Ray movie review: Manoj Bajpayee, Gajraj Rao, Chandan Roy Sanyal shine in Netflix anthology

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Ray movie cast: Manoj Bajpayee, Gajraj Rao, Raghubir Yadav, Manoj Pahwa; Kay Kay Menon, Rajesh Sharma, Bidita Bag, Dibyendu Bhattacharya, Kharaj Mukherjee; Ali Afzal, Shweta Basu Prasad, Anindita Ghosh; Harshavardhan Kapoor, Chandan Roy Sanyal, Radhika Madan
Ray movie directors: Abhishek Chaubey, Srijit Mukerjee, Vasan Bala
Ray movie rating: 2 stars

The new four-part Netflix anthology, based on short stories by Satyajit Ray, is a mixed bag. One segment stands out, another has promise and the other two don’t lift off the screen.

No prizes for guessing which one tops the list. ‘Hungama Hai Kyon Barpa’, directed by Abhishek Chaubey, has a bunch of the best actors working in Hindi cinema. Manoj Bajpayee plays Musafar Ali, a dapper ‘dil-phenk’ ghazal singer, oozing with old-style ‘shayarana andaaz’. Gajraj Rao is Aslam Baig, a former wrestler whose ‘dhobhi pacchhaad’, a complicated ‘kushti’ move, is famous from ‘Dilli to Agrey’ (only familiars will smile at the use of ‘Agrey’ for ‘Agra’).

Sharing a fateful train journey, in one of those near-forgotten cosy coupes, Ali and Baig joust with each other, and old secrets, involving kleptomania and a fateful twist in fortunes, come tumbling out.

The clattering of the rails, the swaying of the compartment, the stillness of those watching, all come together in this segment, in which Bajpayee twinkles from behind his shiny spectacles, Rao is on the top of his game, and you listen with pleasure to the kind of flowery language that’s gone missing from the movies since the ‘Muslim social’ was deep-sixed.

Raghubir Yadav and Manoj Pahwa have walk-on parts, and that’s all they need. My only niggle with this solidly-produced, well-designed segment is that this journey remains determinedly pleasant and placid. I kept waiting for the customary sharp edge, so much a part of Abhishek Chaubey’s arsenal.

What happens when an actor (Harshvardhan Kapoor) who has coasted on just ‘one look’ gets caught in a bind, not entirely of his own making? ‘Spotlight’ offers up an insider view of showbiz and the attendant shallowness that’s such an intrinsic part of it. The faithful secretary (Chandan Roy Sanyal) who knows exactly which buttons to push to keep his client on track, the sonny boy’s mummy who has full faith in him, and the young man of limited talent himself, full of insecurities and doubt and bluster.

The comic-book bits in this one reminds you of Bala’s ‘Mard Ko Dard Nahin Hota’, but ‘Spotlight’ is not kooky enough. Radhika Madan, who was such a delight in the earlier film, doesn’t quite fill out her part of the madly popular Didi, whose feet are worshipped by her ‘bhakts’. There’s something here, a sending up of blind fandom in both hokey religion and show business. Bala who gives himself the role of a director in a blinding Hawaiian shirt is lovely. And why don’t we see more of Roy Sanyal, who totally aces his part?

The other two, ‘Bahurupi’ and ‘Forget Me Not’, both directed by Srijit Mukherji, are disappointing. Not because the actors aren’t trying. Kay Kay Menon, as an expert make-up artist who gets stuck between a rock and a very hard place, gets a role that’s worthy of him. When you put a mask on, what happens to the essential you? Can you disguise yourself so successfully that you disappear? Intriguing questions, and you wait for the answers. They arrive, much too underlined, too overstated, no nuance. And that’s also the problem with ‘Forget Me Not’ too, which is about a highly successful, extremely egotistic man who prides himself on his memory (Ali Afzal) being sent on a shocking mind-bender. There’s a lesson in here: pride does come before a mighty fall, and nothing lasts for ever.

Each segment is nearly an hour long. Choose wisely.

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