They couldn't decide whether to name the film after the CBI officer or the suspect, and finally keep both, going by how the titles start and the voice booms, 'Kalidas!' And still, they could have pulled it off. They could have pulled off the 'story never told before on Indian screen' schtick. They could have pulled off Nana Patekar hype. They could have even pulled off Himesh's soundtrack. All they needed to do was hire an editor. Or was it all that hard to protect in transit from Chennai?
Raana is about a no-nonsense, curt, perfectionistic, tending-to-throw-vases-if-home-is-untidy, award-winning director Raana (Nana Patekar), with a less than favourable reputation with women, who's releasing his new movie, but everything about it is under wraps, especially the heroine. Even as journalists wait for him to show up at his first press conference along with the leading lady (Rukmini Vijayakumar), they receive news that he's holed up in some 5-star hotel with her. The duo is literally hounded, and they flee in his car to the edge of a cliff, where Raana gets out and blows up the car, killing his companion.
Kalidas (Arjun) is the CBI officer investigating the case, which turns out to be far deeper than the obvious. Two earlier murders during the course of the film's shooting, both suspiciously immediately followed by Raana ordering for the sets to pack-up, complicate the case. The film moves between past and present, describing the murders, all the while building up each of the characters in the story.
The plot sinks in pretty fast, you're almost sure where the story is going, and you're just wondering whether this is all to what they claimed is 'a story never told before'. But the promise is kept - after a twist that punches the wind out of your stomach, the film takes an almost profound aim at the issue beyond. Only, the key is 'almost', since the punch begins and ends at the twist.
Where the film completely loses out, and betrays the lead actors and the script, is a fundamental problem with flow. Apart from many unnecessary scenes, added just for the sake of escalating the suspense, and even misleading at times, there are annoying disconnects in the screenplay. And to the story, there were a few wannabe appendages, like, for example, Kalidas' personal grudge because his poet-girlfriend (Kajal Aggarwal) is an ardent admirer of the genius director Raana.
Nana Patekar is the key character in the film, and his portrayal of an eccentric, unpredictable and complex artiste is very interesting. Arjun does not have a lot to do compared to what audiences might expect, but he's always an asset to the screen when he's around. Vatsal Seth, as one of the actors in Raana's film, does a really refreshingly spontaneous and great job.
Kajal Aggarwal's role is quite unnecessary, even for the songs - it'd be a pity if anyone categorized this as a 'meaningful role', which looks possible. The dusky, exquisite-looking Rukmini Vijayakumar as the director's find is okay, but since her airtime is high, she ought to have been better.
Himesh Reshammiya's music seems to have been intended to be menacing and intriguing, but somehow reminds you of road-widening demolitions and hungry cats, and we haven't even mentioned the songs yet.
Go with low expectations, and Raana is an interesting watch. But most probably the Tamil original had much more going for it, at least in the sound and light departments.