Saturday, April 29, 2006

Punjabi antenna
Mixed fare

Randeep Wadehra

A still from Darshan Rahi’s Rano
A still from Darshan Rahi’s Rano

Irrespective of the language in which these are produced, masala movies are popular in our country. So, how can the Punjabi film industry be any different? However, if the masala is not good enough the recipe can go awry. Some such thing has happened with writer-director Darshan Rahi’s VCD flick Rano. It starts off as a love affair between (d`E9j`E0 vu!) progeny of two feuding families Jeeta (Bittoo Chabbra) and Rano (Sandip Malli). Billa (Bobby Ghai), supported by Bakhtawar (Dr. Ranjit) and Sarpanch (Shavinder Malhi), wants to usurp Rano’s property by marrying her. Suddenly the tale takes a twist when Rano dies in the aftermath of a rape bid.

Who killed Rano? There are three obvious suspects with at least one more possibility – trappings of a heart-stopping thriller. Enter Vinod Sharma as the local thanedar. Just when one perks up in expectation of a nerve-tingling investigation and manhunt, Rano’s avenging ghost appears. Thence the story goes downhill with the inspector reduced to sending bodies of dead persons for post mortem or mouthing paraphrased dialogues from Sholay.

While Dr Ranjit gives a seasoned performance as village toughie, Vinod Sharma’s talent has been wasted. Shavinder Malhi as sarpanch is okay but Bittoo is misfit as hero. Ghai looks too cute ‘n’ frail to be a convincing baddie. Sandip and Baljit Virk (as Jassi) are pretty lasses whose talent occasionally flashes.

While the camerawork is not bad, unimaginative and repeated use of stock shots of Rano’s ghost irritate. Lyrics and music are pedestrian.

As the movie ends, one is left wondering why the writer-director changed course so often and reduced a potentially appetising whodunit to a tasteless hotchpotch of dal makhnee, halwa and sarson da saag,

This column has often bemoaned the indifferent quality of TV productions. Concerned producers often pass on the buck to channels. Since this movie is being distributed as VCD, its makers have no alibis or scapegoats to evade the blame for a below-par offering. It is time they stopped taking viewers for granted. The exposure to quality cinema has made people rather finicky. They want nothing but the best. Hope Rahi and others of his ilk are listening.