Kangana reprises traumatised woman’s role in ‘Raaz’(IANS Film Review; Rating:**)

January 24th, 2009 - 4:26 pm ICT by IANS  

Film: “Raaz: The Mystery Begins”; Cast: Kangana Ranaut, Emran Hashmi, Adhyayan Suman; Director: Mohit Suri; Rating: **A new kind of cinematic heroine was born with Kangana Ranaut in the underrated “Gangster”. Since then, she has played the dark traumatized woman baring her soul for the camera so many times that you fear her forte would burst open at the seams.

Make no mistake…”Raaz” belongs to her. As a woman possessed, she carries on this past year’s horror tradition propagated by Vikram Bhatt’s “1920″ and Ram Gopal Varma’s “Phoonk”.

Admittedly, the horror-fest in “Raaz” is created with more finesse than the other fear flicks that have invaded the large-screen in recent years. But you wonder if this kind of blind faith is not blinding filmmakers to the larger picture regarding the raison d’etre of cinema - to enlighten and educate while entertaining.

Sorry to say but “Raaz” is neither entertaining nor enlightening. And educational? Well to say that spirits exist, and not just in champagne glasses, in this day and age is going a bit too far.

“Raaz” parades a posse of perverse horrors. Often it goes brazenly overboard with faces made-up like over-boiled potatoes and ghouls attacking the horrified heroine in a thick jungle where she, and the director, have no business being.

If in “Gangster”, “Woh Lamhe” and “Fashion”, Kangana was possessed by demons from within, here the demons appear to have invaded her body from the outside, jumping at her from bathtubs and mirrors.

On the whole, the narrative relies too heavily on false scares…hands reaching out and grabbing Kangana that turn out to be known comforting ones, door knobs being wrenched from the outside with banshee-like music to create a frenzy of suspense, satanic rites and occultist acts being performed in the dead of the night.

When it comes to expressing the wages of sin, Kangana remains unsurpassable. She pulls out all stops to deliver yet another fearless performance that’s a treatise on trauma. Unlike her last act in “Fashion”, in “Raaz” she suffers from an ambiguously-written character although she occupies more space than her two leading men. Till the end, we don’t know what her actual involvement with the macabre goings-on is.

We suspect, neither does the screenwriter.

Emran Hashmi, as the sullen painter who paints harrowing scenes from Kangana’s life before they happen, brings a kind of austere urgency to his part. Looking anguished comes naturally to him. Adhyayan Suman as the reality-television anchor, who carries his penchant for staged realism too far, communicates a certain earnestness in his performance. But he has a long way to go.

Alas, “Raaz” isn’t the vehicle to take its actors too far. It’s all about making the audience jump out of its seat in horror rather than with aesthetic delight. Its cumbersome heebie-jeebies punctuated by special effects, which can at best be described as slightly scary, do nothing for the horror genre or for the actors who struggle in ill-written parts.

Director Mohit Suri has done better for himself in “Kalyug” and “Woh Lamhe”, where he addressed himself to the trauma of a woman forced into a life of reluctant disrepute. Perhaps a woman coerced is more Suri’s domain than a woman possessed.

This sequel to “Raaz” is finally worth watching for Kangana’s portrait of traumatized womanhood. An act she has mastered. But it’s time now to move on.

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