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Film review: Laal Rang’s screenplay is excellent but story plods along too slowly

Randeep Hooda, with his swagger, brooding looks and immaculate Haryanvi accent, looms large in every scene.
Randeep Hooda, right, stars as a criminal who makes his fortune selling blood illegally. Courtesy of Laal Rang
Randeep Hooda, right, stars as a criminal who makes his fortune selling blood illegally. Courtesy of Laal Rang

Laal Rang

Directed by: Syed Ahmad Afzal

Starring: Randeep Hooda, Akshay Oberoi, Piaa Bajpai

Two and a half stars

Inspired by real-life events and set in the town of Karnal, Haryana, Syed Ahmad Afzal’s Laal Rang (The Colour Red) is a dark thriller that takes on one of India’s biggest but little-known social evils – blood theft.

The main characters, the young and impressionable Rajesh (Akshay Oberoi) and crime kingpin Shankar (Randeep Hooda) are both enrolled in a college of the sciences that is linked to a blood bank – which forms the base of Shankar’s murky trade. The business is built upon stealing blood from government-run banks and selling it on the black market to private clinics. To compensate for what’s taken, Shankar uses a network of professional donors who sell their blood at a fraction of the cost.

After a chance meeting, Oberoi is drawn to Shankar’s flashy lifestyle and quickly becomes his understudy.

Predictably, the friendship between the two men begins to grow; then, as the protégée finds success, shades of jealousy and rebellion creep in. But the actors make up for the lame subplot with their strong performances. Hooda, with his swagger, brooding looks and immaculate Haryanvi accent, looms large in every scene. But Oberoi manages to hold his own, portraying a man with limited resources but plenty of ambition. Playing Oberoi’s love interest, in a small but defining role, is Piaa Bajpai, who portrays a fellow student.

This is director Syed Ahmad Afzal’s second venture, after Youngistaan in 2014. While the screenplay is excellent – especially in the first half when the scene is set and the deplorable practice of blood theft explained – the story plods along slowly. Some scenes feel drab and stretched-out – such as when Shankar is reminiscing about his lost love, and one incredibly boring chase sequence involving the police and one of Shankar’s associates. Even the dialogue – much of it in the linguistically fertile Haryanvi dialect – could have been punchier.

But credit goes to the cinematography, realistic sets and the formidable talent of the supporting actors – portraying blood donors, corrupt officials and crooked doctors. Especially commendable is Rajneesh Duggal, portraying a tough cop committed to shutting Shankar’s business down, and Rajendra Sethi as a spineless blood-bank manager.

• Laal Rang is in cinemas now. Hindi, with English subtitles

artslife@thenational.ae

Updated: April 25, 2016 04:00 AM

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