Rukh movie review: Manoj Bajpayee starrer is a jigsaw puzzle held together by tight screenplay
Rukh revolves around a boy who joins the dots in his father's death case. Manoj Bajpai, being the nuanced actor he is, brings a lot to the table in this film.
Rukh is not a Manoj Bajpayee film. The opening credits of Atanu Mukherjee's suspense drama declares this loud and clear: Bajpayee's is only a special appearance. It falls under the category of those rare films where a bigger name takes a backseat and allows a child artiste to anchor the ship.
Rukh revolves around Dhruv Mathur, played by Adarsh Gourav, who returns from his boarding school after a long gap of three years after learning about his father's demise. He is taken aback by how silent, and not shocked, his mother (played by Smita Tambe) and father's associates as if they had seen the tragedy coming. Though he did not share the best relationship with his father, he cannot help get to the bottom of the unresolved case and discovers unbelievable aspects of his father's life along the way.
Since the spotlight was not on Bajpayee, the film needed a solid performance by Gourav and an invested storyline to tide through. It more than delivers in those quarters. As we unravel the plot through Gourav's eyes, both his action and reactions play a crucial role in joining the dots. He acts as well as reacts so earnestly that his frustration becomes palpable. While his expressions scream pain of his father's death, his body language is aggressive which shows how wronged he feels after being left out of the case.
Smita Tambe is yet another charmer. Her expressions, like a typical mother, are loud but effective. Her face serves as a graffiti of emotions. Grief dominates naturally, given her husband's sudden death. But there is also a large patch of coming to terms with the loss. There are hints of fear too as she tries to brush certain aspects of their troubled married life under the carpet. And if you look closely, there is also some relief sprinkled all over her face which constantly tell us that she is glad it is all over.
But personally, this writer was appalled at her character not attempting to console Dhruv. Though she chose to conceal certain truths for her son's peace of mind, she could have easily gone the extra mile and lent her shoulder to him.
Bajpayee plays the father, the breadwinner and a co-owner of a leather factory. In most of the scenes, it is only his professional life that is exposed to the audience as that plays a crucial part in carrying the narrative forward.
But Bajpai, being the nuanced actor he is, brings a lot more to the table. In one of the most understated scenes of the film, he visits his old ailing father right before he dies in a car accident. Clearly, his relationship with his son can be paralleled to the bond he shared with his father before the latter retired.
Photos on the wall of his father's room suggest that he is a retired army man. Clearly, he would not have been able to devote much time to Bajpayee in his growing years. In the current setting, as they play a round of chess, Bajpayee's move takes his father by surprise. "Mere pas aur koi raasta nahi tha" (I did not have any other option), says Bajpayee, possibly taking a dig at his father's explanation of abandoning him in his childhood.
A call from Tambe prompts Bajpayee to abandon the chess game. When his father complains, he says "dobara shuru karenge" (we will start it all over again). These words hold great between-the-lines significance. It is not only his father's stance when he attempts to amend their relation but also Bajpayee's stance towards his son whom he sends away to a boarding school, depriving him of much-needed time with his family.
Stance, or 'rukh' as the title states, is a recurrent element of the story. Its transience and flexibility is stressed upon given all the universe's conspiracies take place under the table.
The film traces Dhruv's graph which has three inflection points. He changes his stance or rukh thrice in the film - when he is sent to the boarding school, when his father dies and when he discovers the reason of the death.
To reveal the plot further will be a disservice to the writer, Mukherjee's measured direction and Sanglap Bhowmick's crafty editing. While the pace gets leisurely and indulgent at multiple junctures; Pooja Gupte, with her cinematography, and Amit Trivedi, with his music, deserve credit too as they complement the screenplay commendably.
Gupte is solely responsible for capturing the contrast between the son's flabbergasted expressions and the mother's composed front. Gupte's role is mostly limited to the close-ups, besides a few good establishing shots, and she even manages to get us a glimpse into Kumud Mishra's (who also makes an extended 'special appearance') evil eyes.
Though Mishra is presumably briefed to play to a bad guy's books, he does so rather plainly. He brings little of his nuanced self to the limited role and relies majorly on what is 'perceived' to be a bad guy role.
Trivedi lends his vocals and brilliant composition skills to 'Khidki', ably supported by Sidhant Mago's lyrics. This song comes at the resolution point and declares it loud and clear that it is only when one struggles to push open all the windows that he discovers layers of the truth that eventually alter one's stance.
If there is any stance of this writer that he found challenged was that films do not need aggressive promotional campaigns to make a mark. All a powerful film needs is a good first impression through the trailer, which packs in a substantial chunk of the story, and the ability to tell much more which surprises the audience who choose to give it a chance.
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