RANGITARANGA (2015)

  • Hindi Title: Rangitaranga
  • Release Date: 13/08/2015
  • Cast: Nirup Bhandari, Radhika Chetan, Avantika Shetty, Sai Kumar
  • Director: Anup Bhandari

Deceit, love, hatred and mysteries come together in this delicious broth of a film

Gautam (Nirup Bhandari) is a reclusive novelist who goes by the pseudo name of “Anashku”. He is happily married and is about to have his first kid. His mild-mannered wife Indu (Radhika Chetan) expresses her desire to visit her ancestral home in the fictional village of Kamarottu, perform a puja and return the jewels of the temple that she has in her possession. Indu has been plagued by a recurring nightmare and she believes that returning to her ancestral home and performing the puja will solve her problem. Gautam readily agrees. Upon their arrival in the Village, the couple is continually traumatized by things and events that have no explanation. Gautam befriends the local Postmaster Kalinga (Sai Kumar) who introduces him to the village, its people, its culture, and its unsolved mysteries. Things get worse when on a fateful night, Indu disappears and while looking for her, Gautam realizes that no one in the village has seen her. He starts questioning his own sanity when it is revealed that she had died 6 years ago, and he had himself cremated her.

The village of Kamarottu has its own story. One of its inhabitants, Angara (Dinesh Siriyara) was decapitated and left tied to a tree outside the bungalow that Gautam and his wife rent. Ever since Angara’s murder, the village has witnessed mysterious vanishings every year. The ones to go missing have always been pregnant women and have never been heard of. When Indu goes missing, her disappearance coincides with the annual disappearances that the village has witnessed for years. As Gautam searches for his wife, he gets the support of a journalist, Sandhya (Avantika Shetty), who has been tracking Anashku, and her search lead her to Kamarottu. Sandhya seems to know things about Gautam and is surprised to find out that he is married. As the story progresses, we realize that she has a past with Gautam and was integral to what was about to happen next in his life. The rest of the film is about Gautam trying to find his wife, deciphering the secret surrounding his wife’s existence and solving the mystery of the missing women of the village.

Anup Bhandari, the director was a software engineer to start with. The film stars his brother Nirup Bhandari in the title role and it wouldn’t be wrong to say that the film completely anchors itself on the performance of its leading man. Anup Bhandari’s vision of the film is rooted in believability and that shows throughout the narrative. Without spoiling anything, I can say that the film deals with two separate tragedies and makes these two tracks cross paths which in turn makes the narrative unpredictable and thrilling. If the film was based on any one of these two mysteries it would have ended up becoming a run-of-the-mills thriller but with the two mysteries running into each other, the film becomes almost impossible to predict. To the credit of Anup Bhandari, he manages both the lines of the story beautifully and brings it together convincingly in the end. The end results, though dramatic makes sense and feels conclusive.

The screenplay of the film, as is the case with most South Indian films, is its forte. After the slow start, the story quickly changes gears, gets tense and once the mystery starts unraveling, you cannot take your eyes off the screen. There is a large chunk of the film where we believe that Gautam might be hallucinating the whole portion involving his wife which leads us in some interesting directions. The director does misguide us for a certain amount of time, but he does so with our participation. The portion involving Sandhya and her past with Gautam is wonderfully executed and is put in at the perfect time.

Once we understand their past, we finally understand why Sandhya was so obsessed with tracking down Gautam, which from the very beginning, felt a little odd. It also explains a lot many things about Gautam and Indu. From the first time Sandhya and Gautam meet, we realize that something is off between the two and it shows in Sandhya’s expressions. This enhanced the tension of the sequences for me as I wanted to understand what was going on between them but had no means to do it. The way the narrative reveals their past was in keeping with the rest of the film and felt organic. The mysteries of the village which is a standalone portion of the film is given enough time to build and that renders it effective. Some of these sequences are pretty horrifying and will scare many.

Nirup Bhandari in his debut film proves to be the perfect leading man. He has the kind of attitude that tells us that he might have had a past that bears down on his existence, but he is unable to put a finger on what is wrong with him. Even his pen name has an interesting inception. Nirup shares a wonderful chemistry with Radhika Chetan which endears the couple to us quickly. Once that is done, everything that threatens the couple’s marital bliss makes us nervous. When Indu’s safety is threatened we cannot wait to see her safe. The feeling for the characters would not have been the same had Nirup and Radhika not been so wonderful in their respective essays. The film does lay back on Nirup’s character a lot more, but the importance of Radhika’s essay cannot be ignored. Nirup, with his baritone and soothing persona, is an instant eye-grabber.

The film has two equally proficient performances from Saikumar and Avantika Shetty. Sai Kumar plays Kalinga, the postmaster who has an unusual knack for traditional folk art and poetry that he uses from time to time to incite reverence for his oratory skills and persona. He is also someone who is ever ready to help Gautam and proves to be the only character who is not serious in the film. As the film progresses, we learn that he has more to do with the narrative than it appears, and that increases the importance of his essay many folds. Avantika Shetty’s Sandhya anchors the two plotlines of the story. She is someone who knows more about Gautam than he himself does and that gives her some interesting scenes to work with. Avantika does a fantastic job with her character.

Anup Bhandari’s film has cinematography by Hollywood D.O.P Lance Kaplan and D.O.P William David. The film looks lush and organic in its visual representations. The scenes that are supposed to incite fear are particularly well shot. It has an underwater action sequence too which I felt was handled well. The forest vistas shown in the film are a vibrant mix of color and natural splendor and gives us the feeling of being in the middle tropical paradise albeit that is eerie when it wants to be. The cinematography added a lot to the mood of the story and further enhanced the feel of the narrative. The sequences that unfold amidst rainfall were also effectively shot. The film’s editing and sound design complement the visuals perfectly. Again, I must mention the sequences that involved the antagonist dressed as a “Bhoota Kola” dancer which really sent shivers down my spine. The effect was compounded by the kind of sound design that these sequences had in addition to the visuals and the editing.

The action sequences involving the same character was a minor let down as the bits were unnecessarily sped up that I felt was unnecessary. If the actor was not able to perform his own stunts at the required speed, they could have thought of something else to make the sequences work. The film’s background score was perfect and added to the feel eerie of the narrative. I cannot comment on the songs as I watched the film on YouTube where the songs were edited out.  But I must admit that Anup Bhandari felt like someone to me who would have inserted the songs perfectly in sync with the narrative and would have done so only if they were necessary. They also must have been shot beautifully.

Overall, Rangitaranga delivers on all counts. It has an immersive story, fantastic performances from the ensemble cast, great cinematography and background score. The film is well directed and is rooted in realism which makes it easier to accept the mystery that it tries to conjure up. Rangitaranga is high on entertainment and quality and should be on your watch list if you like mysteries and thrillers.

Rating: 4/5 (4 out of 5 Stars)         

Here is the link to the full film:

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