Ankur Pathak reviews Ragini MMS. Post YOUR reviews here!
Films that are conventionally shot but claim to use real-life footages tend to have an eerie aura around them.
With Balaji's latest roll-out, Ragini MMS -- a sex-induced paranormal thriller -- the industry's unrelenting hunger to seek inspiration from the West continues. American indie film Paranormal Activity, which rose to shockingly unexpected heights and raked in multi-folded returns on a miniscule investment, is the fundamental motivation of the makers behind this clandestinely filmed horror caper. That, and a slice of The Blair Witch Project -- which is where the filmmaking technique originally, and quite successfully, penetrated mainstream cinema.
Uday (Raj Kumar Yadav) and Ragini (Kainaz Motivala) decide to set on a naughty weekend at a friend's farmhouse. On reaching there, the magic between the sheets isn't the same as anticipated, as creepy instances become a nasty nuisance.
Uday, much to his horror (and also to the diminution of his self-assuring macho demeanour), witnesses a paranormal presence. Through him, it says lines like, 'Me chudail nahi aahey', pulls his hair with such robust force, his skull bleeds, and in a highly volatile fashion, ruptures the prized bed.
Ragini is eye-poppingly intimidated and more so because she's snarled to the bed with a pair of handcuffs as part of a 'naughty' experiment earlier. Helpless, fearful, and sensing a sleazy MMS racket -- Raginis' attempts in freeing herself from an obnoxious white-lady, who's trying to prove her innocence of not being a 'chudail', and of not being guilty of her children's murder form the significant half of the film.
The film centres on the cliched haunted house. The makers don't bother to divulge any solid background as to the history of the house. Instead, with a Bigg Boss like setup, they serve us with chunks of spooky instances the concealed cameras capture.
Much of the film isn't made to immediately jerk you off your seat. It heavily (also intentionally) relies in conjuring the anxiety of anticipation. So the girl, like you'd expect, wouldn't be screeching her lungs out for more than half of the film. Nor would be the guy treated to severe bangs and bashes by the bhoot.
Instead, the makers succeed in creating a fear-provoking atmosphere by fractionally giving cues of the abnormality of the bungalow. This works. Even when there is just casual banter, flowing beer and blooming romance, you constantly expect an abrupt catastrophe.
Uday isn't here just for his physical indulgence. A much larger sex-racket is at play. His quest of a breakthrough in the glam circle as an actor is the luring exchange.
Uday's character is sharply designed. He is clearly insensitive, and impulsively unconcerned. His apathetic nature is apparent from his routine conduct. He kicks his girl on the face to wake her up, abuses mercilessly when she leaks the details of their love-nest. His general banter is that of a city cheapster, the ones who juggle hot girlfriends.
The abuses are countless, but arising out of necessity. Uday's frustration is best conveyed by a cuss. And so is his freaky avatar post his discovery of the ghostly presence. Raj Kumar Yadav's Uday is terrifically convincing. He might be all stormy and street-smart but that's genuinely converted to sheer fright when the rival you are dealing with is out of the natural.
Ragini emits brilliance in equal measure. Her shrieks don't sound contrived. Her ruthless madness -- which comes out due to the frustration and scare of being knotted in an unnervingly crazy house with your boyfriend's bleeding corpse for company -- is conveyed plausibly by the inhibited body language, and dreadful, perplexed expressions.
If the film's first half is a sensibly written built-up, the latter half consequentially explodes with utter horror. It is again chronicled through a static-infused videotape, and the punches here hit hard, and shock more. The dialogues are so situational and conversational -- they add to the authenticity, along with infusing humour.
Pawan Kripalani's direction and screenplay (alongside Vaspar Dandiwala) is stylishly sleek, honest and free of manipulation. It cleverly leads us into believing the entire awfulness as a disturbing real-life occurrence.
And therein lies Ragini's rub. It doesn't really throw you off by the current happenings nor does it want you too. It's not conventional horror; it is the chance possibility of such paranoia that is psychologically disturbing.
The imperfections of the film lie in the overpowering background tone, which tries to over dramatize the horror. It reflects fluctuating buoyancy on part of the makers, as if the white-lady has a complex of not being able to solely evoke fear. Also, conspicuous is the need for a close-fitting editing.
That overlooked, Ekta Kapoor's new film is terrifyingly real, and immensely watchable for the cold fright it inspires. She must be lauded for relying on fresh young actors, and believing in the risky attempt of largely untouched storytelling.