It seems that Vikram Bhatt´s small-budget thrillers with newcomers always seem to do much better than people expect them to. Fareb and Kasoor struck gold at the box office, with the successful combo of catchy music and well-crafted chills. Bhatt´s latest, Raaz, has these two important ingredients, providing us with great tunes and some truly suspenseful moments. Unfortunately, Bhatt has also stuck to his old habit of completely ripping off of Hollywood thrillers for "inspiration". After all, Fareb was a remake of Unlawful Entry and Kasoor copied both Basic Instinct and Jagged Edge. Raaz follows this trend as well and gives us a retelling of Harrison Ford thriller What Lies Beneath.
Despite its unoriginal plot, Raaz manages to provide some sensible chills and entertain the viewer. This film tells us the story of Sanjana (Bipasha Basu) and Aditya (Dino Morea), an unhappily married couple who, on the verge of a divorce, attempt to reconcile their marriage by visiting the place where they first fell in love, Ooty. As it turns out, vacationing in Ooty is no picnic as strange events lead Sanjana to believe that their house is haunted by a restless spirit. Aditya, however, refuses to believe Sanjana´s claim of the house being invaded by the supernatural, forcing her to enlist in the help of a whack-job professor (Ashutosh Rana) and her friend (Shruti Ulfat). When she eventually discovers the secret behind the haunting, chaos ensues.
First and foremost, Bipasha Basu is very good in this movie. She moves with poise, elegance, and grace, looking very good and displaying her fine acting talent. She fits her role extremely well and, at times, carries the film on her slender shoulders. Bhatt has revolved his entire film around his heroine and she does not disappoint. The male lead and Bipasha´s real-life fiance Dino Morea is completely overshadowed by his wonderful female costar. After the disastrous Pyaar Mein Kabhi Kabhi opposite Rinke Khanna, this is Morea´s second shot at stardom. Well, it can be safe to say that he is no natural born actor, but has vastly improved on his flaws from his previous film. He has the looks and the charisma to be a major star, and, with some improvement, will leave a lasting impression on the industry. However, in Raaz, he is simply Basu´s costar and receives second-billing to her as well. Malini Sharma looks good and well as the supporting lead. Ashutosh Rana as Basu´s confidant and supporter is quite good.
Music by Nadeem Shravan is very catchy. "Jo Bhi Kasmein", "Aapke Pyaar Mein", and "Tum Agar Samne" are all memorable tracks. While the music of Kasoor was one of their best, Raaz ends up being passable, but still enjoyable.
Another major flaw of the film is the predictability of the plot. If you've seen What Lies Beneath, the film should hold no surprises for you. Technically, the film is on par with western standards and looks very glossy and slick. Vikram Bhatt doesn't waste time with tedious comedy sequences or overly long romantic scenes. He simply cuts to the chase right from the beginning, a refreshing approach for Indian movies.
Kasoor was very well directed from start to finish, with fine pacing and editing. Raaz has both of these strengths and doesn´t waste time in delivering the goods. Many will find the film overlong and tedious to watch for its lack of "light" scenes, but if you enjoy well-directed thrillers with a thankfully short running time, give Raaz a watch, even if it is completely lacking in unoriginality.
Vikram Bhatt´s next is Aitbaar, a remake of the excellent suspense thriller of the same name from 1984 (which was inspired by Alfred Hitchcock's Dial M for Murder) starring Dimple Kapadia, Suresh Oberoi, and Raj Babbar. Kapadia´s Aitbaar was heavily engrossing. Hopefully, Bhatt´s remake starring Bipasha Basu and Anil Kapoor, will be as well.