Roy Hindi Movie Review
In debut director Vikramjit Singh's Roy, every character is an armchair philosopher. Everyone talks in a cryptic yet cliche manner, giving their insights about life, love and finding your own happiness. In these moments of heavy and unnecessary dialogue, Roy looks like it might buckle under its own weight of self-indulgence. Thankfully, that's not what happens.
The film's main protagonist is Kabir Grewal (Arjun Rampal), a writer/director who's more in the news than even his film's actors, mostly for his hook-ups. He's always with a matching hat on his head and a cigarette in his hand, preferring a typewriter over a laptop to write his scripts. He's in the process of writing and filming the third film in his popular "Guns" franchise, but seems to be suffering from a writers block. That is, until he comes across his muse.
This muse is Ayesha Aamir (Jacqueline Fernandez), a London-based filmmaker who dapples with more serious filmmaking. It is in his interactions with Ayesha that Kabir finds his film's story, and ends up falling for her in the process.
Kabir's film (within the film) follows the escapades of an international master thief Roy (Ranbir Kapoor in "a dynamic role", as the opening credits put it), a loner thief that he had come across as a child when he was on-site of a bank being robbed by Roy, an incident that left an indelible impact on his mind.
Roy also happens to fall in love with Tia (Jacqueline Fernandez once again), a rich loner woman who owns one half of a priceless set of paintings.
Even though the film has been portrayed and promoted as a suspense film, it is an out-and-out romantic drama. Having said that, you might want to put aside any and all preconceived notions that you might have about a romantic drama film. Roy is a film with substance, a film about something and yet nothing at all, a film that is twisted and yet fairly straightforward, a film that tries to trick your mind and yet serenade your heart.
The film has fantastic first half, probably one of the strongest that I've seen in recent times. It wastes absolutely no time in shifting the plot to Malaysia, where all the cogs are put into motion to run a well-built, well-oiled machine. The film blurs the line between reality and flight of imagination, with Roy's life mirroring the story of Kabir's film, and the film's story mirroring Kabir's current state of mind.
Sure, the film has a few contrivances now and then and Jacqueline Fernandez randomly breaks into a ballet performance on a beach, but the treatment given by Vikramjit Singh is realistic, which is what makes you turn a blind eye to some of the film's sillier elements. The strong suit of the film is Kabir as a character, who acts both as subject and narrator. Individually, either of the two love stories aren't particularly strong, but it's the way that they're interwoven is what makes the proceedings fascinating to watch.
You can almost imagine both the writer and the director in Vikramjit Singh giving a sly, knowing grin as he systematically plants doubts in your mind about what is real and what is a work of fiction. It's this mind game that keeps you alert and your eyes glued to the screen.
But alas, the film is one more addition to the long list of Bollywood films that have fallen prey to The Curse of The Second Half. After having done all the hard work and beautifully set up all the cards on the table to be unfolded, Vikramjit Singh has no idea how to take the film forward to a desired ending. The creative decisions that he makes thereupon are suspect at best and "Dear God, why!" at worst.
Ranbir Kapoor goes missing in action for a while, Jacqueline Fernandez is scarcely on screen and Arjun Rampal's growing beard is put centrestage amidst a dwindling plot about broken hearts and more unsolicited philosophical dialogue. He also realizes that he still has a couple of songs left that he hasn't used yet and crams in 3 songs in the last half hour. More disappointingly, the mystery that was so beautifully set up in the first half is not only revealed in the second half, but the answer is literally written on a piece of paper and slid under your door, so that there's absolutely no doubt left in your mind.
Also, the film's climax is a huge cop out on the young director's part, playing it safe when he could've gone for a more suitable, bolder ending for all the characters. But unlike most films that get completely buried by the aforementioned curse, Roy gets battered and bruised and sliced and splayed, but still manages to come out the other side alive and breathing.
A lot of the film's successful moments belong not to the actors, but to Vikramjit Singh and cinematographer Himman Dhamija. Singh's vision for the film was an ambitious one by Bollywood standards, trying to tell an old-fashioned tale of love within a completely unique and fresh narrative structure. And his vision is executed with a certain visual flair by Dhamija, capturing the seas and beaches of Malaysia tastefully in gorgeous bluish and grayish hues. The ballet scene on the beach would've normally had you sighing in your seat with impatience, but the way that it has been shot, with all the grace and beauty in the world, makes it a worthy if illogical addition to the film.
Vikramjit Singh particularly manages to impress you with the restraint that he exhibits. For a debut writer/director with a sizeable budget at his disposal and big name stars agreeing to star in his film, it would've been easy for him to get carried away and end up making a flashy and pretentious film. Instead, the few bad decisions that he makes in the second half can be traced back to uncertainty and lack of experience rather than the amount of money that he could spend on the film.
The film boasts of the rare feat of having a great soundtrack, with the exception of Babydoll's cousin song "Chittiyaan Kalaiyaan". The thumping EDM track "Sooraj Dooba Hai", the soulful "Tu Hai Ki Nahi", the sultry "Boond Boond" and the passionate "Yaara Re" are all memorable songs, to say the least. The editing by Dipika Kalra could've been tighter and less haphazard towards the concluding moments of the film.
Arjun Rampal leads the cast as the film's narrator and creator in a way, and does a fairly good job at it. He's fun and free-spirited in the film's lively first half, and suitably expressionless and impassive in the second half as he goes through emotional turmoil. What is even more impressive to see is that he (almost) manages to hold the film together as the main focus in the uneven third act.
Ranbir Kapoor has gained a lot of respect in my eyes after this film, and not because of his performance. Sure, he's fairly watchable in an uncharacteristic, subdued role which requires him to keep a straight face through everything, which isn't his strong suit. But what impressed me more is him even agreeing to take on this role in the first place. Considering that he is the topmost star in the industry right now and has considerably less screen time than Arjun Rampal in the movie, him doing this film gives you hope that there could possibly be a slightly brighter future ahead for Bollywood.
Jacqueline Fernandez is.... better than her previous performances and certainly looks the part of both an idealistic filmmaker and a rich woman (???). She does a better job as the spunkier Ayesha, and looks absolutely gorgeous as both, but it is by no means an impressive effort on her part.
Roy isn't a perfect film. On the contrary, it has more than its fare share of flaws, especially in the latter half of the film. But despite all of that, it's hard to let go of the riveting first half and the idea that the film so beautifully holds at its center. Aided by respectable central performances, a catchy soundtrack, eloquent visuals and a very impressive debut as writer and director for Vikramjit Singh, Roy is a great date-night option for the Valentine's Day weekend.