Roohi Succumbs To The Limitations Of The Horror Comedy

Director: Hardik Mehta
Writers: Mrighdeep Singh Lamba, Gautam Mehra
Solid: Janhvi Kapoor, Rajkummar Rao, Varun Sharma

The current barrage of hybrid-feminist tales in Hindi cinema poses some fascinating questions. For example, how far into its narrative ought to a style film reveal its feminism? Most movies wait a lifetime. A whodunnit like Raat Akeli Hai holds again until the ultimate twist. As does a slice-of-life dramedy like Gulabo Sitabo. The ladies emerge because the punchline. The male smokescreen aspires to be dense sufficient to move off as a parallel movie; hindsight merely redefines it. However the marriage of horror and feminism is a naturally appropriate one; patriarchy is the true monster, the medium merely offers it a decorative voice. Consequently, feminism isn’t a late twist however a persistent metaphor – of menstruation (Pari, Stree), of company (NH10, Phillauri), of abuse (Bulbbul). The subtext stays tragic: girls can not afford to be something lower than demons, ghosts, witches and killers to beat their oppressors.

In that sense, Hardik Mehta’s Roohi is so many issues that it finally turns into an approximation of nothing. On one hand, it adopts the Stree-style tone of a horror rom-com. On the opposite, the chaotic premise – centred on an kidnapped witch who believes that marriage will exorcise her – hints on the social stigma and trauma skilled by rape survivors. On one more hand, the movie desires to be a cultural satire on Indian customs inherently stacked in opposition to womanhood. And on one more hand (any extra arms and this assessment may morph into an alien thriller), Roohi can also be a send-up of the quintessential Bollywood love triangle the place the lady is a shiny trophy for the winner of two warring heroes.

To not point out that the movie waits and waits until the very finish to unleash its fact. By which level it’s much less of a twist and extra of a muddled afterthought. By then, the smokescreen – that includes two males relentlessly pursuing the affections of a woman they’ve kidnapped – turns into your complete movie. The issue is blatant: the deliberate misogyny of the comedy is at odds with the belated feminism of its horror. 

This mismatch of language reaches its peak when the viewers is pushed to derive humour out of boys being boys. Roohi opens with childhood buddies Bhawra (Rajkummar Rao) and Kattanni (Varun Sharma) explaining to an American documentary maker (Alexx O’Nell) the time-honoured custom of their land – the “pakdai shaadi,” or the enterprise of kidnapping women to marry them off to lovelorn potential grooms. (The white camera-wielding man seems solely as an unique exposition system.) Bhawra and Kattanni, too, work within the enterprise. Their course of – of bodily manhandling and forcing women right into a automobile headed for the marriage venue – is punctuated with cartoonish sound cues. The 2 stooges invite hassle when their newest captive, Roohi (Janhvi Kapoor), seems to be to be possessed by a spirit.

For causes finest left unexplained, Bhawra falls for the poor, struggling, hungry and chained Roohi (possibly he’s a closet dom), whereas Kattanni falls for her bloodthirsty alter-ego (possibly he’s a closet necrophile). They argue over who will marry which half of her and dismiss proposals of a threesome in between traces like “she’s a lady, not a dual-sim community”. Nearly half the movie unfurls at a hideout within the jungle – a rinse-repeat cycle of the 2 crude fools searching for absurd characters to treatment her, failing which they proceed paying ode to retro-Bollywood love. The “palat” scene particularly will get a gory replace. As soon as they depart the forest for a village the place exorcism is a full-time occupation, Roohi turns into an incoherent mash-up of morbid occasions – the cinematic equal of a person attempting to talk whereas chewing paan.

What doesn’t assist issues one bit is Bhawra’s pointless speech obstacle. It’s presupposed to be comedian aid, however most of Rajkummar Rao’s dialogue is inconceivable to know. Between his reverse-lisp and the witch’s garbled voice, half the technicalities and superstitions of the story get misplaced within the wind. It additionally doesn’t assist that, owing to new India’s trigger-happy outrage mobs, the geography stays largely fictional – the allusion is to Uttar Pradesh, however the custom-made dialect additionally evokes a mixture of Rajasthan, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh and Bihar. I attempted to lip-read, although my eyes stored glancing to the underside of the display within the hope of subtitles magically materialising. Possibly the lockdown has spoilt us, or possibly the intention is to amuse us with the linguistic secularism of the characters. Both manner, the result’s removed from fascinating.

Given Fukrey director Mrigdeep Singh Lamba’s involvement as co-writer and producer, it’s not shocking to see each Rao and Sharma carry the same faculty of spoof-acting to the fore. It’s the type of efficiency that desires the viewer to see simply how onerous they attempt to entertain. I’m personally not a fan. A lot of it’s aimed to distract us from what the movie actually desires to say. The few good quips (just like the woman’s freakish urge for food) are diluted by their deeply masculine sense of timing. It’s courageous of Janhvi Kapoor to do a task that solely requires her to sway between Bambi and zombie. The movie, nevertheless, will get so busy mansplaining the foundations of her situation that it forgets to deal with her as a full-blooded human. The climax is designed as a reward for tolerating the make-up and prosthetics – and for being held hostage whereas the heroes milk the shock-and-awe aesthetic. 

I imagine there’s a intelligent, subversive movie someplace in Roohi. However the model we see is confused, crowded, callous and never self-aware sufficient to recognise the horror-comedy paradox. The comedy is horrifying as a result of a woman fears males greater than males concern witches. And the horror is humorous as a result of right now’s ghost is a millennial verb. Someplace in between, a film misplaced its spirit.

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