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Laal Rang of Randeep Hoda is not catching as its topic

Director: Syed Ahmed Afzal
Cast: Randeep Hooda, Akshay Oberoi, Rajniesh Duggall, Pia Bajpai, Meenakshi Dixit, Shreya Narayan, Rajendra Sethi

As the name suggests of the movie, there will be blood. In a film about blood banks, donors and stealers, and greedy smugglers, of course, there are rivers of the good red stuff: you can’t get away from it.

You also can’t get over the feeling of abject waste when a good subject is bled so much that lifelessness results.

But I have to say that watching Hooda I did think of this fabulous Brazilian Portuguese word I learned recently: cafuné. It’s the act of running your fingers through your lover’s hair. Hooda does it to himself, and that self-love, amour-propre, is very sexy. Now to get to the task at hand: Laal Rang.

Laal Rang is a scary, well-researched film loosely inspired by incidents in 2002 involving the illegal trade of blood. It’s an investigation into, and an expose of this very dangerous and scary trade. It’s a story about hospitals, syringes, many bags of blood with dangling bloody tubes, men in masks and coats, path labs, critical patients and desperate family members.

The film’s undoing is what seems to be confusion over the tone it wants to achieve. And so, although large parts of the narrative have a very apt, realistic feel to them, Laal Rang never becomes as gritty as it needed to be because of its tendency to intermittently wander off into long, loud songs supplemented by stylized, slow motion shots. The insistent background score is used to underline every single emotion, twist and turn as if for fear that the audience may miss the point.

Relevant topics translate into good films when they are peopled with human beings that we become completely involved with. That does not happen here. There is a distant feel to Laal Rang, the air of a newspaper reporter recounting a corruption scandal as a detached observer would and should, rather than an insider’s account, which is what this is supposed to be.

There is a memorable moment early in Laal Rang when Shankar hails a cycle rickshaw, and in an aerial shot shows us every single rickshaw puller on that street immediately freezing at his summons. They do it out of choice and not for fear of him, as we soon find out.

One of the poor men tells Rajesh that they consider Shankar God (the choice of divine name for the character even comes up for a mention at one point). Later we realize that all the men in that scene were probably professional donors PDs whose impoverished existence was greatly improved by the extra money Shankar’s business brings in.

The film needed more of that kind of material minus the overdone music. Laal Rang tells us a lot about the fraudulent operations of the country’s blood banks. Wish it had got us to feel invested in the lives of the men and women who run the fraud, especially the likes of Shankar and Rajesh who have a straight path staring them in the face yet choose a crooked way.

This film has many interesting individual elements but fails to lift off in its entirety. So yes, Randeep Hooda is hot, butLaal Rang is not.

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