RANN – a review

For most of my bloggy friends who do not know Ram Gopal Varma, he is one of the most interesting and eccentric movie makers operating in India today(read more at wikipedia). Over the past few years his work has taken a turn for the weird, and not in a good way – most people have disliked it. His latest venture, RANN had held out promise from the first promos – which did not use the kind of saturation marketing that is common for movies today- and after watching it today i can only conclude that it lives up to the promise.

So what’s it all about? Rann deals with the very current theme of a nexus, criminal or otherwise, between the government (and politicians in general), industry and the news media. The politics of the movie are a bit naive, but forgivable, as they are more of a plot point for the drama that actually revolves around the quest for truth, honesty and integrity or complete absence thereof in media today. While it may not be the most original story(or indeed an original story at all), nor indeed the best possible way of representing the way news media is run today, it is the style in which it is told that makes it compelling to watch.

The movie begins with everyone switching on their news channels and taking in the latest dollops of BS served to us. However, one channel stands out as the last refuge of integrity in journalism and yet/therefore, it is the one doing poorly. This is because the channel (India24x7) is owned and run privately by Vijay H Mallik, who is widely respected among the people, but not by the people who want to run ads on the channel. Enter an idealistic journalist Purab, who makes a mark with a few investigative stories upon arrival and who wants to follow in the footsteps of Vijay Mallik. He is discouraged from doing so by Jay Mallik, the son and heir apparent of Vijay who wants to follow their rivals down the slope of sensationalism to bring in viewers and hence, advertisers. In addition, the news channel’s biggest rival (Headlines24) and its profit oriented owner Amrish(Monish Bahl) who is an ex-employee and seems to have an army of spies constantly scooping India 24×7. The movie takes a turn when Jay, who is related by marriage to a top industrialist seeking further enrichment, is swayed to join a plot to unseat the existing government through crafted and planted news stories in their channel in return for lots of cash. Jay then convinces his father that these stories are true and must be shown to the nation. Purab smells a rat, finds its carcass and cleverly pieces the puzzle together. What happens when he is done piecing the puzzle forms the crux of the story, which I will not do the disservice of boring you with. However, RGV’s use of a somewhat clichéd ending is slightly disappointing as is the fact that the movie is peppered with lectures. One wishes he had aimed higher while looking for a way to tie up the ending of the movie. Please note that none of this nit-picking however, diminishes from the ultimate impact the movie makes.

Having said that much, let me continue bloviating and say that RGV’s casting in this movie ranges from excellent to simply superb. Amitabh Bachchan, one of the biggest superstars and top actors of Indian cinema, has brought a level of seriousness to his character that has not been seen in a while. Paresh Rawal as the main antagonist is at the top of his game in the movie. Sudeep, a popular Kannada actor (but a new entrant to Hindi) dances the line between histrionics and overacting, though staying mostly on the safer side. Rajpal Yadav’s role is a curious distraction that is ultimately only played for laughs. Riteish Deshmukh provides the engine of the movie that compels you to understand the story fully, while Rajat Kapoor plays his understated role to perfection. The surprise package comes in the form of Monish Bahl, who revels in his role as an antagonist. My only gripe here is that the women in the movie, who do have well-defined roles for a change, have rather short and obviously supporting roles. In the present landscape where many news anchors are women, RGV seems to have missed a trick here or glossed it over. However, Suchitra Krishnamoorthy is excellent in her role as the egocentric producer/executive. Gul Panag is sweet but not really given space to deliver, just like Neetu Chandra, Simone Singh and Neena Kulkarni who do full justice to their small but important roles.

Technically as well, RGV leaves nothing to be desired. The film is shot, edited and scored pretty much to perfection and his decision to leave out the traditional song-and-dance in this movie is a welcome return to the Varma tradition. Writing and Screenplay are simply top-notch, with many clever touches that will keep you hooked and may make you do a double-take. The use of the camera to portray strong and complex emotions is one of the most fluent I have seen in any industry recently and to be honest, this has been a banner year for good Indian Cinema with a lot of technical achievements under its belt.

Absolutely worth a watch as probably one of the finest films you will see from India this year.