WHAT'S IT ABOUT: Ram Gopal Varma has subjected us to many mediocre offerings in the recent past. But then, he's also the same man who gave us films like Rangeela, Satya and Company. Rakht Charitra is a striking indication that you can't give up on him -- not yet. Armed with a sweeping tale focused around caste conflict, vengeance and the power of politics, Varma is back to what he's best at -- high voltage drama that's brutally honest enough to blow your mind. Based on a true story, Rakht Charitra tells the rise-to-glory tale of Pratap Ravi (Oberoi). Pratap, a student in the city, is forced to return to Anantpur when his father and brother are murdered in a cold-blooded manner, both falling victims to political conspiracies. Pratap takes the law into his own hands and takes down all those who are responsible for the crimes. He gives up his guerilla lifestyle when the film star-turned-politician Shivaji (Sinha) offers him an entry into politics. After winning the elections, Pratap is also made a minister -- the most feared one the state has ever seen. A Robin Hood-kind of hero for the poor, Pratap continues his reign of terror -- only now, the motives are different.
WHAT'S HOT: There's no one quite like RGV when it comes to gritty and brutal drama -- we've seen that in his earlier films.The story is set somewhere in Andhra Pradesh and every inch of it looks authentic. Ramu also departs from his usual style of narrative -- this time, he takes the linear route and the story is told in the most simplistic manner. His shot-takings have the typical Ramu trademark though -- deep close-ups, rugged camera movements and silences that speak more than words. The film is stark and the violence is at its goriest, which is unsettling. But to dilute it would've been a compromise. The violence, at times, may seem unreal but you know it mirrors events that actually happened. There are people being sliced, heads being crushed and bodies being hacked. Ramu shocks your sensibilities, then ends the film innovatively -- with glimpses of the soon-to-release sequel (starring Suryaa) that shows equal promise. Performances are outstanding -- Abhimanyu Singh as the dreaded Bhukka portrays the most menacing character seen on screen in recent times. Ashwini Kalsekar and Zarina Wahab are superb. The film rediscovers the charisma of Sinha -- his takiya kalaam 'Topic is over' is delightful. Not once going out of character, Sinha sheds his trademark style to deliver another solid performance. Rakht Charitra gives Vivek Oberoi an opportunity to establish his credentials once again. He conveys the transition from a student to a rebel to feared minister brilliantly - from his voice modulation to his expressions to his body language, he challenges his own boundaries to create what can be termed his career-best performance.
WHAT'S NOT: The film's subject is heavy but since it is based on real-life incidents, obviously the story couldn't be tampered with much. However, a bit of editing could've enhanced the film's pace. For those who may feel the film glorifies a criminal, some amount of retribution would've been assuring. But maybe that's reserved for the sequel. Ramu's choice of character actors is always noteworthy but some faces look straight out of Sarkar and Sarkar Raj. The only characters who seem out of place in this otherwise believable drama are the police commissioner (Darshan Jariwala) and the intelligence officer (Sudeep). Their long argument over a sugarcane stick gets on your nerves. The background score could've been better.
WHAT'S THAT! Why did Ramu chose such a theatrical and melodramatic voiceover as the film's narrator? It's almost like someone reading out portions from the Amar Chitra Katha over-dramatically to impress kids. Sorry, we're not kids and we're not impressed either.
WHAT TO DO? Rakht Charitra is gripping, gritty and genuine. If you can bear the gore, then watch it.