Anna and Rasool: Vladivostok Review
The debut feature by Rajeev Ravi is one part Shakespeare and one part Bollywood on a less grandiose and more accessible level.
For anyone that can’t get into the Bollywood vibe, Rajeev Ravi’s Malayalam language Anna and Rasool is a welcome antidote. Very much a dramatic and tragic romance in the Bollywood mold, just without the random singing and dancing, the film uses a typical Romeo and Juliet-style star crossed lovers motif in a story about a Muslim boy and a Christian girl in the port town of Kochi. To the film’s credit, it knows there’s nothing really new here, but former cinematographer (Gangs of Wasseypur) Ravi’s richly shot debut feature hits all the beats it should. But Anna and Rasool’s mainstream accessibility could be precisely what limits its prospects outside of India and existing niche markets. Festival interest should come from the specialized events.
The film begins with merchant marine Ashley (Sunny Wayne) arriving at the Kochi port and recollecting the last time he was on leave in voice over narration. The rest of the story pivots on the inevitably doomed romance between Muslim cabbie Rasool (Fahadh Faasil) and Christian shop worker Anna (Andrea Jeremiah). After being struck by love at first sight, Rasool orchestrates all manner of coincidence that allows him to run in to her, but Anna remains skittish and standoffish until realizing she may in fact be developing feelings. Though the couple’s courtship sequences are suitably charming and whimsical there are too many of them for such a familiar tale; some judicious editing could have tightened up the pace during the film’s saggy middle stretch. Similarly Ashley’s failed romance with a local nun makes up part of the background detail, but could have been excised almost completely without making the bigger picture suffer. Once the last act revolving around Rasool and his friends running afoul of the local gang as well as forces conspiring to keep Anna and Rasool apart and miserable begins, Ravi gets back on track and glides to the foregone conclusion, capped off by a sprint to the altar worthy of Tom Cruise by Rasool.
Films like Anna and Rasool live and die by how believable and empathetic the lead couple is, and here Faasil turns in the stronger performance. Faasil plays Rasool as an essentially good man with an undercurrent of rage in him, an idea Ravi and co-writers Santhosh Echikkanam and G. Sethunath sadly never explore in more depth. Jeremiah is lovely but ultimately too passive a player in her own story to leave a lasting impression. Wayne stands out as an educated, well traveled man who gets caught up in Rasool’s romantic dilemma in a misguided attempt to correct his own past mistakes.
Though not a classic Bollywood entertainment, Krishna Kumar, Shahabaz Aman and Bijipal’s soundtrack is memorable and provides a buoyant complement to the action, and to Madhu Neelakadan’s vivid cinematography. Neelakadan and Ravi create a strong sense of place for Kochi and its suburb Vypin, exploiting its twisting alleys and waterfront sunsets for maximum effect.
Producer: K Mohanan, Vinod Kumar
Director: Rajeev Ravi
Cast: Fahadh Faasil, Andrea Jeremiah, Sunny Wayne, Shine Tom Chacko
Screenwriter: Santhosh Echikkanam, G. Sethunath, Rajeev Ravi
Director of Photography: Madhu Neelakadan
Production Designer: S. Nagaraj
Music: Krishna Kumar, Shahabaz Aman, Bijipal
Editor: Ajith Kumar B.
No rating, 168 minutes