what possible harm could come from the “You got one liner? We got maxi-pad!” mentality of RGV? (Unless you’re “afraid” Cronenberg will jump in the fray and remake it as A History of Blood, in which case… win-win!!)

  6. shilpadesh

    October 26, 2010 at 10:03 am

    I have long given up on Ramgopal Varma.

    The Ramu of Shiva, Khana Khanam, ANaganaga oka roju, Gayam, Rangeela, or even Company is long dead and has been replaced by this annoying Rambot who makes crap in the name of movies!

  7. memsaab

    October 26, 2010 at 10:48 am

    From what I’ve read about and from him, he seems singularly incapable of introspection or accepting valid criticism. Neither of those qualities bode well for his future as a filmmaker…methinks he will only get worse.

  8. Veena

    October 26, 2010 at 12:40 pm

    Thanks for the warning. I will add this to my do-not-see movie list 😉

    RGV’s movies seem to be getting weirder and weirder. I too feel bad for Vivek Oberoi. He had the potential to make it big and then completely messed up his life and career.

  9. Sachu Kichu

    October 26, 2010 at 4:04 pm

    Thankfully, I havent watch RGV’s any recent release – last one was Sarkar – it had Abishek in a decent act:)

    Where is Surya in this, I would think surya would have kicked Vivek with just his screen presence.

    “mysterious/dizzying camera angles” – as i havent seen a recent RGV movie not sure if you mean the same thing. There is a trend these days in some of these action movies, of showing a face only from 3/4th of the forehead and it bothers me a lot – all through these scenes I am extremely worried about that person’s 3/4 forehead – I need see that part of face too:)

  10. Sachu Kichu

    October 26, 2010 at 4:08 pm

    Also, as someone has already said a fun read. – “time and energy permitting, society as a whole.”:)

  11. CheeC

    October 30, 2010 at 3:35 am

    OT (coz the only thing “bloody” about the Air India ad you tweeted yesterday is its brilliance):

    LOL@ “The captain is your nanny & the stewardess does your dry-cleaning. Now pour yourself a drink & land the plane.” Such a sweet, um, call to action?! 😛

    Reminded me of the “flying the plane *while* building it” metaphor generally touted in start-up and IT circles (especially in these parts), not to mention this spoof of an old EDS ad by disgruntled employees, when HP acquired the company couple yrs ago and did what it does best (lay them off in droves, what else). 😀

  12. Amrita

    October 30, 2010 at 10:16 am

    Bhel & Adithya – #$%#$@^ !!!!

    CheeC – ha, the moment the “cheeC” narrator started orgasming about how this is a story of blood, by the blood, for the blood, bloody blood blood, I immediately thought “A History of Violence” and then just as firmly banished the thought.
    That ad was simultaneously hilarious yet sad.

    Shilpa – God, it’s been a REALLY long time since he last made a decent movie, hasn’t it? That’s a depressing list.

    Memsaab – how much worse can it get?! Oh, lord, don’t answer that.

    Veena – like I told a friend of mine, there’s a lot of unintentional hilarity in this one, so you might enjoy it!

    Sachita – what’s up with the name change? 🙂 I think RGV’s the biggest champion of obscure camera angles so there’re a lot of those in here too. And Surya is in part two where he will literally kick Vivek’s ass or so the promo says.

  13. Ankit Kabra

    October 30, 2010 at 11:51 pm

    This is not a fair critique, a vicious malafide attack on the film.

    Let me tell you that this is one of the most interesting films in recent times and i loved the voilence, gore and darkness. Yes it could have been better butlook at the indian audience first and give RGV the benefit of doubt.
    People dismissing this movie have no love for cinema and ARE STUPID.
    Movie was about never ending vengeance….and thats what it is….

  14. Rakht

    October 31, 2010 at 3:07 am

    RGV asked females to keep the f*ck out of this movie. congrats on burning your head.

  15. Amrita

    October 31, 2010 at 12:29 pm

    @Ankit Kabra – what’re you? 12?

    @Rakht – why? Coz women have better taste? 😛 Throwing tomato ketchup around the screen doesn’t translate to amazing violence. I didn’t see anything all that shocking. Just a bad movie.

  16. Rakht

    October 31, 2010 at 5:53 pm

    //@Rakht – why?

    Well, it doesnt matter why. That he did for what ever reason, and it sure showed in how I’ve seen many females receive the movie.

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