The Telugu remake of Phoonk has Jagapathi Babu and Kalyani in the lead, with Neha doing Ahsaas’s role. The debutant director of this movie, Vamsi Krishna, does a decent job on the movie which comes under typical RGV touch but not exactly horror. But thankfully the Aag phase seems to have fizzled out (or it’s entirely possible that someone threatened him with black-magic if he comes out with movies like that again and he conceded plus got an idea for the next flick). Whatever it is, Raksha is tolerable.
Plot Rajeev owns a real estate company and when a rock that is formed like Ganesha is found, he refuses to construct a temple there as it obstructs the plan. His friends Venu and his wife are found cheating with the company’s funds so he throws them out. Rajeev’s mother and wife are pious believers who want him to construct the temple. Raksha, his daughter, starts having strange experiences that start from ‘enjoying the darkness’ to finally shaking helplessly, having intolerable pain everywhere and talking in strange voices. Doctors give up, so the skeptic turns believer and desperately looks for some help.
Story, Screenplay and Direction Any movie about black-magic cannot be non-regressive. Although there is an open-ending, where the director shows that it could have been science or counter-magic or simply God (and a little temple constructed for Him) that ends Raksha’s misery. But it is clearly shown that black-magic was being performed on the girl, and in the same breath the grandmother tells the children bedtime stories not about fairies, but involving ghosts.
The misfortune and beauty of India is that it is tough be subtle. Black-magic can be scary at a personal level, but an image of a supernatural, that too a negative supernatural, is enough to scare. The suddenness of incidents, loud noises and the camera repeatedly zooming everywhere in the house to show one thing that’s not the same, that’s not normal-complete with wailing noises and a scary movie soundtrack adds to movie’s tempo.
Raksha doesn’t so much scare as evokes pity for-the entire family especially her helpless father who struggles with his own beliefs. Raksha’s behavior is nothing we haven’t seen in Exorcist or the countless other possessed stories that came after that-except that the girl is not possessed actually, she’s a victim of black-magic.
Performances Jagapathi Babu is good as ever both as a skeptic and a believer. Kalyani makes a good pious lady and pairs well with Jagapathi. Neha as Raksha steals the show. Athiluth as her little brother is cute. Bhargavi as the maid doesn’t react like in the Hindi version, which is possibly an improvement. Jeeva in the role of a doctor fits in this genre no matter what and Jayasudha in a cameo adds to the ensemble. Pradeep Rawat as the white-eyed Baba makes a difference to the second half. Subbaraju as a family friend/employee has good presence and stands his own in the brief role he has. Throughout, it’s Raksha and the camera with the background that dominate. Rajeev Kanakala looks out of place while Satya Krishna disturbs with her loud laughing followed shortly by loud crying. All for the movie’s final effect, of course.
Music Not too loud, but seems like there are stock backgrounds for each genre…and this one is nothing new or different.
Last Word Not bad, but nothing new. Those looking for a spooky flick will be disappointed-it’s just an open-ended debate on black magic and psychological disorders. Of course, look closely and we are left in no doubt as to which school the brain behind this movie subscribes to. View it as fiction and not as propaganda and it’s an okay watch. – (cinegoer)