Watching a horror film is usually something I skip, as post Bhoot, the barrage of horror films haven’t given me any excitement. Of course, there’s a brilliantly executed and written 13B, but I’d rather call it a supernatural thriller. Mohit Suri’s spin-off Raaz- The Mystery Continues was more like unintentional comedy, while A Flat couldn’t really live up to its expectations, though strictly decent. The recently released Haunted gave me the scares and the chills, but the only major problem with it was the storyline. And just a week post Haunted releases yet another movie touted to be the “scariest date movie” by it’s producer, Ekta Kapoor, under whose banner the immensely acclaimed Shor in the City came out recently.
The good news about Ragini MMS is that it works, and big-time. Firstly, it’s helmed by a exceptionally well conceptualized storyline, borrowing elements from real life, and sprucing it with sex, voyeurism and the paranormal. With production design that borrows intelligently from three successful Hollywood horror films – Paranormal Activity, The Blair Witch Project and also Cloverfield – we get to see some healthy inspiration, albeit with a story that’s completely original, and (if reports are to be believed) loosely based on true-to-life events. Ragini (Kainaz Motiwala) is the sweet, simple and shy girl, who’s not really afraid of her sexuality when comes the time, is in a relationship with Uday (Raj Kumar Yadav), the horny, ambitious struggler who wants to get into movies by hook or by crook. They plan a dirty weekend getaway at a faraway place – only there’s more to it; Uday’s all set to betray her trust by rigging cameras at 24 different places to make a snuff! A few diversions later, they’re all set with the foreplay when the next set of events make the whole night a disaster for Ragini and everyone else around her.
What I really admire about the film is not only its ability to scare viewers, but also because it is realistic and brutally honest. First time director Pawan Kriplani shows he has a terrific hold over the matter (written by himself, alongwith Vaspar Dandiwala) by executing every scene with that grit that is required. For the romantic scenes we have some really amazing chemistry between Motiwala and Yadav, while for the scenes involving the interruption of “the act” during foreplay, inducing tension between the two, is also well captured.
Though the characters aren’t really developed a lot during the film’s tenure, they’ve still been strongly written, and you can easily relate to them. The ghost, its characteristics or doings, aren’t really flashy per se, but at times, silence is golden, and hence – here – invisibility is spookier. No prosthetics in make up, just the most intelligent use of sound design and score, along with some commendable visual effects and a spooky set of gimmicks which actually seem to work hugely over here. Also, a lot of horror movies end up giving long explanations thereby diverging into subplots that may or may not be interesting; and this is where Haunted failed to work apart from many other levels. Here though, apart from the teeny subplot right at the end of the film, the movie is a start-to-finish scare fest that manages to entertain wild horror freaks and movie buffs looking for some absolutely different cinema. Though there’s horror, the humor too stands out as an intelligent diversion till the freaks in the second hour.
Embellished with decent cinematography, which has eye-pleasing framing where possible, (unlike its voyeuristic counterpart from the same banner, Love Sex Aur Dhokha), it’s nice on the eyes when there’s no scare. Can’t say much for the camerawork as most of it is amateur handheld, or rigged, except that they have managed to achieve the amateur look in the handheld portions through very interesting color-grading and the use of noise through excessive grain depicting what consumers would call the Night mode in their camcorders. The music is strictly functional, but serves the purpose very well. Editing is really tight, and to set an amateurish feel there are no fancy cuts; only jump cuts and abrupt shot transitions. You have impressive VFX, combined with a neatly packaged 4 to 6 second opening title after the saccharine sweet prologue. A lot must have gone into prosthetic make-up to display whatever little gore there is for impact value, and the make-up artists should receive applause to make it look realistic and disgusting.
Kainaz Motiwala is a charmer, as she looks natural as the shy, demure uptown girl who is comfortable shedding her inhibitions and dealing with sexual issues when she is with a person she trusts. Seen last in Wake Up S!d with almost no potential for her short role as Tanya, and in the commercially and critically unsuccessful Paathshala in cameo roles, she makes one of the most unconventional debuts, and succeeds! Expect a whole load of film offers coming your way, Kainaz. Raj Kumar Yadav reprises his role from Love Sex Aur Dhokha and extends it to make his character look hornier, making the snuff by will. He’s confident. The chemistry between the two works big-time. Others are ably supportive.
Now with a whole lot of positives, there are obviously a couple of negatives too. Being a 100-minute film with a watertight screenplay and an even watertight edit, I still expected the movie should have been cut down 15-20 minutes to make for a sharper movie having the potential to turn the viewers out of breath. Repetition of the background score in the disturbing emotional moments was a bit of a turn-off, though understanding the constraint of the budget, it can be ignored. And though the scare level is pretty high, predictability starts to set in eventually- though this is more than negated for by the abrupt end and the extremely disturbing moments that would jolt you out of your seat more than once.
Overall, holding the right amounts of thrills and chills, this intelligently budgeted affair with an impressive production design will be a treat for horror fans and movie buffs looking for cinema that doesn’t get churned out usually.