Petta and Raabta – Two Underrated Feature Films on OTT
Petta (Netflix, Tamil): In what appears to be an unwanted political intrusion into an overly formalist artist, Vijay Sethupathi – who has a central role to play in moving the plot forward – is attacked in a stable by henchmen who accuse him of being a beef transporter. Well, to be honest, Sethupathi has a pretty beefy role. In fact, it’s the most powerfully written secondary part I’ve seen in a recent Rajinikanth-starrer. Seethupathi plays Jeetu, a shady hitman from Uttar Pradesh who ends up being horribly confused about his parentage. In fact, the script turns his parentage into a bit of a wild joke.
But director Karthik Subbaraj knows when to pull back the punches. He lets the 3-hour masala marathon run like a steamroller who knows exactly how to run its course without plundering any of the tropes of a Rajinikanth-starrer. Petta is a film that satisfies both Rajini’s devotees and non-devotees alike. Although it is reminiscent of its most famous screen avatars, it gives a fresh and tasty touch to every maneuver that brings the plot closer to its nemesis.
For starters, Rajini is a loud hostel manager who plays Uncle Cupid to a young couple. While helping with the courtship, Rajini falls in love with a spiritual hero (Simran, looking lovely). This part of the movie is light to the touch, frothy, and mouthwatering in a cute way.
In the second half, the plot simply takes off, creating a badland of bloodshed and retaliation where bullets and bombs have landed in a devastating story of caste and community wars. Clan violence is skillfully constructed to showcase Rajinikanth’s striking image. He has never looked so young in the past decade. He performs the action sequences and dances with disarming taste and his character doesn’t hesitate to kill enemies.
It all adds up to a visually rich drama filled with twists not only unforeseen, but also skillfully written to accentuate Rajinikanth’s image. And yes, Nawazuddin Siddiqui makes a formidable opponent. The clashes between the two leading to a bloody finale leave no room for public exhalation.
When was the last time I had so much fun watching a Rajinikanth movie? The last few years topped by the appalling 2-0 last month have been pretty appalling. Perhaps the Thalaiva, as his followers call him, had started to take himself too seriously in his recent films.
In Petta, Rajini does not allow himself to be overwhelmed by responsibilities. A real sense of fun runs through the tense plot. With the exception of a few stretches where the director seems to be losing control (for example, the Inn’s opening scenes are way too light-hearted), this story of a father figure fighting to save a young boy (Sananth Sethi) d murderous enemies is exactly what the Raj
Raabta (Amazon Prime): There’s something about Sushant Singh Rajput and Kriti Sanon, something sexy without really getting into bed or talking dirty like Ranveer Singh and Vaani Kapoor did in Miserable Befikre, which for all intents and purposes has a sex word game hidden in ‘fikre’.
Sex is of course important in Raabta. Why shouldn’t he? Two young people, Shiv and Saira, flirt and do all of the following. This is Budapest captured in all its glory by Czech cinematographer Martin Preiss who can’t decide what he likes most, the lovers or the scenery. So the camera decides to celebrate the love of lovers and the landscape in a single breathless swirling ball of lazy sensuality.
Sushant still plays his characters as eager to please, an early Shah Rukh Khan without a shrewd charm who allows the shrewd skill of being charming to show off on screen without fear of being called a show-off. Who other than Sushant among the current batch of 20 out of 30 male stars can get away with the chocolate cheese of a line like “Parts of me are chocolatey.”
Sushant’s co-star Kriti Sanon is remarkably free of inhibition. It gives off a fresh morning dew even in the most sweaty situations. And there can’t be more sweat than that: Sushant’s best friend Varun Sharma (the new Shakti Kapor in town) hooks up with a plump, parody soothsayer who looks at Ms. Sanon and growls, “You don’t get much sleep.” . You are haunted by nightmares’… Sanon looks back. If she can stare at Sushant’s false mistrust, what’s a fun card reader?
Raabta is fun to watch in the first half when Sushant and Sanon do a Befikre. It is when they approach the theme janam-janam ka saath Madhumati / Milan / Mehbooba that the clouds gather. And the problem is Jim Sarbh. Embodied in the key role of the arrogant lover who stalks Sanon from life to life, Sarbh, who was so brilliant and menacing as a terrorist in Neerja, lets out a performance whimper. Playing a liquor baron, he’s like a mug of beer without the froth. Wrong, he pronounces his lines of intense passion to Sanon as if reading the headlines of the newspapers.
If only the third angle of the supposedly stormy triangle was right! Nonetheless, the post-midst time regression in the past has both Sushant and Kriti undergoing an alluring makeover. Sushant even changes her voice to woo Kriti in a previous life. Their intense conflicts in the past located in an indeterminate tribal territory, convey a primitive immediacy.
The plot leaves room for humor even under the most difficult circumstances, and this is the USP of this alluring romantic comedy. For example, while Kriti’s Saira agonizes over his past life with Sushant, he remains blissfully oblivious to their past connections, preferring recreation over reincarnation, choosing flirtation over mediation, Ummm over Om. The fun element never gives up on the movie even when the three main characters are locked into an intense talk about the afterlife. Sadly, there are only three characters in the film that are worth talking about. Not to mention Rajkummar Rao who appears unrecognizable as an old man who looks like Vijay Raaz.
Its good. Mistake of identity is part of the playful game plan that rookie director Dinesh Vijan is devising to keep the theme of reincarnation from going dark. Raabta is fun most of the time. If only Jim had loosened up and had as much as Sushant and Sanon.
Maybe in another life?
Image source: IMDb