There’s something about Randeep Hooda. But what is it? I’m not quite sure.
Perhaps it is his comfort with his body.
Hooda’s is not a body that’s been obsessed over in gyms and fed disgusting protein shakes. It’s real. As is. And he seems very comfortable in his skin.
Then there’s him offering that body to the camera, to us.
Hooda doesn’t flex his biceps, neither does he make us count his packs to impress us. He just offers it, as a thing of pleasure. And he does that with a mixture of cocky confidence, a naughty smile and a hint of vulnerability in loose, unbuttoned shirt…
Am I loosing it? Perhaps.
But I have to say that watching Hooda I did think of this fabulous Brazilian Portuguese word I learnt recently: cafuné. It’s the act of running your fingers through your lover’s hair.
Hooda does it to himself, and that self-love, amour-propre, is very, very sexy.
Ahem. Now to get to the task at hand: Laal Rang.
Laal Rang is a well-researched, rather alarming film that’s loosely inspired by incidents in 2002 involving the illegal trade of blood. It’s an investigation into and an expose of this very dangerous and scary trade.
It’s a story about hospitals, syringes, many bags of blood with dangling bloody tubes, men in masks and coats, path labs, critical patients and desperate family members…
All very gory stuff that would have grossed us out if it hadn’t been for clever writing, direction and, of course, the distracting and thrilling presence of Randeep Hooda.
It’s a trick advertisers have used for years. It’s why a girl in small, leather nothings has been sprawled on bikes for years.
Hooda is like that girl here. His back arched, he invites us to take a tour of things that would have otherwise made us queasy.
He plays Shankar, a small time crook who hits the jackpot when he gets admission in a one-year diploma course for Medical Lab Technology.
Rajesh Diwan (Akshay Oberoi), the son of a chaprasi, is his batchmate and keen to make money, especially when he starts dating Rashi (Pia Bajpai), also a student.
In a straightforward, neatly chronicled and well-explained story, we see how networks are established and kept alive around blood banks: They require professional blood donors, sarkari officials like “Dracula” who steal and shift blood bags when there’s a dengue outbreak, path labs where many blood bags are passed on to patients unchecked…
These are the bare bones of the icky tale. Thankfully it’s dressed up with the story of a bond between two men — Shankar and Rajesh — their love stories, and interesting characterisation. Though all this does dilute the ickiness, at 150 minutes it also becomes laboured.
There are pretty girls and romance, followed by heartache. The love angle distraction isn’t very interesting, yet it drags on and on, one song after another.
The the blood dhanda — the fraud, schemes, connivance, short-cuts and dangers at so many levels is actually what we are more interested in. As well as details of how the human anatomy — not just blood and veins, but also greed and deception — makes it all come undone.
Laal Rang has nice camerawork — interesting aerial shots and a stunning, can-never-forget shot of Shankar’s room, with blood bags hanging on his wall — but a terrible background score.
But the actors are decent.
Akshay Oberoi and Pia Bajpai are good, though Rashi’s Rapidex English bits were overdone. They stopped being funny after the first six hellos, loves, likes…
Hooda is an arrogant, confident actor, and rightly so. He is very, very good.
He’s been given a seductive, sparkling personality here and many, many dialogue, all crackling ones, which he delivers with punk and attitude.
Hooda’s character, though a resident of Karnal, Punjab, has a generous dash of Goa hippie chic. He’s one part unscrupulous crook, a very competent one, and many parts adorable, generous friend, lover.
Hooda, I think, is the sort of chameleon like actor who doesn’t need Bollywood’s moral cleansing. Because he can act, he can make anything stick. He won’t carry the reputation of one character from one film to another.
But sadly, because he plays the “hero” here who, though a villain responsible for many deaths, must be redeemed — first by being rejected in love and then by sacrificing for his friends.
Love, as they say, cures all. Especially any chinks in Bollywood heroes.