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Siraj Syed


Siraj Syed is the India Correspondent for FilmFestivals.com 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. 

 

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The Redrum-A Love Story, Review: Tell-tale heart has no tale, no heart and little story

The Redrum-A Love Story, Review: Tell-tale heart has no tale, no heart and little story

Did you notice? Edgar Allan Poe just turned in his grave. And what might have caused that change of posture, you might ask. Valid question. He learnt from his underground network of informants that a short story he wrote 175 years ago called Tell-Tale Heart has been made into a film. Not just any film, a ‘psychological thriller’ called The Redrum. Curiosity aroused?

For those without a murderous instinct, the moniker does not refer to the dark alcoholic beverage that is popular in India and has a name that can be approximated as Aged Sage. (I refuse to give the drink undue publicity). So, pray, what then is Redrum? It is an anagram of ‘murder’. So, murder in reverse. Seems the simplistic ‘murder’ might not have been available as a name for this film, so they acted clever and titled it The Redrum. That might raise the eyebrows of another author, our contemporary, Stephen King, who used the term in The Shining and the makers of a 2007 film of the same name, albeit an English production.

To justify that title, we have a pre-murder scene to start the film. And while late Edgar Allen figuratively turns upside down in stark disbelief of what is passing off as a product spawned by his tale of a madman who narrates in detail the acts of murder he has performed, here there is no narrator, but an anti-hero called Daksh. Mad he is not, but chronic drug addict he is. He was raised by a philandering mother who had ‘boy-friends’ visiting her. He endured severe beatings from them, until one day...

Now, he is a successful pop singer and rock-star at a night-club and has his own band (courtesy Anurag Mohn, Aagman and Agastya). In walks the heroine, Aarika (rare name, not to be confused with or by areca nuts), and it is love at first sight. She has a swanky bungalow all to herself, and you know where this one is leading. But what Daksh does not know is that he has going overboard with his drug habit and that the police are on his trail, ever since they found his number in the diary of a peddler, who was caught red-handed. The peddler, in his wisdom, kept a clean list of all names and numbers of his clients in his pocket, making things very easy for Mr. Fernandes to trace him. What Mr. Fernandes did or did not do with the other names is irrelevant to the story.

Mr. Fernandes is a cop from the Narcotics Division, and about to retire. He’s not been able to crack this heroin/cocaine trade all his life. Sitting on a scooter and playing with two sizeable lead balls, he gets the news that one of his men has nabbed one of the peddlers. Apparently in no hurry, he spouts Urdu poetry and issues inane orders to his men, before playing some more with the aforesaid balls. Unbeknownst to him, Daksh continues his nose-diving into cocaine, singing and his affair with Aarika. Fairly sedate goings on, you might say, even if the sledgehammer background score music attacks (in pioneering 3D binaural, if you please) you unrelentingly, at every abrupt cut and in between cuts, because there are a couple of hummable songs to counterpoise the proceedings.

Don’t be fooled. Remember the title. There are murders going to be committed, “...and miles to go...”.. murders of various hues gores. Two of them will tell you what inspired the hammering in the music track that rises to deafening decibels, one attempted murder and one where the revolver turns backwards into another anagramic situation, which we might call revlover. I have taken great care not to include spoilers in this review, and even as the end of writer Dhruv Sachdev’s debut film is now near, I will not reveal the climax.

Dhruv Sachdev and Saurabh Bali (assistant on several films) have jointly directed this film, and neither can lay claim to having mastered the nuances of-film-making yet. Hammers, guns, knives and drugs are a potentially dynamic cocktail in any film, only this one fails to engage you at any stage. The actors seem like amateurs, which in itself is not necessarily a drawback, but in their company, a veteran like Tom Alter finds himself all at sea. Besides him, only the lead pair finds mention on the poster.

Tom was an American missionary’s son who, like his father, was passionate about Urdu, especially Urdu poetry. He acted in several Urdu plays and earned encomiums galore. Tom Alter was also a close acquaintance, if not a friend. Around two years ago, he was diagnosed with skin cancer, and one his thumbs had to be amputated. You can see this in some of the scenes. Later, the cancer spread, and he died on 29 September 2017. The Redrum is being promoted as his last completed film.

If that is true, it is far from doing any service to the memory of the fine actor and finer human being. Cast as Fernandes, which is a Goan/Mangalorean surname, and hardly likely to belong to an Urdu aficionado, he spouts Urdu couplets (sometimes just one line) in almost every shot that he is in.

The poets whose work he recites include probably the greatest poet of Urdu, Mirza Asadullah Khan ‘Ghalib’, who lived in the 19th century, and film lyricist Anand Bakhshi. The latter is known for simplistic rhyme and has not been given his due on that count, though a large number of his songs show great command over the language.

