Thursday, February 22
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Raastha: Road through love, friendship and the desert

10 Jan 2024 By ANIRBAN RAY

Genre: Family Drama, Thriller

Starring: Sarjano Khalid, Anagha Narayanan, Aradhya Ann, Lovel, Prakash, Sami, Sabitha, Shaan

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Like every work of good fresco and sculpture, good movies too embed hidden messages. In such, every frame becomes a painting where multiple dimensions whisper the theme of the narrative. The newly released Malayalam movie Raastha is one of them.

Crafted by Aneesh Anwar, the film is a journey on several aspects of human life, aka love, friendship, ambition, and longing in the backdrop of the scorching Rub’ al Khali desert. The ochre unforgiving sand dunes actually stand out as a significant character in the film testing the virtues and vices of man.

An immersible experience, keeping the audience at toes with every cut and face ins, the two hour film tells the tale of Faisal, Divya and Shahaha with the stunning Omani landscape being featured for the first time in a feature film shot entirely in Oman.

Faisal is an NRI living in Oman and is awestruck by his colleague Divya. One day, a girl named Shahana comes to Oman in search of her long lost mother. With Faisal and his friends, Shahana embarks on a trip to Muscat, Nizwa and other parts of Oman to search for her mother.

In due course, a sunset (a McGuffin, as in cinematic language of Hitchcock), the four drift in the desert. The cruel nature tries hard to break them with deadly snakes, poisonous scorpions, and ruthless desert storms, yet the friends brave it all and survive.

The writing is tight and moves fast though the first half is sketched with clichés and stereotypes – perhaps, that was the aim of the maker, so as to engage the audience in the second half.

The camera creates some gorgeous frames and captures Old Muttrah Souq, Shatti Qurm, the ancient temple in Muscat, the Grand Mosque and Muttrah corniche in vibrant hues. However, the vastness of the deserts in long shots were missing; and the closeups and tights over the shoulder shots often felt that the vastness of the desert was deliberately compromised.

Some of the golden hour shots needed a shout-out. The editing could had been more compact and scenes could have been cut, to make the film more fast paced.

Acting wise…it was refreshing. In view of Bollywoood machos and alpha men, an alternative version of manhood and heroism was something new.

Khalid and Anagha, as Faisal and Shahana, excelled in their roles to perfection. A hero can also go weak, a hero can also vomit and be messy, a hero can also be scared, yet in control, a hero can also go mad with his/her love, yet maintain grace – that’s how the director essayed his characters with realism and positivity.

The film also witnessed several local actors and everyone played their parts to perfection. Lovel Balakrishna, Prakash Nair, Nilanjana Sha as hotel assistant, hotel manager and TV journalist respectively were a delight to watch as the audience cheered their every entry on screen. Sami Sarang as a police officer, with screen time similar to the main actors, was dynamic with his presence and Omani diction.

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