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Siraj Syed

Siraj Syed is the India Correspondent for and a member of FIPRESCI, the International Federation of Film Critics. He is a Film Festival Correspondent since 1976, Film-critic since 1969 and a Feature-writer since 1970. 



Raaz Reboot: Exorcise in futility

Raaz Reboot: Exorcise in futility

When the best things in a horror/supernatural film are its songs, it does not augur well. A few days before the release of Raaz Reboot (they use that in the title? I thought ‘reboot’ was a word copyrighted to journalists and IT whiz kids!) the Bhatt threesome—brothers Mahesh and Mukesh and protege Vikram—announced that Raaz 4 (now, that sounds better) would be the last instalment in the series. Foresight for sure. Raaz (Hindi/Urdu for Secret) 1, 2 and 3 must have raked in enough moolah to spur a fourth go. This one, however, is no go, and for those innocent moviegoers like me, who have not been privy to the three earlier secrets, it makes a strong case for avoiding editions 1-3. Talking about avoiding, Raaz Reboot watchers planning an east European tour will avoid Romania in general and Transylvania in particular. Blame it on Dracula? Nooh la la! This is a Hindi film, so the evil spirit is given a north Indian name: Aditya Shrivastav.

Aditya (Emraan Hashmi) is not a blood-drinking vampire. But he is only seen after half the film. Till then, we follow the happenings in the Khanna couple’s life. Rehaan (Gaurav Arora) and Shaina (Kriti Kharbanda) meet in Romania, get married, come back to India, go back to Romania because Rehaan gets a top job in an East European bank (why? how?), and move into a castle mansion, no less. Gaurav goes into a shell, while Shaina wants a baby. He is hiding a dark secret, while she gets possessed by a ghost.

Their only Indian friends, a young couple like them, try to mediate, but Shaina’s possession only gets stronger. A psychometric is found, also an Indian, who tells them that the supernatural being inhabiting Shaina’s body is an immensely powerful entity. Suddenly one day, Shaina meets Aditya, a fashion photographer, a blast from her past, who knows about all her present problems, and tells her that Rehaan is the cause of all her suffering. Desperate to get Shaina released from the clutches of the ‘force’, Rehaan, his two friends and the psychometric*, who is blind, decide to exorcise the ghost, using both Christian and Hindu chants.

(Psychometry is a psychic ability in which a person can sense or "read" the history of an object by touching it. Such a person can receive impressions from an object by holding it in his/her hands or, perhaps, touching it to the forehead. Such impressions can be perceived as images, sounds, smells, tastes - even emotions. For example, a person who has psychometric abilities - a psychometrist - can hold an antique glove and be able to tell something about the history of that glove, about the person who owned it, about the experiences that person had while in the possession of that glove.—Stephen Wagner)

Written by Vikram Bhatt (Aetbaar, Hate Story, Ankur Arora Murder Case, Khamoshiyan) in part old-school film-making style and part tribute to films in the supernatural genre, especially The Exorcist, Raaz Reboot gets boring on the first platform and patchy on the second. A false chord is struck right in the beginning, when the couple arrives in Romania, with the husband hamming and the wife getting hysterical. This is compounded by the voice-over by the husband, which tells you that his secret is key to the events that are about to unfold, and then you have to wait for 110 minutes for his confessional. Another ploy that fails is the time-scale captions that take the story back and forth, over a month or two, probably corresponding to the actual shooting dates, in early 2016.

Perhaps he wanted to appeal to Indian married women in the audiences with his illogical over-glorification of the mangal-sutra (the chain of black beads and diamonds, worn by many Indian women, as a sign of being married), by substituting it for a cross that wards off evil spirits in many Hollywood blood-curdlers—sadly for him, what he gets, in response, are chuckles and guffaws. Bhatt writes out his scenes with loads of supposedly explanatory but actually meandering dialogue, limiting visual communication to little more than gratis horror. Just as he keeps repeating the images with special effects and hideous face-forms, dialogue writer Girish Dhamija often pens two similar successive sentences to say the same thing, the second one completely redundant.

As director, Bhatt (Jaanam, Fareb, Ghulam, Raaz 1 and 3, Love Games) lets the film stray in too many directions, and, not surprisingly, it goes nowhere. Loose ends and loopholes abound, and horror for horror’s sake is the flavour of the day. There’s the semblance of a plot, only it is spread wafer thin for the most part, and then unpeeled, layer by layer, in the second half. Why he sets the story in Transylvania is something only he knows, unless he wanted to take Bram Stoker’s legend head on, on Count Dracula’s home turf, at -15°, minus the vampire bit. So, again, why Romania? Except for two bare back shots, and some mildly simulated bedding, there is no nudity at all. Once he gets into the ‘one body, two souls’ territory, Bhatt lets the loose character shoot out a barrage of ‘f’ words, which even his other actors mouth without any compunction whatsoever.

Emraan Hashmi (Murder 1 and 2, Gangster, Jannat 1 and 2, Once Upon A Time in Mumbaai, The Dirty Picture, Azhar) is the one constant factor in all four outings of Raaz. He has acted in the last three, and was an assistant director on Raaz, the original. Confident and mature, he battles for a lost cause here. Even his trade-mark, probing kisses are not likely to turn on many viewers. Gaurav Arora has been repeated after Love Games. Not having been a spectator to that sport, I can only say that he has a good physique but very limited hero material in his face. A three-film contract with the Bhatts must be a lucky break for Arora.

Kriti Kharbanda, though a Punjabi by birth, has come via the South Indian cinema route, launching her career with Raaz Reboot. Earlier, Suzanna Mukherjee was tipped for the part. She has the looks, with just those dashes of Anooradha Patel, Tisca Chopra and Madhuri Dixit in her visage, and back that nobody would want to back away from. However, the existential question she might now face is, “Where do I go after playing a tossed around, expletive mouthing, possessed wife, in a ‘scary’ film that has sent shivers only down the box-office?”

Caludia Susanu does a good job as the Gypsy card-reader. Madhu Anand Chandhock gets one scene on Skype, as a mother. From the supporting cast, the friend couple are serviceable, the priest passable, the psychometrist workman-like and Vlad Udrescu in a sit-on, stand-on part.

Visuals and music are the redeeming factors of Raaz Reboot. Kausar Munir has penned some easily identifiable lyrics, in her usual informal and abrupt style, which used to be reminiscent of Gulzar, but has now evolved into a form quite her own. Arijit Singh is up to the melodic challenge, with soulful vocals. Jeet Gannguli, and the brother duo Sangeet Haldipur-Siddharth Haldipur, have composed the score. A theme, based entirely on classical western symphony, is played a hundred times, and the background music, though apt, is an ear-sore, blasted as it is, continually, at deafening decibels.

Some secrets are best kept that way. Revealing them or unravelling them can be an exorcise in futility.

Rating: ** (Only just)


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About Siraj Syed

Syed Siraj
(Siraj Associates)

Siraj Syed is a film-critic since 1970 and a Former President of the Freelance Film Journalists' Combine of India.

He is the India Correspondent of and a member of FIPRESCI, the international Federation of Film Critics, Munich, Germany

Siraj Syed has contributed over 1,015 articles on cinema, international film festivals, conventions, exhibitions, etc., most recently, at IFFI (Goa), MIFF (Mumbai), MFF/MAMI (Mumbai) and CommunicAsia (Singapore). He often edits film festival daily bulletins.

He is also an actor and a dubbing artiste. Further, he has been teaching media, acting and dubbing at over 30 institutes in India and Singapore, since 1984.

Bandra West, Mumbai


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