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Roohi review: Brilliant Rajkummar Rao makes this convoluted horror comedy watchable

Release Date: 11 Mar 2021 / Rated: U/A / 02hr 14min


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Suyog Zore

The film written by Gautam Mehra and Mrigdeep Singh Lamba should be experienced in the theatre because the collective viewing experience cloaks the flaws in the script.

All of us have experienced this at some point in our lives. A group of friends is chatting and suddenly someone cracks a joke. One of your friends starts laughing. Soon his infectious laughter turns this simple joke into a laugh-out-loud moment as everyone else bursts out laughing. But when you mull over it once the effect of the collective experience has worn off, you realize the joke was not so funny after all. In fact, it was lame.

Hardik Mehta's Roohi is like that joke. The film is designed to be experienced in the theatres because the collective viewing experience cloaks the many flaws in the script. The film starts off with two local newspaper reporters Bhaura (Rajkummar Rao) and Kattani (Varun Sharma) explaining the bride-abduction tradition in their town to a foreign documentary filmmaker.

Guniya (Mahi Vij), owner of their local newspaper, also runs this bride-abduction business. It is he who tells Bhaura and Kattani to abducts Roohi (Janhvi Kapoor), but a last-minute change in plan lands the trio in a dilapidated property in the middle of a jungle where they are forced to spend a week.

But the friends are unaware that Roohi has a secret. She has been possessed by the ghost of Afza. In their week's stay in the jungle, Bhaura falls in love with Roohi while Kattani falls for Afza. And both guys are not ready to back out.

Writers Gautam Mehra and Mrigdeep Singh Lamba don't take much time to arrive at the main conflict, which is always considered a positive thing in screenwriting, but.. but... has there ever been a rule without an exception? Unfortunately, Roohi is that exception. The film moves too fast and leaves too many things unexplained.

Bhaura and Kattani are mere caricatures with the bare minimum efforts to make them relatable people. Throughout the course of the film, we don't learn anything about them apart from the fact that they are best friends. They want to become renowned news reporters in a reputed news agency, but neither seems to be making any effort to achieve this goal.

In Stree (2018), also starring Rajkummar Rao, the screenplay spent considerable time to establish the supporting characters and the lore of Chanderi village. That film did an excellent job of showing how the lore had shaped the lives of the villagers who were forced to live in constant fear. Roohi has none of that. Other than a few passing mentions of the lore, the townsfolk seem to be living happy lives.

In Stree, we also got a proper, logical explanation for the anger of the wandering spirit and her actions. Here, the writers seem to have skipped that part altogether. We are told the spirit wants to get married but the film offers no reasoning for it. The screenplay is littered with many such illogical and unexplained scenes.

Roohi believes in tell rather than show, which is the complete opposite of what cinema should do. We are told that there is a ghost, Mudiya Pairi, who gets in the body of a bride on wedding day, but the film never actually shows how it has affected the lives of the people of the town. So as an audience you never feel that tension when things are not going our trio's way.

There is also a social message in the climax, but that, too, is shoved down your throat without any subtlety whatsoever. That twist in the climax comes out of nowhere.

The supporting characters are poorly written and drop in and out of the film at their convenience. Unlike Stree, where, along with Rajkummar Rao's male lead, the supporting characters played by Pankaj Tripathi, Aparshakti Khurana and Abhishek Banerjee had decent scope and played important parts in moving the story forward, Roohi completely wastes the talent of its supporting cast.

Vij is just a bulky honcho with nothing much to do except growl and look menacing. If you thought Shraddha Kapoor had little to do in Stree, wait till you watch this film. Despite playing the titular role, Janhvi Kapoor has absolutely nothing to do. For most of its runtime, she is a mute spectator of the circus going on around her, exactly like the audience. Even her ghostly appearance is not convincing.

The only saving grace in this convoluted horror comedy is the camaraderie between Rajkummar Rao and Varun Sharma's characters. The actors have good chemistry and both have put in their best to elevate the otherwise poorly written screenplay.

Rajkummar Rao, especially, is excellent when scared. The guy knows how to give a comical performance without coming across as a buffoon.

Sharma is still in his Fukrey zone. But it works for this film. In fact, I don't remember him doing anything different in any of his previous films either. In each film, he plays the same character with a bit of modification. Here, that modification comes from the dialogues. The dialogues are the main source of entertainment. The mispronounced English words and the distinctly funny accents of the characters make you chuckle a few times. Not that all the jokes land, but, as mentioned earlier, the collective viewing experience turns even a simple mispronounced word tun into a hilarious joke.

Hardik Mehta's direction is standard. He had ample opportunities here to show off his skills but all have gone abegging. There is not a single memorable scene. Overall, Roohi is a convoluted film elevated only by Rajkummar Rao's performance. Watch it only if you are a diehard fan of the actor.

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