In one scene, after he has recited a sher(couplet), his companion guesses that it must be one of Ghalib. Tom corrects him and reveals that it was from Anand Bakhshi. That ode to Bakhshi, who died in 2002, is commendable. What is condemnable is the fact that Tom’s voice is dubbed by someone who is not aware of the right pronunciation of dozens of Urdu words. Also, his voice is nowhere similar to late Tom Alter’s. Looking haggard and older than his 66 years, Tom needed a better farewell on the screen than The Redrum, and I hope another film comes along to give him just that.

Delhi boy Vibhav Roy (Padmaavat; TV serials) has a complex character to portray and struggles through the film, sneering and sniffing most of the time. Pakistani actress Saeeda Imtiaz has Kashmiri roots, was born in Dubai and raised on Long Island in the US. She has played the role of Pakistani cricketer and incoming President’s wife Jemima Khan in a Pakistani biopic called Kaptaan: The Making of a Legend. Saeeda is comfortable in showing her body, which is very easy on the eye, but her face and features don’t match up to her figure. Neha Kargeti as Aarika’s friend is passable.

Producer Durgesh Paul had plans to donate 70% of film’s profits to the Prime Minister’s Relief Fund. That is not very likely and even if the film does manage to cover its costs, the 70% profit might be too meagre an amount to shout about.

Rating: * ½

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fapvbtSp0bM

margana

Excerpt from the beginning of Poe’s story

True! --nervous --very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am; but why will you say that I am mad? The disease had sharpened my senses --not destroyed --not dulled them. Above all was the sense of hearing acute. I heard all things in the heaven and in the earth. I heard many things in hell. How, then, am I mad? Hearken! and observe how healthily --how calmly I can tell you the whole story.

It is impossible to say how first the idea entered my brain; but once conceived, it haunted me day and night. Object there was none. Passion there was none. I loved the old man. He had never wronged me. He had never given me insult. For his gold I had no desire. I think it was his eye! yes, it was this! He had the eye of a vulture --a pale blue eye, with a film over it. Whenever it fell upon me, my blood ran cold; and so by degrees --very gradually --I made up my mind to take the life of the old man, and thus rid myself of the eye forever.

Now this is the point. You fancy me mad. Madmen know nothing. But you should have seen me. You should have seen how wisely I proceeded --with what caution --with what foresight --with what dissimulation I went to work! I was never kinder to the old man than during the whole week before I killed him. And every night, about midnight, I turned the latch of his door and opened it --oh so gently! And then, when I had made an opening sufficient for my head, I put in a dark lantern, all closed, closed, that no light shone out, and then I thrust in my head. Oh, you would have laughed to see how cunningly I thrust it in! I moved it slowly --very, very slowly, so that I might not disturb the old man's sleep. It took me an hour to place my whole head within the opening so far that I could see him as he lay upon his bed. Ha! Would a madman have been so wise as this, And then, when my head was well in the room, I undid the lantern cautiously-oh, so cautiously --cautiously (for the hinges creaked) --I undid it just so much that a single thin ray fell upon the vulture eye. And this I did for seven long nights --every night just at midnight --but I found the eye always closed; and so it was impossible to do the work; for it was not the old man who vexed me, but his Evil Eye. And every morning, when the day broke, I went boldly into the chamber, and spoke courageously to him, calling him by name in a hearty tone, and inquiring how he has passed the night. So you see he would have been a very profound old man, indeed, to suspect that every night, just at twelve, I looked in upon him while he slept.

Upon the eighth night I was more than usually cautious in opening the door. A watch's minute hand moves more quickly than did mine. Never before that night had I felt the extent of my own powers --of my sagacity. I could scarcely contain my feelings of triumph. To think that there I was, opening the door, little by little, and he not even to dream of my secret deeds or thoughts. I fairly chuckled at the idea; and perhaps he heard me; for he moved on the bed suddenly, as if startled. Now you may think that I drew back --but no. His room was as black as pitch with the thick darkness, (for the shutters were close fastened, through fear of robbers,) and so I knew that he could not see the opening of the door, and I kept pushing it on steadily, steadily. I had my head in, and was about to open the lantern, when my thumb slipped upon the tin fastening, and the old man sprang up in bed, crying out --"Who's there?" I kept quite still and said nothing. For a whole hour I did not move a muscle, and in the meantime I did not hear him lie down. He was still sitting up in the bed listening; --just as I have done, night after night, hearkening to the death watches in the wall.

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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 FilmFestivals.com 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.


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