Subhash K Jha speaks about Raaz – The Mystery Continues

A certain kind of art wouldn’t be possible without the muse. The great music composer Madan Mohan wouldn’t have been able to compose all those sparkling melodies were it not for Lata Mangeshkar. A new kind of cinematic heroine was born with Kangna Ranaut in the underrated Gangster. Since then she has played the dark traumatized woman baring her soul to camera so many times you fear her forte would burst open at the seams. Kangna has no fear of fearlessness. Make no mistake Raaz TMC belongs to her. As a woman possessed she carries on this past year’s terror tradition propagated by Vikram Bhatt’s 1920 and Ram Gopal Varma’s Phoonk.

Admittedly horror-fest in Raaz TMC is created with more finesse than the other fear flicks that have invaded the large-screen experience in recent years. But you wonder if this kind blind faith is not blinding filmmakers to the larger picture regarding the raison d’etre of cinema. To enlighten and educate while entertaining. Sorry to say Raaz TMC is neither entertaining nor enlightening. And educational? Well to say that spirit exists and not just in champagne glasses, in this day and age, is going a bit too far. Raaz TMC parades a posse of perverse horrors. Often it goes brazenly overboard with faces made-up like over-boiled potatoes and ghouls attacking the horrified heroine in a thick jungle where she, and the director, have no business being. If in Gangster, WohLamhe and Fashion Kangna was possessed by demons from within, here the demons appear to have invaded her body from the outside, jumping at her from bathtubs and mirror images (both scarily directed pieces of chamber horror). On the whole the narrative relies too heavily on false scares….hands reaching out and grabbing poor Kangna that turn out to be known comforting ones, door knobs being wrenched from the outside with banshee-like music to create a frenzy of suspense, satanic rites and ghoulish occultist acts being performed in the dead of the night.

When it comes to expressing the wages of sin Kangna remains unsurpassable. She pulls out all stops to deliver yet another fearless performance that’s a treatise on trauma. Unlike her last performing act in Fashion in Raaz TMC she suffers from an ambiguously-written character although she’s almost the ‘wail’ to ‘wail’ carpet in the narration occupying more space than her two leading men. Till the last we don’t know what her actual involvement with the macabre goings-on is. We suspect, neither does the screenwriter. Emraan Hashmi as the sullen painter, who paints harrowing scenes from Kangna’s life before they happen, brings a kind of austere urgency to his part. Looking anguished comes naturally to him. Adhyayan Suman as the reality-television anchor who carries his penchant for staged realism too far communicates a certain earnestness in his performance. But he has a long way to go. Alas Raaz TMC isn’t the vehicle to take its actors too far. It’s all about making the audience jump out of its seat in terror rather than aesthetic delight. Its cumbersome heebie-jeebies punctuated by special effects that can at best be described as slightly scary ,do nothing for the horror genre or for the actors who struggle in ill-written parts that careen into queasy little corners. Director Mohit Suri has done better for himself in Kalyug and WohLamhe where he addressed himself to the trauma of a woman forced into a life of reluctant disrepute. Perhaps a woman coerced is more Suri’s domain than a woman possessed. This sequel to Raaz is finally worth watching for Kangna’s portrait of traumatized womanhood. An act she has mastered. But it’s time now to move on.

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