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Sunday, May 15, 2011

Ragini MMS - Movie Review

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It was only a matter of time before someone in Bollywood pulled off a "Paranormal Activity". While Paranormal Activity shattered box-office collection records all over, Paranormal Activity-2 did a decent enough job to live up to the expectations that viewers had, especially after watching the first edition. And so, we have Ragini MMS, our own desi version of a film that encompasses the strange sequence of events around a couple, triggered by a supernatural force.

If you have watched Paranormal Activity, you will immediately notice the similarities between it and Ragini MMS. Both claim to be based on true events. Most parts in both the movies are shown and shot through a handheld video camera and cameras setup throughout the house for one purpose or the other. Then comes the limited number of people in the cast. And then there is the couple who are tormented by the demon. Both movies are relatively low budget movies and shot in a very short duration. Fortunately or unfortunately, that's where the similarities end. While Paranormal Activity was the work of a relatively unknown Oren Peli, Ragini MMS comes from the production house of Balaji Telefilms headed by Ekta Kapoor, who is riding on tons of success attributing to her SOAPs that have driven Indian TV channels into submission and have garnered massive viewership. Further, while the motive remains relatively unknown to the viewer (atleast in PA-1), Ragini MMS somewhat puts a few pieces together by the end of the movie just to put the average movie-goer at ease. And then, the release date Friday the 13th was something that made quite a bit of news for Ragini MMS, while Paranormal Activity was one of those movies that gained popularity just by word of mouth. So, its not actually fair to do a head-to-head comparison of the two.Instead, let's give credit to either of them where its due, be it the acting, the screenplay or the storyline.

What its all about:
Uday Jhala (played by Raj Kumar Yadav) and his girlfriend Ragini (played by Kainaz Motivala) head to a bungalow located in the middle of the woods outside the city to have some "private fun-time" over the weekend. On reaching the bungalow, it however becomes evident that Uday has his own hidden agenda of making an MMS sex video of Ragini and has all the arrangements already in place, with cameras setup all around the house. Strange things start to happen as the couple try to get intimate, with a few sightings of the ghostly figure before the movie is half-way through. The spooky mood established in the initial part of the movie is thrown away to a little extent with the intervention of Ragini's friend Piya and her boyfriend who add nothing but a few more minutes to the movie. Other than rile the ghost with their unnecessary presence, the only value that they add to the movie is drop a hint that confirms the haunted nature of the house. Its however after their exit that the movie gets interesting. Starting from a possessed Uday hissing "Main chudail nahi hoon" (in marathi) while getting naughty with Ragini (who was intentionally handcuffed to the cot by Uday to shoot the sex video), to Uday being pulled out of the bed by his hair to an extent that it rips his scalp to bleed, the ghost makes its presence felt within the house every second. Having become fully aware of a supernatural presence within the house, the rest of the movie revolves around the attempts of a helpless Uday and a handcuffed Ragini to get out of the forsaken place and how the ghost seeks them out.

Hits and Misses:
The standout performance in the movie comes from Uday, who is brilliant with his abuses as he is with his acting. Be it the sex-hungry boyfriend or the petrified human being, Uday does great justice to both the roles. He is shameless when it comes to getting things done his way, and gives the exact cheap image of a man ready to go to any extent for it. Ragini on the other hand, is good enough to complement Uday with her acting, both in fright and in frustration. The one thing of Ragini follows you out of the theatre is her scream for help, hollowed by frustation and helplessness.

Ragini MMS has its moments, with a few instances that will make you jump in your seat (not necessarily the sighting of the ghost). But what it lacks is the finesse with which a horror story needs to be told. The background score is unnecessarily used, consistently throughout the movie, trying to spook the viewer. But most of the time, all it did was alert the viewer that something is about to happen, thus stealing the surprise factor out of the scene. Next come the ghost sightings. The movie was not even half way through and the viewer had already seen the ghost half a dozen times. To quote a line from "The Usual Suspects",

-- The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist.

The essence of a horror movie is to keep the surprise factor intact throughout, and that includes the appearances of the ghost to a good extent. As someone rightly said, if a viewer sees the ghost enough number of times in the movie, he/she is not far from assuming that the ghost is just another role in the movie and not THE key role. Ragini MMS falters on this front as well. Frequent portrayal of a creaking staircase, doors opening and closing by themselves was yet another thing that could've been avoided. The last 20-25 minutes of the movie was a wee bit boring, as the end was pretty much what one can guess and does not add any value as far as the story of the movie is concerned. And yet another but not so significant shortcoming in the end, its the ghost itself. A white saree clad, flowing haired Noori styled ghost is a world renowned stereotype. But then, a ghostly figure of a woman dressed in traditional marathi "kachchi" saree attire was a little too much to handle in a horror movie, atleast for the rational viewer in me. Pawan Kripalani has put together a decent piece of story, but there is something about it that is missing, something that I cant put a finger on  for certain and if you were me, you would feel the same 9 out of 10 times.

All in all, Ragini MMS is a great watch if you haven't watched Paranormal Activity solely for the fact that you then don't have a scale for comparison. But if you have already seen Paranormal Activity, Ragini MMS is a good one time watch, more so for the brilliance pulled off by Raj Kumar Yadav, well supported by Kainaz Motivala and not to forget, a decent enough storyline moderately influenced by the Hollywood flick.

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