When Ram Gopal Varma announced Rakht Charitra, excitement, anguish swept fans who love him and critics who had written him off completely. RGV, being controversy’s favorite child, every tidbit regarding the film was monitored under a hawk’s eye. Ranging from his tussle with the censors, to the violent displeasure displayed by angry fans/followers of the film’s characters, RGV took it in his stride as he always does. When news around the plot confirmed RGV’s return to the genre he knows and does best, expectations started to mount. While I’d like to believe RGV secretly enjoyed the adulation, he also made it a point to keep everyone engaged with frequent updates. Thus began the big grand promotion of what is being tagged as the ‘MOST VIOLENT’ Bollywood film on celluloid. Then RGV went on to declare that this was his ‘life changer’ film and everyone’s interest in the film escalated to levels beyond comprehension.
Rakht Charitra – 1 highlights the rise of Paritala Ravi (rechristened Pratap in the movie), a feared man, whose name sent shock waves amongst his opposition and government alike. His influence and power was so strong that even today, years after his demise, his mere mention is sure to stir fury in certain regions.
Set in a village in Andhra Pradesh, Narasimha Reddy is the unbeatable force, but his excessive trust in his aide Veerbhadra does not sit well with his brother Nagmani Reddy. When Veerbhadra, begins to rise in prominence, Nagmani poisons Narasimha against Veerbhadra, igniting a conflict between them. In a conspiracy hatched by Nagmani, Veerbhadra and his older son are killed, which provokes his city-bred younger son Pratap Ravi (Vivek Oberoi) to avenge their deaths. With the elder Reddy’s eliminated, the enmity extends between Pratap and politician’s heir Buka Reddy (Abhimanyu Singh). Pratap’s rise to power is observed by film actor-turned-politician Shivaji Rao (Shatrughan Sinha – based on NT Rama Rao) who proposes to Pratap, a chance to contest elections, give up his violent ways and reform himself.
Starting with the core part of the film – the performances! Trust RGV to extract stellar performances from his actors and Rakht Charitra asserts just that. Vivek Oberoi spills bitterness, fire, without overdoing, which is a relief. He shines, and when he lets his intensity do the talking, his earlier performances, look pale in comparison. Shatrughan Sinha is near-perfect. His poise, build bring the much-needed credibility to the role. Abhimanyu Singh, because I don’t recollect seeing him before, is a spectacular find. He matches Vivek inch-to-inch and if anyone takes over Vivek in some scenes, it’s him. For all those waiting eagerly to watch Surya in his Bollywood debut, be prepared to be disappointed. There isn’t much about him in this part. His introduction in the last few minutes of the movie is a bait, deftly left hanging on purpose, to lure the audiences for part-2 of the movie which releases in 3 weeks. (i.e. Nov 19th). Smart move, Mr. Director!
The saying “Cinema is not about telling a story, it’s about how a story is told” fits Rakht Charitra. We have been spectators to many films that revolve around outline of family politics, power, and revenge. Raajneeti was one of the recent films to delve on a similar concept, but what makes Rakht Charitra different is RGV’s sense of direction – astute, compelling audience connect, and REAL. There is no shying away from atrocity, no pleasing art-house audience, no fancy song/dance sequence (not even an item number), no designer costumes, no pretty faces, none of that. The focus like most RGV films, in this one too remains consistently on emotions. Having said that, the film also (thankfully) doesn’t feel the need to venture into subplots of love tracks, romantic angles and the likes. If family values and bonds are given due prominence, they do not overshadow the actual purpose or message of the film, that of the traumas of the ordinary people who were in the midst of the power game.
Coming to the shortfalls – for those, with nil clue about the link between the reel & real story, it is just another fascinating movie experience, with the done-to-death story albeit an idiosyncratic treatment. However, for those who are well versed with the subject, who belong to the same decade as the characters/story did, there is a small chance of feeling cheated. Although RGV ensured the authenticity didn’t wash away completely, he couldn’t do absolute justice to the narrative. I can’t correctly point out why, possibly for social reasons or for reasons only known to him or those involved in the events.
Secondly, casting of Vivek, (who undoubtedly is extremely brilliant, like I’ve stated earlier) does not do complete justice to the feel of the film. The persona of Vivek is faintly urbane, which does not complement the backdrop the film is set in. My personal take would be someone of a stronger stature, built, someone local, who could convincingly fit in the era the film belongs to. How he fares in part 2 when he faces the rawness and brooding Surya is guaranteed to be a delightful watch.
To summarize, RC-1 has a story et al, but the pace, especially the first half is a bit tedious, the score is a little loud and just accentuates different ways of carnage. There are some splendid moments, which command a watch. Knowing there’s a continuation in the offing, it remains an unfinished chapter, which is unsettling. How this part flows in continuity to the next one remains to be seen. Reviewing this movie is like analyzing a movie until its interval, which dilutes a bit of the impact. Moreover, this is probably the only movie, which compelled me to reconsider my rating/views in the last few minutes of the movie.
Yet, in isolation, RC-1 marks RGV’s comeback and in a huge way, reiterating that RGV was and is still an impressive filmmaker. The movie is ‘bloody’ violent as forewarned by the cast & crew on multiple occasions, and there are scenes, which will make you, cringe and squirm in fear, disgust. If you can digest that, chances are you will enjoy most of it.
Here, I will safely echo RGV’s words, “Rc has no loving families, it only has warring families. So all those who liked kabhi khushi kabhi ghum better stay away from Rakta charitra“. Topic is over.