Release Date: 11/03/2021
Cast: Rajkummar Rao, Janhvi Kapoor, Varun Sharma, Manav Vij
Director: Hardik Mehta
Rating: 1/5 (1 out of 5 Stars)
Roohi is the story of two friends, Bhawra (Rajkummar Rao) and Kattanni (Varun Sharma) who work as wannabe journalists for a crass local new agency and double as bride lifters for the local strongman, Gunniya Shakeel (Manav Vij). Gunniya Shakeel also happens to own the news agency. On Gunniya’s orders, Bhawra and Kattanni kidnap Roohi (Janhvi Kapoor) and are forced to hold her hostage in a secluded forest for a week. What they didn’t know was that Roohi was possessed by a malevolent spirit that is hell-bent on getting married. The rest of the film is about how Bhawra and Kattanni deal with this unique situation and what they do to save themselves and Roohi from the evil spirit.
Roohi had an interesting concept to work with and with better execution it might have been an interesting watch. Sadly that is not the case here. The biggest problem with the film is that it comes to a standstill from the moment Bhawra and Kattanni pull off the kidnapping. Once the basic premise is set, it is scene after scene of the spirit terrorizing the duo and the duo reacting to the situations in the most bizarre and hilarious fashion. The problem with these sequences is that the bits lack both a strong sense of fear and also a sense of comedy. It feels almost impossible to believe that the presence of Rajkummar Rao and Varun Sharma is not able to invoke the kind of comedy that they are both famous for but that is what happens here. They are so badly done in by the poor writing and the sheer lack of novelty that even their brilliance and quirky comic timing is only able to make us laugh momentarily.
Both Rajkummar Rao and Varun Sharma must have sensed the lack of strength in the content and execution and it shows that they are evidently putting in a lot more effort to make us laugh and have a good time. Rajkummar Rao for no understandable reason is given a vocal impairment that was unnecessary and does nothing to add to the character or invoke any comedy. On the contrary, coupled with the regional lingo, it makes it rather difficult to follow what he is saying in many junctures thus reducing the impact of the scene. Having said that, Rajkummar Rao is a master of expressions and his expressions alone are enough to make you laugh in certain scenes. It must also be added that he shares a wonderful chemistry with Varun Sharma and it is their antics alone that is notable in the entire film.
Varun Sharma keeps getting a lot of flak for repeating himself and playing characters that are awfully close to his seminal character, Choocha (From Fukrey). Interestingly, I don’t see people criticizing The Rock or Jason Statham for playing themselves in every film neither do I see anyone say anything about Salman Khan being the same in every film. Varun has a distinctive style to his comedy and when it works so well, I see no problem in sticking to it. He does exactly that here and his act works well in tandem with Rajkummar Rao’s performance.
Apart from the performance of the two leading men, everything else about Roohi fails miserably. The film was aimed to be a mishmash of horror and comedy and unfortunately it fails on both counts. While the comedy is mostly recycled jokes and pop culture references that will only appeal to those who love WhatsApp forwarded jokes, the horror has nothing to instill a sense of fear in us. The fact that the writers make stupid character choices and the story goes to places that makes no sense further destroys any chances of the film redeeming itself.
The makers commit the cardinal error of humanizing a malevolent spirit and making one of its leading men fall in love with that very spirit. Nothing in the world can prepare a viewer for watching Varun Sharma court an evil spirit and how cool he is around her. The 90’s Hindi songs playing in the background while he is looking lovingly at her only increase the cringe quotient. That’s not all. As the story progresses, this mindless angle is pulled to such an extent that the viewer is bound to feel an urge to either smash his head against the wall or just walk out of the theater.
If that was not enough, the film’s climax is one of the most senseless and pointless climaxes that I have seen in a horror film in a while. It felt as if the makers had had enough of writing and just wanted to culminate the film and so they just put a full stop in the script without even thinking if it was warranted or not. The makers try to infuse a message of woman independence and equality in the climax through what happens to the spirit and the girl that it possesses. Sadly the message is so nonsensical and muddled that it was better off for the film and the characters to have had a straightforward ending.
The makers do one smart thing by not giving too many lines to Janhvi Kapoor who literally sleepwalks through her entire essay. The makers of this film are also the producers of the sleeper hit Stree and they try to evoke some interest for the film by trying to tag it with Stree. Unfortunately nothing in that line works for the film as the writing is too pedestrian and brain-dead to evoke any kind of response from the audience. It’s even a bigger tragedy for Roohi to be so bad since it is the first major Hindi release after the theaters became functional and it’s safe to say that Bollywood is to off to a poor start.