Friday, September 07, 2012

Raaz 3: The Bhatts Do 3D

The Bhatts are back and they are Bhattier than ever.  Shortly after giving the world Sunny Leone’s mainstream-ish debut, India’s sensationalistic filmmaking family has returned with the first Bollywood horror movie to receive an R rating from the MPAA.  Not to worry, it is almost entirely for scenes of supernatural terror.  There is plenty of uncanny skullduggery afoot in Vikram Bhatt’s thematic stand-alone sequel Raaz 3 (trailer here), which opens today in New York.

Shenaya Shekhar used to be the hottest thing going in Bollywood, but she got ever so slightly older.  Now, it is the younger, cuter Sanjana Krishnan who gets all the plum parts and awards.  That does not sit well with Shekhar, who also carries a deeper grudge against the oblivious starlet, for reasons which will be revealed in good time.  Not exactly a model of emotional stability, Shekhar is ripe for the enticement of the dark side.

The demonic Taradutt is always willing to make a deal and Shekhar is definitely someone he can do business with.  Her goals are simple: to preserve her celebrity status and make Krishnan suffer. Taradutt is happy to oblige with some black magic.  However, her rival will need frequent doses of his soul enslaving potion.  The Mickey-slipping job will fall to Aditya Arora, Shekhar’s indebted lover who happens to be directing Krishnan’s next picture.  Though guilt-wracked, Arora complies, only to find himself falling for Krishnan as she succumbs to Taradutt’s evil influence.

If you are going to see a Bhatt-helmed film, go to one of Vikram’s supernatural forays rather than Pooja’s naughty melodramas.  As far as horror-paranormal romance crossovers go, Raaz 3 has its moments.  The scenes involving Hindu deities and demons work rather well, making a nice change of pace from typically materialistic horror films.  Since its characters work in Bollywood, the film can also sneak in dance numbers in ways that do not sacrifice verisimilitude.  Still, the cast is stuck with some absolute howlers in Shagufta Rafique’s script and nobody’s performance is exactly subtle in the first place.

Give her credit though, Bipasha Basu vamps it up something fierce as Shekhar, always in cleavage emphasizing wardrobe that must have restricted the poor woman’s breathing.  Anything for art.  At least she gets it.  Emraan Hashmi just lacks presence as Arora.  Instead of a tortured brooder, he just looks somewhat nauseous.  In the innocent victim role, Esha Gupta’s Krishnan is sorely underwritten, but she is aces in her big dance number.

Cinematographer Pravin Bhatt gets the dark and stormy atmospherics right, but the CGI is of sub-Hollywood standards.  Frankly, the 3D is also completely unnecessary here.  The only instances where it really works are during the musical interludes.  Most of the time, it is more of a distraction than an enhancement.  For Bollywood fans, the songs are palatable, but not distinctive.

Bipasha Basu’s demon-loving diva could go toe-to-toe with Eva Green’s Angelique Bouchard in Burton’s Dark Shadows reboot.  They are the real reasons to see both films, which is definitely something in either case.  Recommended for those who enjoy a campy, larger-than-life star-turn rather than for likely to be disappointed horror genre fans, Raaz 3 opens today in New York, with the 2D version playing at the Big Cinemas Manhattan 1 and the 3D running at the AMC Empire.  It also opens in the Bay Area, with 3D screenings at the AMC Mercado and Cinemark Union City, with the 2D showing at the Fremont Big Cities 7.