Review Hindi

Raakh review: When Aamir Khan showed his full range as an actor for the first time

Release Date: 21 Apr 1989 / Rated: U

Cinestaan Rating

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Keyur Seta

The film directed by Aditya Bhattacharya showcased a different aspect of the star's prowess early in his career.

Aamir Khan played the lead for the first time in Mansoor Khan’s romantic superhit Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak (1988). But even before he had started shooting for his cousin's film, Khan had promised to act in friend Aditya Bhattacharya’s dark and unconventional crime drama Raakh (1989).

Raakh was shot in Mumbai (then Bombay), but the story was set in a city in a gloomy dystopia where everyone’s lives are the same. The story begins when Nita (Supriya Pathak), girlfriend of Aamir Hussein (Khan), is raped by businessman-goon Hassan Karmali (Homi Wadia) and his aides.

Devastated, Aamir tries to file a police complaint against the culprits but in vain. However, inspector Pankaj Kapur (Pankaj Kapur) aka PK develops a soft corner for him. Helpless, Aamir decides to take revenge and finish off the culprits all by himself. It is now that he gets able support from PK who has been suspended from duty. Aamir realizes that the inspector, too, is a victim of the same system.

While Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak showcased Aamir Khan’s lover-boy side, Raakh explored his full range as an actor early on in his career. Displaying the angst, sadness and frustration of a misguided youth let down by the system, he gives us a glimpse of what we would see from him in the years to come. The only concern is the scenes in which he has to wail loudly.

Kapur was the most experienced artiste in the film and Raakh belongs as much to him as to Khan. The older artiste displays intense anger and frustration without seeming to make any effort as if he were living the character. His performance fetched him the National award for Best Supporting Actor.

The film also boasts commendable performances from Wadia, Pathak, Naina Balsavar and other supporting artistes while Jagdeep reprises his Soorma Bhopali character from the classic Sholay (1975) in a cameo.

The very first moment in Raakh is interesting as it reveals the outcome of Aamir’s actions. In other words, the climax is revealed at the beginning. It was a deliberate ploy by the filmmaker who wanted the audience to witness the protagonist’s journey more than how it ends. But the tactic doesn’t work because the journey is not narrated in a gripping manner. Indeed, the pace of the film is painfully slow. While one doesn’t expect such films to be masala entertainers, one at least expects an engaging narrative.

The lack of brightness also works against the film. Just because a film deals with a dark subject doesn’t mean the visuals need to literally be dark. In fact, the darkness obscures the supposedly dystopian world of the filmmaker's imagination.

The background score is also uneven. At various places, it is overused and its jarring nature is irritating at times. The film's strength, though, is Santosh Sivan’s camerawork.

Despite the flaws, Raakh is worth watching for film students and fans of Aamir Khan.

Raakh is being screened at the Bandra Film Festival (BFF) on its YouTube channel. 

Related topics

Bandra Film Festival

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