Laal Rang helmed by Syed Ahmad Afzal is brilliantly conceived drama soaked in reality about illegal blood trade racket which is taken several notches higher by bravura performances delivered by Randeep Hooda & Akshay Oberoi. Few films have their heart at the right place, few capture the spirit of what heart wants to convey and fewer still stay focused on what they set out to state. Laal Rang is one of those rare films that is high on pertinent social issues (Illegal blood trade, get-rich-quick path), is cryptically funny and amusing in parts, meaningful all through and yet steers clear of homilies and sermons. It is heartening to see new age directors redefining mainstream Bollywood by doing away with typical Bollywood stereotypes. They are breaking new grounds with their choice of fresh concepts soaked in reality. And, Syed Ahmad Afzal is one of those directors who comes up with invigorating subjects while helming his films. His last venture, Youngistaan (2014) was a love story set against the backdrop of politics in which a young man has to fine tune his personal and political life. And, now he is back with Laal Rang which talks about blood theft racket in Haryana but in an engaging manner as the script delivers several emotional detours like friendship, love, betrayal and redemption. If Kanu Behl's Titli captured the underbelly of Delhi's carjackers with aplmob, Syed's Laal Rang captures the underbelly of blood racketeers based in Karnal, Haryana to pitch perfection. Laal Rang has a story to tell, it's own story that's rooted in the place it is set in - Karnal and its adjoining areas. It's an interesting story and it belongs to its characters. But the style that it chooses to tell this story is intelligent. And Fun. But it's not germane to its story and people. Syed Ahmad Afzal has a penchant for detailing which is quite evident in Laal Rang. Syed along with his co-writer Pankaj Matta has etched out the characters replete with their characteristics masterfully and the candid portrayal of them by his actors, acts as icing on the cake. On top of it, Syed's choice of real locales to shoot the movie provides a further impetus to the on-screen proceedings. The humor laced quirky dialogues lend some of the most plausible moments to the movie. And, when Syed signed Randeep Hooda to play the role of Shankar, the protagonist, it was half the battle won. Firstly, Randeep is one of the hottest talents around but secondly and most importantly Randeep belongs to Haryana. So, Randeep's dialect, body language is so apt in the movie that we are not able to locate Randeep in the movie but only Shankar. In short, Laal Rang is a endearing watch as it presents a serious pertinent issue in a entertaining manner backed up by some bravura performances.
The story, screenplay and dialogues of the movie have been penned down by Syed Ahmad Afzal along with Pankaj Matta. Firstly, we have to give due credit to the writers for penning down a script based on such a serious issue which has seldom been presented on big screen. They have cleverly concocted the screenplay lending the movie certain intonation coupled with tumult. Also, the writers need to be lauded for the way they have etched out the characters. Each & every character is significant and contributes to the movie irrespective of its on-screen duration in the movie. Despite being involved in nefarious activity of blood trading, Shankar (Randeep) is shown to be a man of good traits with sound sense of humor. This is evident in one of the scenes where Shankar hails a cycle rickshaw and every rickshaw-puller on the street comes to a halt. While we think they might have done it out of fear but we soon find out that they did so out of their affection for Shankar. It is Shankar who has helped them earn extra bucks by buying their blood for trading. Most of the dialogues have a quirky feel and the one which stands out is Shankar's defining dialogue, " All work, good or bad, must be done with honesty". The movie is set in Karnal, Haryana and revolves around the blood trade business and corruption in blood banks. Shankar Malik (Randeep Hooda) runs a successful blood donation racket. He plans to become a Government insider so as to make his illegal activities easier. To execute this plan, Shankar enrols in a Medical Lab Technology course at a Government hospital. The narrator of the story Rajesh Dhiman (Akshay Oberoi) also enrols in the same hospital. Though, Rajesh is an ambitious student from a humble background but he gets smitten by the lifestyle and charm of Shankar He is in awe with the way Shankar conducts the business of illegal blood trading. Influenced by Shankar's lifestyle and to earn quick bucks, Rajesh joins Shankar. Shankar takes Rajesh under his wings and a bromance develops between both of them. Rajesh also falls in love with Poonam (Pia Bajpai) and wants to marry her. Soon greed enters the mind of Rajesh and he has a fall out with Shankar. To make things worse, new S.P. of town, Gajaraj Singh (Rajneish Duggal) has taken upon him to shut down this ugly business of blood trading. Will Shankar & Rajesh get back together, Will Gajaraj Singh be able to catch hold of Rajesh & Shankar for their illegal activities is what forms the rest of the story.
