ray review

The poster for the new Netflix film, “Ray.” (netflix.com photo)

This is a series of four long short films, all based on Satyajit Ray’s stories. There are three directors (one directs two films) and two writers and the cast of each one is separate.

Hence, this anthology cannot be reviewed as a whole but must be evaluated individually. What, perhaps, can be collectively seen is a futile attempt at being contemporary (complete with four-letter words, for example) that would make the master (Ray) spin in his grave. Surely, this is not how Ray would have liked his stories to be in ANY era!

“Forget Me Not”

Director: Srijit Mukherjee

Written by Satyajit Ray (“Bipin Chowdhury's Smritibhrom”) & Siraj Ahmed

Starring: Ali Fazal, Shweta Basu Prasad, Anindita Bose, Shruthy Menon, Gavin Methalaka & others

A subtle tale of vendetta, this story is engrossing even if a shade “filmi” in its climax. Ali Fazal plays the central role of entrepreneur Ipsit Rama Nair, who never forgets anything. At a party, he encounters Rhea Saran (Anindita Bose), who tells him of their romantic encounter in the past—and he is shocked to know that he cannot remember it at all as the other details are so correct. His sudden lapses in memory also start affecting his business, especially a deal being done with a foreign group. “Ipsit Nair never forgets” is as good as a tagline for this corporate shark, so all this begins to disturb him. Of course, he knows exactly who he has used in his journey up the ladder, but he could not care less about any of them.

His wife (Shruthy Menon) leaves him when she hears about his affair that led to an abortion, and from here, his saga begins to turn nasty. The human computer is failing…

The film is notable for Ali Fazal’s and Shweta Basu Prasad’s restrained performances, the dialogues and the feather-light direction. It is an incisive look at how all-encompassing arrogance can be in a human being, and where it can lead.

Rating: ***1/2

“Bahrupiya”

Director: Srijit Mukherjee

Written by Satyajit Ray (“Bahuroopi”) & Siraj Ahmed

Starring: Kay Kay Menon, Bidita Bag, Rajesh Sharma, Dibyendu Bhattacharya,

Kharaj Mukherjee, Alokananda Roy and others

Indrashish (Kay Kay Menon) hates his job as an office employee. When he gets hold of a valuable book on the art of prosthetics, left to him by his grandmother, his ambitions to be a make-up artiste come to the fore. He uses his skills to wreak revenge on people who wronged him, to the extent that he blames God and holds him responsible for his troubles, which include a ruined relationship. He fabricates masks for his mission and even mocks at a godman who sees through him and continually asks for his real name when he masquerades as someone else in different disguises. And then the mask becomes his biggest enemy…

Kay Kay Menon’s performance is excellently whimsical, complemented by Dibyendu Bhattacharya, who is outstanding in his brief role as a godman. Mukherjee as director is in full command, and Ahmed’s lines are full of wit and irony.

Rating: ***1/2

“Hungama Hai Kyun Barpa”

Directed by: Abhishek Chaubey

Written by: Satyajit Ray (“Barin Bhowmik-er Byaram”) and Niren Bhatt

Starring: Manoj Bajpayee, Gajraj Rao, Raghubir Yadav, Manoj Pahwa & others

Musafir Ali (Manoj Bajpayee), a noted ghazal singer, encounters Aslam Baig (Gajraj Rao), a wrestler-turned-sports journalist, on a train journey, and as they travel and converse, realizes that they have met long before on a train. Here, an act of Musafir has changed Aslam’s life permanently for the worse. Musafir quietly tries to undo the wrong (the theft of a “lucky” timepiece!) but is in for the surprise of his life!

This is the most delightful film in this anthology, a dollop more than “Bahrupiya,” and shows Ray’s mastery at conceiving and narrating stories. Humor looms large in this saga of life, and the actors are superb, especially Bajpayee and Rao. Manoj Pahwa and Raghubir Yadav are also impressive.

Rating: ****

“Spotlight”

Directed by: Vasan Bala

Written by: Satyajit Ray (“Spotlight”) and Niren Bhatt

Starring: Harshvarrdhan Kapoor, Radhika Madan, Chandan Roy Sanyal, Niren Bhatt, Sayantan Mukherjee, Vasan Bala & others

Though three of the main creators of this episode are also in the cast, this is the only terrible part of this anthology. A film star (Harshvarrdhan Kapoor) is known by a specific “look” and is awaiting recognition as an actor. When he shoots for a film in a lavish hotel, he finds his popularity (he has just delivered a hit) overshadowed by a god-woman named Didi (Radhika Madan), who even gets the room he had wanted. From here, the story takes weird turns and ends with an encounter with the god-woman and a totally unexpected turn.

One can sense the drama in Ray’s original story, but Bala’s esoteric treatment, coupled with his lead actor, who is equally weird, leads to a boring narration that makes the viewer restive. Writer Niren Bhatt goes totally into arty mode in this narration (a complete 180-degree shift from the previous tale) and except for a scintillating performance by Radhika Madan, this one is the classic example of a stain on an otherwise stainless white garment!

Rating: *

Overall Rating: ***

Netflix presents Viacom 18 Motion Pictures’ “Ray”

Created by: Sayantan Mukherjee

Produced by: Ajit Andhare

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