The tagline of Roohi is “Mard Ko Zyada Dard Hoga”. After watching the film, I believe the tagline could well have been “Come… Fall In Loce With A Chudail”. By all means, this has to be one of the most quirky plot line for a horror comedy where a simpleton falls for a ‘chudail’. No, not the woman who has been possessed by a ‘chudail’, something that has been seen umpteenth number of times, but an actual ‘chudail’. The one who has bloodshot eyes, twisted feet and popping veins that seem like ‘overdone mehndi’, as a character says.
Can one actually fall in love with a body form so distorted, and then also promise a life ever after? Moreover, can that actually lead to an emotional makeover for the ‘chudail’ in question who actually finds herself at a vulnerable spot? Should she marry just about anyone so that she can go ‘azaad’? Or should she fall in arms of her Prince Charming even in the light (or darkness) of uncertainty?
A plot like this could well have seemed right for an emotional tale, a la Pari or Phillauri, both starring Anushka Sharma. However, producer Dinesh Vijan and director Hardik Mehta turn it all around by bringing a comic twist to the horror saga, hence reducing drama from the proceedings and instead bringing the laughs in. In fact as long as there is laughter in the proceedings, Roohi progresses quite well. However whenever things get a tad serious, as is the case with the extended climax, one wonders if a full-on comic appeal would have made the two hour affair more entertaining.
Nonetheless, what works as a whole for this film which is indeed belonging to Stree universe is the unique love triangle involving Janhvi Kapoor and her two suitors Rajkummar Rai and Varun Sharma. While the kidnapping angle has been explored before by Rajkummar in Fanney Khan where he fell in love with his captive Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, this time around there is a twist in the tale as his Roohi (Janhvi) has a habit of occasionally turning into a possessed soul Afzana.
This is where the twist in the tale comes as Rajkummar’s Man Friday is actually more content with the horror lady, even she is ‘thodi gusse waali’. He takes care of her despite an ugly exterior and serenades her to that extent that even with her dry and cracked lips, with ‘bhootiya’ throated vocals, she does seem to be acknowledging his love for her. Result? Both the men are happy with what they get, beauty and horror, and now it is the Deewana Mastana moment between the duo – “Kaun Dega Qurbaani?”
What brings the house down is the extended scene featuring Rajkummar Rao with veteran actress Sarita Joshi. As an exorcist who knows a trick or two about controlling a chudail, she gets the meatiest scene of the film and makes it her own, even as Rajkummar Rao gets all mooney eyed with ideas of his own. Watch it to believe it. This is where I felt that had the quirky quotient kept intact right till the end as well, Roohi would have emerged as a true entertainer for its entire duration.
The takeaways though from the film are the performances that lift this Dinesh Vijan production all the more. Rajkummar Rao plays a simple guy to perfection all over again and doesn’t mind enacting a totally non-hero character. He gets scared easily and doesn’t mind taking a backseat whenever Varun Sharma takes over. The youngster is a hoot all over again after Chhichhore and his love story with Janhvi is to be seen to be believed.
As for Janhvi Kapoor, it is indeed brave on her part to step into an avtar where she plays a possessed soul for most part of the film. While she strikes huge in her glam avtar (Nadiyon Paar and Panghat – she is superb with her dances and looks glamorous like never before) there is a lot that she says with her wide eyed expressions. She indeed has a good range, as demonstrated repeatedly now after Dhadak and Gunjan Saxena – The Kargil Girl. One now waits to see what can she do on screen when she is seen in an out and out glam avtar as she has shown yet again in Roohi that she has in her what takes to be a quintessential Bollywood heroine.
As for the film as a whole, it does well for its playing duration and is the one for the masses who just want their two hours of easy entertainment. Given the fact that it has kickstarted the proceedings again for Bollywood after things had stayed nil to stagnant for a complete year, there is a reason good enough to be back in theatres with Roohi.