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Oct 23, 2010 at 05:38pm IST

Masand: 'Rakta Charitra' is bold and disturbing

Cast: Vivek Oberoi, Abhimanyu Singh, Shatrughan Sinha

Director: Ramgopal Varma

With Rakta Charitra, his first film in a planned two-part biopic of famed gangster-turned-politician Paritala Ravi, filmmaker Ramgopal Varma returns to solid ground.

Set in the 90s in the Anantpur district of Andhra Pradesh, this violent tale of betrayal and revenge stars Vivek Oberoi as Pratap Ravi, a young student who swears revenge after his father and brother are killed by his father’s political mentor. The film follows Ravi as he takes down his enemies one by one, and is ultimately adopted by a politician (modeled after NT Rama Rao) who takes him under his wing.

Meant strictly for viewers who aren’t turned off by gore, Rakta Charitra is a relentlessly violent vendetta saga from a director who clearly enjoys shocking his audience. Scene after scene characters are killed in the most gruesome encounters, which include limbs being chopped off by sickle, a drill being driven into a skull, throats being slit, and gunshots delivered to the head.

Returning to one of his favourite themes – the connection between crime and politics – Varma uses many of the same tools he’s employed before: a deafening background score, gravity-defying camera angles and a roster of menacing-looking character actors. Fortunately Rakta Charitra is a more assured effort from the filmmaker, whose movies had become predictable lately. The fact that it’s a real-life story lends weight to the film and makes it more intriguing. What also helps the film enormously is strong acting.

Abhimanyu Singh is the star of the show with a standout performance as the despicable Bukka Reddy, a man who pushes the boundaries of depravity with his merciless, unsparing attitude. Vivek Oberoi oozes confidence and doesn’t miss a beat as he goes from a restless, angry young man to a shrewd political player. Even Shatrughan Sinha in a smaller part, as the actor-turned-politician who takes Ravi in, offers a restrained but memorable performance.

On the flip side, Rakta Charitra jars on account of a bothersome voice-over, and the unending violence threatens to reduce the film to a string of killings in search of a plot. The motives behind much of the action in the film feel simplistic occasionally, and the degree of violence itself is likely to turn off even the brave-hearts.

Yet in the end, Rakta Charitra is compelling and draws you into its drama. The second film, due at the cinemas in a few weeks from now, will focus on Ravi’s clash with the nemesis who ultimately kills him: Suri, played by Tamil star Suriya.

I’m going with three out of five for director Ramgopal Varma’s Rakta Charitra. It’s a bold, disturbing film that’s bursting with the kind of confidence we haven’t seen from the filmmaker recently. If the sight of blood doesn’t make you uncomfortable, chances are you’ll enjoy this film.

Rating: 3 / 5

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