Movie Sleuth Exclusives: Rakkhosh (2019) Reviewed

Rakkhosh is India’s first complete POV (point of view) film, as well as, technically the world’s first POV film shot with an appropriate cinema camera set up, and I must say it makes for an interesting medium – although in this film it could have made for a much scarier experience if the set design and lighting was used in a darker setting. Rakkhosh is directed by the Filmfare award-winning film editor of the acclaimed box-office hit "Queen" and co-directed by Srivinay Salian who has also written the screenplay.

The story takes place in an asylum, is a first person account of a schizophrenic patient who shares fellow inmates’ fear of a bogeyman/ malevolent force called ‘Rakkhosh’, the cause of several disappearances from the asylum. Being a first person narrative, the producers took up the challenge of choosing the point of view film option, where the protagonist is the camera itself and therefore is never visible. This works to an extent.

Rakkhosh starts in the asylum, introducing us to the main characters who would later dominate the paradigm of the story, but it is a very slow burner with subtitles. Once it gets going, though, we are sucked into a cat and mouse game of whodunit as well as whodeservesit, so to speak. Much of the dialogue comes across as repetitive, even in context, and so are the circumstances, leaving the audience feeling a sense of déjà vu once too often. Our main character, Birsa, is never seen as it is through his point of view we experience the bizarre revelations of the film and his voice acting is done by Namit Das (last seen in Pataakha, 2018).

Our journey with Birsra is more than attempts at escaping and playing witness to the drawing of each prospective victim. We see through his eyes, the hostile villainy of an abusive father and brother which is effectively disturbing when seen through first person eyes. These pitiless acts of abuse leaves you contemplating whether emotional trauma alone could effectively induce what is clinically called ‘mental illness’ or if one has to be predisposed for mental breaks like schizophrenia and such. The stigmas involved is a rare subject for Indian cinema, making these themes rather unprecedented for this kind of film.

Eventually we follow Birsa to another level of his treatment which reveals a more deep-seated plot that is pleasantly brutal, a well-deserved bit of ruckus we deserve after having to sit through the musical interludes and monotonous character establishment.

The acting ensemble is one of the strong suits of this movie, as the supporting cast is made up of plenty of prominent actors in Indian cinema, most of whose films have featured at Cannes and garnered status as Oscar entries from India. However, if you are not used to Indian cinema and its tendency to break out into song every few scenes, you might want to get a heads-up. It feels unnecessary, but it is important to remember that this is part of Indian cinema in general.

Of all the details of the film before viewing, I would have to say that only the climax pushes it (barely) into the horror genre. If you are looking for a terrifying ride like The Other Side of the Door, this film will disappoint you utterly, because it fails to scare even in the least. I blame that on the director and director of photography’s lack of imagination when it comes to the technical importance of lighting. In my opinion, a first person rendition of a descent into a twisted world of experimentation and murder in a run-down facility could have been a terror treasure, but alas, Rakkhosh leaves the lights on.

While Rakkhosh is currently in its festival run, we'd suggest checking it out when it hits the market. It's at least something different. 

-Tasha Danzig