Directed by Hardik Mehta, Roohi is playing in theatres near you…
The 2018 release, Stree, even though a little flawed, was a benchmark for horror-comedies in India. Starring Rajkummar Rao and Shraddha Kapoor in leading roles, that Amar Kaushik film had lead the way for this genre. Hardik Mehta’s follow-up to the same, Roohi, doesn’t even impress one bit, whether or not you compare it to Stree. This Rajkummar Rao, Varun Sharma and Janhvi Kapoor starrer had promised too much with the trailer and promos but sadly, the film is a wasted opportunity. Not only does it let go of what could’ve been a genius idea, but also surpasses its actors in half written roles.
Set in an anonymous village in Uttar Pradesh, Roohi is about two men (Rao and Sharma) who kidnap young girls and force them into marriage. This tradition of ‘pakdai shaadi’ is an age old tradition in this village and somehow no one has a problem with it. It hasn’t been questioned yet, and probably never will be. These pakdai shaadis keep on happening until Bhawra Pandey (Rao) and Kattanni Qureshi (Sharma) kidnap Roohi (Kapoor) who is more than a girl. She is a chudail.
I don’t have a problem with the premise of the film. I’m very okay with writers and directors looking into the depths of our society and talking about its evils. But the writing of Roohi is so incoherent and clumsy, that nothing makes sense. Director Hardik Mehta tries, he really does, but Mrighdeep Singh Lamba and Gautam Mehra’s weak writing doesn’t give him much to play with. Mehta, after all, made the marvellous Kaamyaab, which released on OTT last year. That he could’ve gone so wrong with Roohi is hard to believe. But, it’s true. At almost no point does Roohi impress. The jokes are trying too hard, the horror is too weak and by the time the message arrives, it’s too late and you’re probably already at home because you’ve left the theatre. The only things worth watching in the entire film are the two songs that play out during the opening and closing credits – Nadiyon Paar and Panghat – and the intelligent climax. But apart from this, nothing works. Imagine, this is Bollywood’s first ‘big’ release after the government decided to open up cinemas. And this is what we get.
If you’ve made it till the end of the film, congratulations. But you’ve been able to do so only because of two reasons. First, you’re a film critic and have to write a review. Second, the performances. I’m not saying they’re Oscar worthy performances, because they aren’t. But Rajkummar Rao and Janhvi Kapoor somehow make it work. Rao’s stint as Vicky in Stree is one of his finest works. Sadly, Bhawra doesn’t give him enough scope to work with. Rao is too reliable an actor, and even though the writing of Bhawra does not match up to his potential, he delivers a decent performance. Not layered as he always would, but decent.
Janhvi Kapoor is the next Alia Bhatt and there are no two thoughts about it, at least not in my head. Film after film she’s proved that she’s here not just because of her last name but because she has it in her to be here. The best thing about Kapoor is that she knows she’s not a perfect actor. But she’s willing to learn, to get better and that’s what counts. In her eyes, you see a certain hunger to excel. And that will happen. In Roohi she hasn’t been given much to play with either. She plays both Roohi and Afza (the chudail) and, as Rao, does a decent job. The writing doesn’t allow her to do more than that. But she does have two songs and dances like a dream.
The third lead, Varun Sharma is boring at best. He has all the punch lines. He’s delivered comic performances in the past but there’s nothing new here. There’s absolutely no difference between how he played Choocha in Fukrey and Kattanni in Roohi. His brand of humour, however unique, isn’t unique anymore because he does the same things with different characters.
Roohi seems to have been made only because Stree was a success. But to make a film a success, you need something more than just reliable actors and a good climax.
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