Bolo Raam is a shoddily made yet strangely absorbing film. At first you might mistake it for a movie on time travel because the presentation style is early 1980s—ketchup blood, cheapskate locations—but when the opening scenes tell you that Raam has murdered his mother during a brief episode of psychosis, you hang in there.
The psychiatrist looks like a quack and is played by Naseeruddin Shah. With unkempt beard and T-shirt, he comes straight out of theatre rehearsal but the nice thing is that he inserts a line explaining his sartorial inappropriateness. Reacting angrily to a comment that Raam looks mad anyway so why bother with his psychiatric evaluation, he points at himself and asks rhetorically: “I’m a Psychiatrist. Do I look like one?” No, he looks like he is Waiting for Godot.
Another stalwart from the old school is Om Puri who plays the investigating officer. His modern method of interrogation is to call a witness to the police station and politely ask: “So what would you like to drink?” He is somewhat taken aback when one witness (Rajpal Yadav) answers “whisky” and returns abruptly to more traditional ways.
Had the rest of the cast, including Padmini Kolhapure as the murdered mother, performed better, Bolo Raam might have been a taut, enjoyable thriller. The script is structured well and has good dramatic sense. It unravels to show us that appearances can be deceptive and the motivation for murder is never obvious.
But such has been our recent history on matters cultural that there is a disturbing religious take in the most innocuous of Hindi movies. Raam (Rishi Bhutani), who recites scriptures with the passion of a zealot, is brought into an unnecessary confrontation with his friend Sameer Khan (Krishan Khatra), who turns out, in the only unconvincing twist to the plot, to be a radicalised Islamist. Though this movie is a remake of a 2005 Tamil film called Raam, there was no need for director Rakesh Chaturvedi to address issues that he can’t do justice to.