The makers of ‘Stree’ bring back another horror-comedy movie ‘Roohi’ starring Rajkummar Rao for another time. The former one was super-hit and praised by the audience for successfully blending the genre of horror and comedy in an entertaining way. Let’s see how the latter one impresses the audience.
Set in a fictitious small town Bagadpur, the film has Rajkumar Rao and Varun Sharma playing reporters of a local newspaper who earn mostly through kidnapping potential brides. Their boss (Manav Vij) runs a newspaper as well as an agency which deals with forced marriages. The system is of course not legal, but as Sharma says, that’s how it works in the town.
One such assignment entails Bhawra (Rao) and Kattani (Sharma) to kidnap young girl Roohi (Janhvi Kapoor). The duo takes her to an abandoned property outside the town and keeps her locked there waiting for further instructions from their boss. She is terrified of the two for obvious reason as they lock her up in a dark dilapidated room. But tables turn when Bhawra watches her climb up the wall and realise she is possessed and that things are not quite right.
However, instead of being frightened, Kattanni falls for the possessed Roohi. Bhawra, on the other hand, is in love with the non-possessed Roohi. He decides to help her and get the witch out of her body. Kattanni however is averse to the idea as loves the possessed Roohi and if Bhawra succeeds, the witch will leave Roohi forever. What happens next forms the rest of the film.
Story is interesting and novel. The writers try their best to bring something new to the table. A few scenes are exceptional and bring the house down. In addition, dialogues are witty. Director handles some scenes with élan. Also, he sets the mood right, especially in the horror scenes. Even the various towns shown in the film are uniquely depicted.
ROOHI starts off on an interesting note, depicting the concept of bride kidnapping in Baagadpur, that too through the eyes of a foreign reporter (Alexx O’Nell). The film gets better once Bhawra and Kattanni kidnap Roohi and set base at the spooky, abandoned factory.
The first half- as writers attempt to establish the plot- is enjoyable, largely because of Sharma’s comic timing and anticipation of discovering Roohi’s evil alter ego. The interval comes at an interesting juncture.
Rajkummar Rao is in his element as expected. Due to his adorable performance, one doesn’t hate him even though he’s playing a kidnapper in the film. And his comic timing is spot-on, especially in the scenes where he’s running away from the possessed Roohi.
Varun Sharma manages to be the most entertaining among the cast members, his comic timing underlining some of the highlight moments of an otherwise forgettable film.
Janhvi Kapoor’s best bits as far as this film goes are her two dance numbers, Nadiyon paar and Panghat, which you might have already seen on the YouTube or on social media. She sizzles in both dances, reminding that she has imbibed a bit of the Sridevi magic.
Manav Vij suits the part and his performance is fair. Sarita Joshi (credited in the film as Padma Shri Sarita Joshi) is hilarious and one wishes that she had a longer screen time.
Sachin-Jigar’s music is appropriate for the film and its theme.
What Works Not
Stree was smart stuff, Roohi seems like random fare. The only reason the producers seem to have made Roohi is because they struck gold with Stree.
It doesn`t take you long to understand why Roohi slips, despite having a core idea that could have been moulded into a winner. The film lacks imaginative storytelling. Stree, scripted by Raj and DK, struck a fine balance crafting the dicey sub-genre of horror comedy, at the same time delivering a societal comment without getting preachy about it.
In contrast, Roohi writers Mrighdeep Singh Lamba (he wrote and directed the Fukrey films) and Gautam Mehra struggle from early on. The few good jokes are sporadic, the jumpscares aren`t jumpy enough, the mix of scares and slapstick seems half-baked all along, and the `message` isn`t one you would fancy in this sort of a mainstream entertainer.
The plot is absurd and convoluted with an inconsistent screenplay that doesn’t help the film completely land on its feet. Post-interval, the film begins to fall but a few scenes especially of the marriage with the dog and Bhawra’s conversation with the old lady (Sarita Joshi) add to the humour and madness. The climax, though unpredictable, is disappointing.
Janhvi Kapoor looks bored when she is shy girl Roohi, and burdened by prosthetics when she has to act ghostly.
‘Roohi’ is the first big release post-pandemic India. It’s interesting in parts, but the poor second-half and disappointing climax fails to impress audience fully.
Rating: 2.5 Stars