Creator: Sayantan Mukherjee
Directors: Srijit Mukherji, Abhishek Chaubey, Vasan Bala
Cast: Manoj Bajpayee, Ali Fazal, Kay Kay Menon, Harshvardhan Kapoor, Radhika Madan, Gajraj Rao, Chandan Roy Sanyal, Bidita Bag, Shweta Basu Prasad
Streaming on: Netflix
A great storyteller’s stories remain relevant for ages. Netflix’s latest anthology Ray is an adaptation of four short stories by the legendary Satyajit Ray. First two Forget Me Not and Bahrupiya are directed by Srijit Mukherji, the third Hungama Hai Kyon Barpa (HHKB) is directed by Abhishek Chaubey, and the fourth one Spotlight is directed by Vasan Bala. It will be unfair to judge which one is the best of the lot because one is drastically different from the other. Will try to make a note of what stayed with me after the viewing.
Ray is not a binge watching experience for the sheer volume of complexities it deals with. Each story is set in a world within a world. These are not short films either, going by the definition of short films – 40 minutes or less including credits. Each segment (or episode) of Ray is nearly an hour long. It starts with a kinetic of sorts Forget Me Not. It has the magnetic presence of Ali Fazal. His performance is a world unto itself. Superb production design, cinematography, sound and editing take his performance a few notches higher, making the segment a hypnotic experience.
Speaking of production design and cinematography, the film that stands out is Abhishek Chaubey’s segment HHKB starring Manoj Bajpayee and Gajraj Rao in a jugalbandi of acting. It has the Wes Anderson like look and feel and an equally quirky character of a kleptomaniac. This is the most lighthearted film of the anthology and of Chaubey’s filmography as well. Considering these films were made during the pandemic. Thankfully the jugaad doesn’t reflect in the final output.
Srijit Mukherji’s second segment Bahrupiya starring Kay Kay Menon is the darkest tale of the lot. A dejected commoner makes use of his gift of prosthetics skills to achieve what he couldn’t otherwise. It’s a vicious circle – what goes around, comes back to you. Kay Kay doesn’t make his different getups come across as caricatures. The struggle for identity is real and the end might be visually disturbing for some.
The last segment, Spotlight by Vasan Bala is a genre piece of its own. Bala’s whacky vision tries to blend two drastically different yet in a way similar people cross paths with each other. One is a spiritual guru (Radhika Madan) and the other one is a Bollywood star (Harshvardhan Kapoor). The film is about films. a lot of meta going on, which if you’re not a film buff will leave you clueless. Bala has his Vikram Arora (Kapoor) referencing Madonna, Kafla, Bachchan, David Lynch, to The Dude from Coen Brothers’ The Big Lebowski. The film is slightly scattered but Bala wraps it up nicely in the last 10 minutes or so. Kapoor’s Vik stays with you. Harshvardhan who played a version of himself in his last outing AK vs AK, gets into the character well. But there’s still a long way to go for him as a performer.