There aren't enough films about filmmaking. With all the press coverage of stars, directors, and film sets, one would imagine filmmakers would often turn the cameras on themselves. But the sad truth is, they hardly ever do. That said, the few films about filmmaking that do exist are pretty extraordinary. Be they surrealist, classic foreign films like the Italian "8 1/2," or simple, glamorous musicals like "Singing in The Rain," or our very own "Rangeela," films about filmmaking almost always abound in tongue-in-cheek charm and entertain exuberantly. V.K. Prakash’s off-beat “Freaky Chakra” is more along the lines of Spike Jonze’s “Adaptation” than the aforementioned films. A very good film about writing films; this is one well crafted, layered motion picture that is all of innovative, insightful, and moving.
On one level, Freaky Chakra is about a writer struggling to pen a script. The writer (Ranvir Shorey) has a working plot with strong characterization, but doesn’t know where his second act should go. His plot lacks rising action, and it isn’t heading towards any kind of climax. So he takes a risk, and throws in some twists so that his characters loosen up a bit. But his spontaneous changes end up reaching climaxes of their own. Before he knows it, the characters are spiraling out of control and his script is going haywire. Can the writer get his film back on track before it’s too late?
On another level, the film is about the writer’s characters. It is about Ms. Thomas (Deepti Naval), the protagonist of the writer’s film. A middle aged former doctor haunted by the sudden death of her husband, Ms. Thomas spends her days decorating dead bodies at a morgue. Each of her days follows an exact, morbid routine that begins with scolding her building’s watchman and ends with her taking an obscene phone call from an unknown pervert.
Sachin Khedekar is the pervert that Ms. Thomas unknowingly, almost subconsciously, dotes on. Each morning, he goes to Ms. Thomas’s house and invents some ailment for her to diagnose. Each morning, she shuts the door on him. Each night he anonymously calls Ms. Thomas and sexually harasses her on the phone, and then retires to his own devices.
The first few reels of the film are superb. The director uses Ranvir Shorey’s narration to introduce the principal characters, and via a simple tour through two days of Ms. Thomas’s life we see how monotonous and deeply disturbed the characters in Thomas’s world really are. They’re lives are a vicious cycle, a chakra continuously rotating through the same unfortunate motions. The deliberate pacing, excellent repetition of background music, and the continuous visual references to wheels and charkas (the most observant viewers will notice Ms. Thomas drawing one with her fingers and a glass of water) in the first few segments is brilliantly handled.
The film begins to take off when the writer throws in a young man, Sunil (Sunil Raoh), into Ms. Thomas’s life. Sunil appears following a night where Ms. Thomas’s secure routine is broken. He convinces her to rent him a room in her house. Soon Sunil and Ms. Thomas develop a unique bond that helps to bring youth and beauty back out in the latter, and give her a new lease on life. They fall in love, and the chakra spins out of control; the vicious cycle seems to have been broken. But is it really? Will Ms. Thomas really let her self be happy?
The rest of the film unfolds almost as well as the initial sequences. Sunil is an instantly likeable character and while his entrance in the film is abrupt and his reason for singling out Ms. Thomas as a landlord is never really explained, the development of his relationship with Ms. Thomas flows naturally. The slow transformation of Ms. Thomas’s character into a more upbeat person is brilliantly contrasted with the degeneration of the pervert and the writer. The drawback is the incredibly abrupt and unfulfilling ending of the film. The very poorly devised ending essentially slaps the film on its own face, and trivializes the plot up until that point.
The film belongs to Deepti Naval. She completely outdoes herself, even after bravura performances in Leela
and Shakti. Deepti Naval is miscast in most films as an elderly woman in distress, but she proves herself capable of much, much more here. The subtle touches in her extraordinary performance are truly indicative of genius. Be it the spark of anger in her eyes when she realizes the water in her apartment isn’t working, the euphoria she tries to hide when Sunil compliments her hair, or the yearning she expresses in the mirror each night before her phone call, Deepti handles all her expressions and scenes with the utmost sincerity and aplomb. And who ever imagined Naval could so look so young and beautiful if given the chance? This film proves how tragically underused Naval really is in Indian films, and it’s truly worth watching just for her tour de force performance. After Raveena’s great work in Satta, this is another one of the best female performances on the Indian screen in what seems like ages.
Sachin Khedekar is quite good too. The desperation he expresses reminds of Hollywood’s great contemporary loser, Phillip Seymour Hoffman. He plays a very perverse, demented character but still manages to earn some audience sympathy. Ranvir Shorey as the writer is off-key and strikes the wrong notes. His sarcasm and comedy is completely over the top. Finally, newcomer Sunil Raoh is just about alright. There is nothing truly great or horrible about his work.
Direction by V.K. Prakash is great, and editing is deftly handled as well. Cinematography is apt, and background music is incredible. The background music is truly standout. It is composed very well and gels flawlessly with the events on screen. There isn’t much in the way of songs in the conventional sense in the film, but whatever is there is placed well and sounds good. Production values are average. The sets around Ranvir Shorey look pretty tacky and cheap, however.
There are flaws, most of which stem from the fact that the film is [at times] too abstract for its own good. Ranvir Shorey’s character indulges in a bit too much juvenile humor, and the film comes off immature because of that in parts. Also, some of the plot holes are a bit much. Sure this is a world controlled by the writer, but couldn’t they have given Sunil some motive to move in with Ms. Thomas? Finally, [again] the ending is truly terrible. Sure it makes sense that the writer completely lost control of his characters, but very little closure is offered. What happens to Khedekar’s character? How do Sunil and Ms. Thomas end up the way they do? The ending needed some major explainations, and the film offers none.
Freaky Chakra is a good movie, but could have been great if the director toned down Ranvir Shorey’s immature jokes and worked out the screenplay’s problems near the climax. As it is now, it’s still an excellent film well worth watching at least once, but one can’t help but imagine how things would’ve been if a bit more time was spent ironing out the films flaws and reworking the terrible ending. Strongly recommended for mature audiences looking for a thought provoking, layered drama about screenwriting and life; just be warned of a wholly unsatisfying conclusion to an otherwise engaging film.