Detailed movie review of Roohi, directed by Hardik Mehta, starring Janhvi Kapoor, Rajkummar Rao, and Varun Sharma.
What do you say about a horror-comedy that neither makes you shake with laughter nor sends shivers down your spine?
But first, a word about Rajkumar Rao, an actor I have so admired. The next time I see him doing the small-town man grappling with English, I’m seriously going to withdraw all my applause. Pleej, sekrifice, armlet for omelette, lay-dich for ladies, o sit for oh shit, I mean, how often is he going to repeat himself and think it’s cute?
To be honest, fatigue has set in even about the small-town backdrop. Making fun of their superstitions and traditions, and in this case, lensing it through a foreigner’s camera, cannot pass off as humour. Add to it, the dialect and Rajkummar’s bullet train dialogue delivery and it becomes doubly incomprehensible.
But it’s the foundation itself that makes Roohi so weary. The writing by Mrighdeep Singh Lamba and Gautam Mehra and the direction by Hardik Mehta are so uniformly woeful that it’s almost slothful.
In a town that specialises in kidnapping brides, childhood friends Bhawra (Rajkummar) and Kattani (Varun Sharma) whisk away Roohi (Janhvi Kapoor) under their boss’ orders. But when the boss’ order for a bride is cancelled, the two chaddi-buddies won’t get rid of her. Because by now she’s Roohi, the doe-eyed innocent that Bhawra has fallen in love with, and she also transforms into Afza, the chudail that Kattani gives his heart to. So, instead of being scared ‘sit’, an instrumentalised ‘Chim chimney chim chimney’ plays every time the chudail shows up and Kattani goes moony-eyed at her.
Hardik Mehta tries hard to place his story in and around an eerie factory full of horror-movie dolls and a jungle nearby. Ineffective tropes are however no alternative for a well-written and refreshing script.
The basic premise of a horror comedy is that it should bring on nervous laughter, it should be tautly tense and still very funny. But with the comedy all about Kattani fantasising that he and Afza (Roohi) are the Raj and Simran of the eerie factory, there is no funny bone to pick up and get tickled. So while there’s nothing witty, the chudail with the ulta feet and cracked makeup does nothing scary either.
An elderly small town woman doing cardio on a treadmill, exorcists from all faiths running amok, a town devoted to scaring spirits out of the possessed, an unkempt Sarita Joshi adding to the mayhem, and Bhawra-Kattani fighting for Roohi-Afza force you to tune off and snore. Pleej, no more.
With makeup that’s neither creative nor creepy, every department falters. Performances, music, romance, entertainment – they all vie for a bottom score. If this was the film that was supposed to entice the audience into thronging theatres, producer Dinesh Vijan didn’t choose well. There’s a thumb rule that the wise follow: when a film doesn’t shape out well, trim it to reduce the viewers’ agony. Roohi fails on that score too, making it a tiresome watch of 2 hrs 14 mins. O sit, indeed.
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