Roohi movie review: The film neither scares nor tickles your funny bone

At last, after the complete shut-down of cinema halls across the country, 2021 has seen another theatrical release — Roohi starring Janhvi Kapoor, Rajkummar Rao and Varun Sharma amongst others. You may say that it’s a time to rejoice for all cinema lovers but perhaps we’ve jumped the gun a tad bit.

Slated as a horror-comedy, a new genre that mutated into being, after Stree emerged winner at the box office, Roohi is the second offering from the same production house with almost the same star cast. One did expect some fireworks or perhaps an encore of the quality of Stree. Unfortunately, forget the band-baaja, the film is a damp squib and does not live up to any lofty expectations in any way. 

Since it’s slated as a horror comedy, Roohi meanders precariously throughout, whether to scare the daylights out of people or just make them double up laughing. That’s where the film goes awry as it neither scares nor tickles your funny bone. All it does is confuse you to a point where you just want this ‘not here-not there’ caper to end the misery and set you free. 

The plot is wafer thin and revolves around a frightened young girl named Roohi played by Janhvi Kapoor, who is possessed by an evil spirit. She can transform into a screeching banshee or chudail (which has been portrayed with prosthetic make-up) showing off her ‘wreaking hell and fire’ raving spirit in Afza. Just when you get totally confused by the convoluted antics of Roohi-Afza and wonder what on earth is happening to the storyline, thankfully, the men — Bhawra Pandey (Rajkummar Rao) and Kattanni Qureshi (Varun Sharma), who play part-time kidnappers, breath in some light moments that are ‘actually funny’ in the film. 

The story progresses as the men are hired to kidnap Roohi for a ‘pakdai shaadi’ by a gora or fair (Alexx O’Neil), a topic that is so out-dated and outrageous that it is almost laughable. However, nothing in the film garners a laugh and, so, it clumsily plods around Roohi-Afza’s kidnapping and the men’s horror, after they realise that the shy girl is no ordinary one. She can whimper as well as roar, and even be a shape-shifter, perhaps an allusion to the many facets of a woman. Sadly, the allusion too gets lost amongst the tasteless jokes and a confused plot. The saving grace of the film is Rajkummar Rao and Varun Sharma’s banter amongst. It is fabulous and you actually want them to hog every frame in the film. Unfortunately, it’s more about Roohi and yes, Afza too. 

So, the men stumble around unsuccessfully plotting and planning to kidnap ‘Roohi-Afza’, while the girl turned chudail pursues a different goal all together.  In between, many characters pop in and out but they leave no impact whatsoever and the film continues to balance on Rajkummar and Varun’s shoulders till the very end. Poor Janhvi Kapoor can do nothing much to her one-dimensional characters of Roohi and Afza, which leave her with not too much scope to perform. Rajkummar and Varun are the ‘life-savers’ of the film, and their performances are on-point. Other than that, there’s nothing much one can talk about in the film. Watch it if you have absolutely nothing to do!

Title: Roohi

Cast: Janhvi Kapoor, Rajkummar Rao, Varun Sharma

Director: Hardik Mehta

Stars: 2

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