Ray, the new Netflix original series based on the short stories of Satyajit Ray, is a mixed bag of 1-hour stories that all looked promising on a premise level but couldn’t really enthrall you in totality. Somewhere I felt there was an urge to create a closure to every story rather than leaving us with those characters. The top-notch production values of the movies just couldn’t have those nuances and layers one would wish to see in the cinematic format.
The first one is Forget Me Not, starring Ali Fazal in the prominent role of Ipsit Rama Nair. Ipsit is a dynamic, young entrepreneur who is at the top of his game. He and his friends created this company named Chrysalis, and it has always been booming. He was good with numbers, and he never forgets anything. The focus of Forget Me Not is about a time in Ipsit’s life where he had spent four days with a woman in Aurangabad, but he just can’t recollect that.
I kind of have to give it to Srijit Mukherji for concealing a certain possibility for a good amount of time. Our predictions about these missing days from Ipsit’s life make it engaging for a large part. And some of the reasons are hidden under the flamboyance and urgency we see at the beginning of the story. But when the revenge agenda starts to show up in the story, you sense the writing going after a convenient closure. That single-shot hospital scene towards the end is a terrifically choreographed one for sure. But one could feel something was missing in the drama, which made the revelations one sees at the end a bit underwhelming.
The next one in the series, Bahrupiya, is also directed by Srijit Mukherji. But this movie is perhaps the weakest film in the anthology. It’s a concept that should have been treated in a way one would never end up looking at the logical feasibility of things. But Srijit Mukherji couldn’t pull it off at that level. The story here is about a makeup artist named Indrashish Shah. He is someone who gets rejected and ignored in life frequently. What we see in Bahrupiya is his revenge plan for those who never valued him.
The character is a lonely soul who got treated badly at every stage in life. If the movie could have made us empathize with him for all the emotional struggle he had gone through, the lack of logic in some crucial areas of the film wouldn’t have been much of an issue. But the writing is a bit uneven, and by the time the movie reaches its fantasy ending, the shade of the film feels a lot clumsy, ultimately making it an underbaked fantasy drama.
Hungama Hain Kyon Barpa, the Abhishek Chaubey movie based on kleptomania, is more of a fun film with a craft-driven treatment. The story is about a ghazal singer named Musafir Ali. On his journey to Delhi, he happens to meet this ex-wrestler named Aslam Baig. But this isn’t their first meeting and what we see in the movie talks about that past connection.
The hallucinations of Musafir Ali, which transforms a train into a gazal stage, are fun to watch, and Chaubey manages to maintain a curiosity throughout its duration. But somewhere towards the end, the simplistic story starts to feel predictable. The tail end of the movie with a peculiar shop was also an interesting addition to the story. But the predictability factor somewhere reduces the charm of the story. The performances of Manoj Bajpayee and Gajaraj Rao were exquisite.
Vasan Bala’s Spotlight was perhaps the one that worked for me the most as it had a totally different treatment from the other 3. Even though it had that fantasy texture after a point, the ultimate mood of the movie had that satiric approach towards the star system and also the blind faith of people in godmen. The story here is about a rising star named Vikram, aka Vik, who delivers back-to-back commercial hit films without any critical acclaim. Vik arrives at Jodhpur to stay in the famous Madonna room. And the very next day, he was forced to move from that room as a spiritual leader named Didi had shown interest in that room. The reaction of Vik, who is already going through self-centered complexes, is what we get to see in Spotlight.
The satire angle of the story makes it a fun watch. You have Rajeev Masand thrashing Vik’s movie in his show, and it all felt believable rather than being eccentric. Then you have this other narrative featuring Didi as this mighty force who can do anything she wants. The culmination of the story where Vik finally gets to know Didi was also an enjoyable sequence, thanks to the wonderful performance of Radhika Madan as Didi. Harshvardhan Kapoor gets to play a character who seems to have a self-referential feel to its credit (barring the box office factor). He was impressive as Vik, this eccentric, ego-driven, and unsatisfied Bollywood hero.
In totality, Ray is a mixed bag. There isn’t a movie here that completely blows your mind. But most of them have interesting central conflicts. My personal favorite among the four stories was Spotlight. Hungama Hai Kyon Barpa and Forget Me Not needed a little more juice in them to be completely exciting. Bahrupiya, even though it had a wonderful performance from Kay Kay Menon, just couldn’t create an impact on an emotional level.
In totality, Ray is a mixed bag. There isn’t a movie here that completely blows your mind. But most of them have interesting central conflicts.
Green: Recommended Film
Orange: Okay, Watchable, Experimental Films
Red: Not Recommended