RK/RKay movie review: An ambitious unravelling of an artist's mind
Updated: Jul 29, 2022
RK/RKay is the latest movie by Rajat Kapoor. To most people, Mr. Kapoor is more known as an actor, but he's actually a terrific auteur who's written and directed tremendously significant art films like Mithya, Aankhon Dekhi, and most recently Kadakh, to name a few. India isn't exactly the garden of eden when it comes to art films or filmmakers. Our mainstream audience doesn't usually enjoy such films, and Bollywood dutifully responds by producing "leave your brains at home" type stuff in bulk. While the lines between art and commerce in cinema should ideally be thinning with time, that's unfortunately not happening. And that makes it even more important to encourage movies like RK/RKay and filmmakers like Rajat Kapoor. They aren't just filling the gap, but also breaking new ground while at it.
RK/Rkay is a story of a director (RK, played by Rajat Kapoor) who's working on a new film. One day, he finds out that the lead character of his film - Mehboob Aalam (also played by Kapoor) - has escaped out of the film negatives and into the real world. Mehboob is essential to the film and RK tries to convince him to go back to it so the art-piece could be completed, but the character turns down the idea upon realising that the story has him dying at the end.
RK has two options: Change the ending of this film and agree to the whims of Mehboob, or let his film be incomplete. What would he choose?
Not just Mehboob, virtually everyone around RK also wants him to change the end because the "hero's death" doesn't make for a good watch, in their opinion. But will RK succumb to the pressure and compromise on his artistic integrity? Can he take this jab on his ego and "dumb his art" down by listening to others? Will he, for the first time, let his characters live a life of their own? This is the core of the movie.
I loved the idea. It's absolutely beautiful and intriguing! But as anyone can imagine, it's also extremely ambitious and there are a lot of ways in which it can go wrong. I was excited and also nervous, secretly feeling that Mr. Kapoor might just have chosen a target a bit too far this time. But as I watched the film, I was happy to see he mostly did just fine.
The performances are extraordinary. Mr. Kapoor has done a phenomenal job playing both RK and Mehboob, which are very different characters. Mallika Sherawat is terrific as Gulabo - Mehboob's love interest in the film inside the film. Ranvir Shorey is brilliant as usual in his small, but funny role as KN Singh - the archetypal villain in Mehboob's world. And so is everyone else, including Manu Rishi and Kubra Sait. Even the guest appearances are amazing, with special cheers to Namit Das for his hilarious 60 seconds. Incredible!
The edit feels a bit sloppy in the first half, but more than makes up for it in the second. The ending is simply brilliant and thought provoking, and the cinematography is beautiful and does its best to aid the magical realism of the plot. The music (there's one song) is disappointing in the minimal space it had for itself, and the background score is also not remarkable.
Overall, the movie lands very well, but not as a masterpiece it could have been. I still loved it though, because it opened me up to something I had never experienced before. Reminds me of something Martin Scorsese recently wrote in the NYT:
"For me, for the filmmakers I came to love and respect, for my friends who started making movies around the same time that I did, cinema was about revelation — aesthetic, emotional and spiritual revelation. It was about characters — the complexity of people and their contradictory and sometimes paradoxical natures, the way they can hurt one another and love one another and suddenly come face to face with themselves.
It was about confronting the unexpected on the screen and in the life it dramatized and interpreted, and enlarging the sense of what was possible in the art form."
I'm a bit late in suggesting you to watch the movie in theatres. Couldn't write the review earlier. Sorry! But yeah, please do watch the movie whenever it's out on streaming platforms. Cheers!
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