Randeep Hooda is one helluva natural and effortless actor and his performance in Laal Rang is a bonafide testament to it. Randeep is one those rare actors who delves deep into the skin of the character that he is assigned and than portrays it efficaciously on-screen. Shankar was not an easy character to portray as despite having grey shades, the character has a charming human side to it but to his credit Randeep Hooda has essayed the complex character with effortless ease. He looks smoking hot in the movie as the swagger who wears loud printed shirts while riding Yamaha RX 100. I personally can't think of any other actor who could have enacted the character of Shankar in more apt way other than Randeep. The amount of visceral energy that Randeep has put into the character of Shankar is worth applauding and he truly deserves an ovation for this performance.
Akshay Oberoi has turned out to be the surprise package of Laal Rang with his impeccable performance. Akshay seems to have imbibed the finer traits of his character and portrayed them effectively on-screen. The remarkable ease with which Akshay has portrayed the transformation of his character from being a humble student to greed driven criminal is commendable. I feel Akshay is one of the underutilized actors who if given a well etched out character to portray, can prove his mettle as an actor. Akshay's bromance with Randeep in the movie has to be seen to be believed.
Pia Bajpai is endearing as Poonam who is the love interest of Akshay in the movie. Her linguistic quirks in the movie are bound to bring smile to your faces.
Rajneish Duggal delivers a power packed performance as no-nonsense S.P. who is out to destroy the blood trafficking racket in his area.
Amongst others, noticeable performances have been delivered by Meenakshi Dixit, Shreya Narayan, Rajendra Sethi and Sanjay Kumar Saha.
The musical soundtrack that has been composed by Vipin Patwa & Shiraz Uppal has the regional feel to it which gels very well with the screenplay and on-screen proceedings. The background music of the movie that has been composed by Mathias Duplessy is excellent and heightens the kitsch of the settings. A special mention of Sachin Lovalekar (Costume Designer) and Nishi Singh (Make up stylist) for their effective contributions in their respective fields. The cinematographer of the movie is Dhirendra Shukla who has done a swell job at capturing the visuals. While on one hand Dhirendra's camera ably captures the rustic surroundings of hinterland, on the other hand it often glides down inside the psyche of its principle characters bringing their ambitions, turmoil and greed to the forefront. The movie has been edited by Shounok Ghosh who has done a great job at the editing table and kept the run-time of the movie to 148 minutes. Some people might have a problem with the languid pace of the movie at certain junctures but i think it was important to establish the characters and their affinity. As a writer-director, Syed Ahmad Afzal has hit all the right notes with this film. He has not only penned down a novel premise but also ably created an equally effective milieu to film the premise. Syed seems to have invested a lot while researching on the subject but his eye for detailing can be hailed as his biggest attribute. Right from the settings, costumes and dialect, everything comes across as extremely authentic with respect to milieu. For example, the poster that adorns the wall of Shankar's room is of Netaji's face that states ; You give me blood, I will give you freedom. The best part is that Syed has crafted an engaging tale of love, bromance around the grim and serious issue of blood mafia. Any other director would have fallen prey to commercialization by sprucing up the movie with typical Bollywood en-trappings but thankfully Syed steers the film away from cinematic cliches.
Laal Rang has a unique, interesting plot revolving around the grim and serious issue of blood mafia which has been executed with excellence and stellar performances. It is a must watch for those who have a penchant for reality soaked cinema.
Follow me on twitter at https://twitter.com/smgr105