By Subhash K Jha
Film: “Roy”; Cast: Arjun Rampal, Ranbir Kapoor, Jacqueline Fernandez; Written and Directed by Vikramjit Singh; Rating: *** (3 stars)
Somewhere long before the debutant director Vikramjit Singh’s tormented characters find their nemesis, the beauteous Jacqueline Fernandez playing an avant-garde filmmaker tells Arjun Rampal(playing a hatted, smoke-shrouded bratty masala filmmaker) that when a story doesn’t seem to be getting anywhere, it’s better to end it then and there.
Some such thought crosses our minds repeatedly as we waltz and stumble along Vikramjit Singh’s fascinating but frustrating exposition on the creator and the muse.
“Roy” is an important but unfinished film. It dares to define the uneasy relationship between the artiste an his art….Or in this case, the masala movie-maker and his masala. Arjun’s character Kabir Grewal is a contradiction of creativity. On one end, he behaves as though his style and poise are redolent of an era that was gone with the Lean(David, we mean). On the other hand, he makes the kind of massy entertainers that make money but never get awards.
Ironically Kabir’s brand of cinema is exactly what “Roy” is not. Moving away from the norm, it creates a world where the filmmaker and his film become two separate entities, the one feeding on the other with parasitical glee.
Our hero Kabir is the kind of self-indulgent hedonist whose girlfriends are numbered by the press.When the self-willed Ayesha refuses to become No.23 in Kabir’s life, he’s challenged, intrigued, and actually defeated by love.
It’s in showing how Kabir falls (in every sense of the word) in love that the narrative gains its advantage and strength. Discarding the droopy dimensions displayed in the first half, “Roy” confidently shifts into the second, tragic and fulfilling movement where we see Arjun get leaner and more gaunt, bearded and shattered as Ayesha vanishes into London, leaving him to feel genuine heartbreak for first time.
Something akin to what Ranbir Kapoor had experienced in “Bachna Ae Haseenon” when Deeepika Padukone had dumped him. There was a fabulous moment for Ranbir in that film when he catches himself by surprise when he feels a teardrop on his cheeks.
In “Roy”, Arjun’s character gets no such moment of liberating catharsis. This is a very European film in spirit. Cry babies and babes are not allowed. The emotions are all bottled up by the main characters. There is never that moment when the tears just flow out.
The tight-lipped approach, the film’s USP, is also its undoing.
While we applaud the narrative’s refusal to give in to the schmaltzy, even in Arjun character’s intermittent conversations with his dying father (Anupam Kher), we also crave to see the characters lose their sterility, to abandon the brittle wall they seem to have built around their hearts, none more so than Ranbir Kapoor’s, ahem, “Roy” who is a stymied enigma, a character frozen in time and space.
Perhaps that explains why he spends most of his playing-time wearing the expression that we’ve seen this brilliant actor wear when he is at a particularly brainless press conference.
Jacqueline Fernandez wears even less. If you know what I mean. Her expressions, or rather the lack of them, are amply compensated by her dazzling good looks. For the rest, we can tell her two characters apart by the colour of their lipstick.
Audaciously she is saddled with two roles. Only the most daring who cast her in a dual role.But then this is a film that dares to do the unthinkable. It merges fantasy and reality without boundaries so that we are left looking at either perception simultaneously, or both.
Arjun holds the film together. He has the look of brooding intensity that the film requires. The director uses his physical presence to create an alternate reality, a figment of the writer’s imagination ignited by a man who feeds on fantasy….that’s how we must define Rampal.
To accentuate Arjun’s burnt-out character, the director shoots the film in night colours, highlighting that state of the soul which better learn to appreciate light if it doesn’t want to be trapped in darkness.
“Roy” is an interesting amalgamation of sassy spirit and sexy looks. The three good-looking characters constantly seem to suggest they mean more than they say. There are lots of half-finished sentences hovering in the narrative trying to find a resting-place in lives that know no respite from desire.
Though they come together in only one sequence, Arjun and Ranbir play sharply and smartly against one another.
Shaded in pastel colours and cloaked in a tender timbre, “Roy” undertakes an intriguing journey where the real mocks the reel and the creator merges into his creation. Finally,though, “Roy” leaves is with a sense of betrayal and dissatisfaction. There should have been a more satisfactory payoff at the end.
The four main characters never quite attain the infinite immediacy of a film-within-film format that we saw played out so strikingly in “The French Lieutenant’s Woman” or nearer home, “Khamosh” and “Akaler Sandhane”.
Perhaps the first-time director should have attempted the complexities of this film after making five other films. But the fact that he did attempt this film as his directorial debut is admirable.