Luckily RangiTaranga was so popular in Melbourne last weekend that they ran some extra screenings this Saturday, giving me the chance to see Anup Bhandari’s début film on the big screen. As an added benefit the film released with grammatically correct English subtitles (yay!), and with yet another full house and the option of samosas and tea at the interval, it was definitely well worth the trip out to Monash. And it’s a good film too. RangiTaranga is a clever blend of horror and suspense with plenty of twists and unexpected plot turns that keep the film entertaining until the very last minute. It’s an excellent effort from a new director and mainly inexperienced lead cast, although they receive plenty of assistance from the very capable veteran support actors.
The film starts out similar to any classic horror story with a deserted road, driving rain and a lone pregnant woman in a car. Something half seen on the road causes an accident and as the eerie music starts it’s pretty much guaranteed that the lady in the car isn’t going to make it home to her frantic husband. Nothing grotesque is actually shown on camera but right away the atmosphere is set to creepily scary even after the film shifts to the present day and blue skies instead of a dark night.
Gautam (Nirup Bhandari) and Indu (Radhika Chetan) are expecting their first child, but Indu wants to go back to her ancestral village before the baby is born to fulfil a superstitious belief that this will stop the spirits ill-wishing her baby. Gautam rashly agrees to take her, even though Indu is 8 months pregnant and has previously suffered a miscarriage. After all what can possibly go wrong? At the same time journalist Sandhya (Avantika Shetty) is trying to track down reclusive novelist Anashku and manages to discover his post office box address, which sets her off on his trail. Of course Gautam is Anashku which means eventually Sandhya follows Gautam and Indu along the same rain soaked lonely roads from the beginning of the film to reach the village of Kamarottu.
There are many strange incidents once Gautam and Indu reach the village and the reputedly haunted house that belonged to her family. The ‘ghost of the hills’ seems determined to terrify Indu and her reluctance to leave the house means few of the villagers have even seen her. This becomes a problem later on when Indu disappears and the police refuse to believe that she ever existed. Sandhya becomes involved in Gautam’s search for his missing wife but there are more mysteries than just Indu’s disappearance and not every clue ends up being relevant. Gautam has the assistance of local postmaster Kalinga (Saikumar) and teacher Shankar (Ananth Velu) while Inspector Haadimani (Arvind Rao) does his best to discredit Gautam at every turn.
RangiTaranga succeeds because it has a well written story with many unexpected twists. I would have been lost a few times without the subtitles as the story gets ever more convoluted with every new revelation. And yet it all makes sense with all the subplots cleverly interlocking to form a complete whole by the end of the movie.
Despite their relative inexperience, or maybe because of it, the cast are all great too. Nirup Bhandari is excellent as the ever more desperate husband while Avantika Shetty is nicely eccentric as the journalist who gets roped into the search for Indu. Gautam isn’t particularly heroic and never has to do anything too impossible which makes his actions plausible and relatively realistic, despite the supernatural theme. Like any good hero he doesn’t believe in the ghost but the very real fear for his wife and the increasing tension he experiences as his world falls apart is very well expressed. Thankfully Radhika Chetan’s Indu isn’t as terminally dumb as most horror heroines – she doesn’t go tearing off by herself or take ridiculous risks, which makes her terror more frightening and Radhika effectively portrays Indu’s distress and fear. There were times when I wished she would be just a little less brave, and I did jump quite a few times when Indu went hunting whatever it was that was making the odd noises rather than sensibly running for cover and waiting for Gautam to get home!
Saikumar has an important role as the postmaster of the village and his character is well written to take advantage of his support for Gautam and Indu, although there again, things may not be quite what they seem. It’s a perfect role for Saikumar and he is excellent, particularly later in the film, while the rest of the support cast are just as good in their various roles.
The film looks fantastic with the amazing colours in the Nee Kele Vaaduve song perfectly bringing to life the colour wave of Rangi Taranga. All the songs are excellent, although they do occur in quick succession in the second half and could have been a little better placed. B. Ajaneesh Loknath’s background score is very effective and maintains the mood of the film without ever getting too loud and intrusive. Another plus is the stunning cinematography from Lance Kaplan and William David with traditional costumes blending well with shots of beautiful countryside to provide an excellent contrast to the spooky shots inside the building or in the forest at night. Basically it’s a complete package where everything works together to make RangiTaranga one of the best films I’ve seen this year. Definitely one to catch on the big screen if you can.