India's Most Wanted: Ranking all Raj Kumar Gupta films, from No One Killed Jessica to Raid
India's Most Wanted director Rajkumar Gupta has made a range of thrillers, from the 2011 crime thriller No One Killed Jessica to the 2018 procedural thriller Raid.
Raj Kumar Gupta has a knack for thrillers. All his films, though liberally dramatised for effect, are not far from reality, given he employs a lot of theater actors, shoots at live locations, and relies on the inherent drama of life to spruce up his script.
Ahead of his next thriller, an espionage drama this time, we rank all the four films he has directed so far. His fifth film, India's Most Wanted, starring Arjun Kapoor in the central role of an Intelligence Bureau officer, is reportedly based on India's biggest manhunt, of Yasin Bhatkal. It is slated to release this Friday on 24 May.
Here is a list of Gupta's past films, ranked on the basis of how effectively they achieved what they had set out for.
No One Killed Jessica
Rani Mukerji perching herself on top of the bonnet of her editor's car and screaming, "Justice has been denied! You can live with it, I will not!" gave me journalist goals.
Much before the fiery feminist became a trope, Rani played a feisty journalist with a steely resolve and an acerbic tongue. Her character, fresh off reporting the Kargil War on field, considers the infamous Jessica Lal murder to be an open-and-shut case before she comes across the front page headline of a national daily: "No One Killed Jessica". It is a terrific interval point to Raj Kumar Gupta's 2011 investigative thriller, that was equally engaging in its parts of rage (Rani in full Mardaani-mode) and in its parts of quietude (thanks to the felt portrayal of Sabrina Lal by Vidya Balan). Amit Trivedi's in-your-face music served as a perfect ode to the unforgiving city of New Delhi. Rajesh Sharma, as the chief investigating officer, diluted the grim overtones of the film through his hilarious reactions to witness accounts. But the looming helplessness in the narrative only showed how flawed the system was, and that the joke was actually on us.
Ajay Devgn brought both superstar energy and the gravitas of a true blue performer to his role of a high-ranking Income Tax department officer. Given his measured approach as an actor, Devgn and Raj Kumar Gupta were a combination waiting to happen. Add to that the immensely entertaining writing and hard-hitting yet witty dialogues by Ritesh Shah. Gupta's 2018 procedural thriller debunked most myths associated with an IT raid. If one thought the raid procedure that the conmen in Neeraj Panday's 2013 film Special 26 followed was as real as it could get, Raid proved it wrong. The monotony of the raids did not take away from the hugely entertaining performance that Saurabh Shukla put in as the antagonist Tauji, at whose bungalow the raid is conducted. Though the narrative had ample sharp twists and turns, the underwhelming climax did not really put an exclamation point to the thrilling ride that Gupta's Raid was.
Gupta's directorial debut was a never-seen-before thriller shot at breakneck speed, at live locations and with dizzying camera angles. Interestingly, it released a year before Anurag Kashyap's groundbreaking Dev.D, which also incorporated all these elements into the narrative. Aamir, unlike Dev.D, catered to mainstream sensibilities as it was a nail-biting crime thriller with an interesting premise. Popular TV actor Rajiv Khandelwal, who also made his debut with this film, went for an image makeover when he played a common Muslim man who gets blackmailed to plant a bomb in Mumbai. The icing on the cake was Amit Trivedi's psychedelic music. Interestingly, Aamir was also Trivedi's debut as a music composer. Since it was the launch pad of three talented forces, Aamir cannot be termed as their best work yet. But for its times, it was an unprecedented gritty, raw thriller waiting to be made.
With Ghanchakkar, Gupta took the quirky humour that Rajesh Sharma's character brought to No One Killed Jessica and amplified it into a full blown comedy. Along with Sharma, he also roped in Vidya Balan, who proved her versatility by taking up the role of a sexually empowered Punjabi wife, a far cry from her understated act of a young woman, whose sister was shot dead in full public view, in No One Killed Jessica. Emraan Hashmi also felt like a breath of fresh air amidst all the Mukesh Bhatt romantic dramas he was carrying on his shoulders back in 2013. Unlike all of Gupta's other films, Ghanchakkar was more a comedy than a thriller. While the humour landed occasionally, the entire plot of the film was driven by a mystery that eventually turned out to be so ridiculous that one could not wrap one's head around it. The film went on in circles and ended up running into the wall after a terribly improbable climax.
All images from YouTube.
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