Home >Mint-lounge >Features >Film Review: Laal Rang

A medical college in Karnal, Haryana, is the hotbed of a blood smuggling racket. Local lout Shankar (Randeep Hooda) is the mastermind working in cahoots with the blood bank laboratory chief (Rajendra Sethi) to fill the demand-supply gap. Rajesh (Akshay Oberoi), an ambitious but innocent new student of the lab technician’s diploma programme, is inducted into the scheme, drawn in by Shankar’s rugged charm, motorbike and the prospect of quick money.

Rajesh soon becomes Shankar’s apprentice. Shankar relishes playing mentor and guide. As they siphon off packets and packets of blood and trade them illegally, a bromance blossoms between the two. Shankar also gently mentors Rajesh in the art of romance as he woos his classmate Poonam (Pia Bajpai).

Director Syed Ahmad Afzal recounts this story from Rajesh’s point of view. The film opens in a maternity ward and cuts to five years earlier, when Rajesh first met Shankar. We see their business growing, the way they profit from the dengue virus, and Shankar’s expanding empire. But when a rickshaw driver, one of Shankar’s donors, dies suddenly, the local police officer (Rajneesh Duggal) makes it his mission to track down the blood robbers.

Randeep Hooda is in his element, relishing his role as the badass with a soft side. But giving Shankar redemptive traits and expecting the viewer to gloss over his basic immorality is a cop-out. In contrast, Rajesh remains the misguided man weighed down by his bad sense of judgement, and Oberoi plays him as required: restrained, flirty, wayward, deer-in-the-headlights.

The Haryanvi dialect (I often wished for subtitles), production design and locations add to the authenticity. Sadly, the script takes its time setting up the tension and conflict, showcasing Hooda as a James Dean on a retro Yamaha, dressed in garish printed vests. It takes equally long to resolve, resulting in a frustrating illustration of a powerful underbelly.

Laal Rang released in theatres on Friday.

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