The Malayalam film Raasatha is directed by Aneesh Anwar and stars Anagha Narayanan, Sarjano Khalid, Aneesh Anwar, Aradhya Ann, Sudheesh, Irshad Ali, TG Ravi
There are two ways that any potential survival drama works, either through the setting and cinematography, where the enormous risks in the terrain are well captured. Or the characters and their situations are interesting enough to add to the essential thrill of the moment. The problem with Aneesh Anwar’s Raastha, shot in the sprawling and challenging stretches of Oman’s Rub al Khali, the largest sand desert in the world, is that it wants to be both at the same time.
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As an ambition, it is a laudable one. But to pull this off it requires both art and craft. The ability to write a story and characters in an interesting and intriguing manner and the skill to pan out the sustained threats on the field. Raastha kind of slips between the two stools. But you cannot accuse it of not trying.
Raastha starts on the wrong foot. It begins with a very generic story. Aneesh Anwar, whose previous movies include the likes of Zachariyayude Garbhinikal and Kumbasaram, has had a bad run in his other movies in recent times. He is a bit low on confidence. And it shows.
Shahana (Anagha Narayanan), a woman from Kerala, comes to Oman looking for her mother, whose whereabouts aren’t known. The Malayali diaspora that Oman teems with mercifully joins forces with her in her valiant search. Faizal (Sarjano Khalid), his lover Divya (Aradhya Ann), Salim (Sudheesh), Sadikka (Irshad), and Mujeeb (the director Aneesh Anwar) are the brave cohorts of Shahana in her immense struggle.
The film takes time to introduce and set up the characters, and that takes time till the interval. This is where the script, credited to Shahul and Fayiz Madakkara (two Keralites based out of Oman), if it were in more experienced hands, would have gotten to the ‘chase’, as it were, more adroitly.
Once on the sand expanse, the search goes through the typical rigamarole, and by the time the end arrives, you cannot help but feel as tired as those involved in the humane hunt for the missing woman. The acting chops required to convey the perils of the desert are sometimes missing in the largely inexperienced cast. The leading man of sorts, Sarjano, is enterprising and sincere.
But that alone is not going to cut it here. Anagha, however, is more solid. She carries the search as well as the cast on her slender shoulders. She is more than up to the task. The director’s effort to play a comic fiddle in the cast also doesn’t work. But the idea of having a character with mirthful flavour in a daunting adventure is not a bad one as such.
The biggest ally for the director is the cinematographer Vishnu Narayanan and composer Avin Mohan Sithara, who rose to the occasion and tried to fill the gaps in the narrative flow.
Overall, Raastha is okayish in parts. But considering the odds of the challenge, one should be a bit kind in judging the work. The sands of the desert may be unforgiving. But those watching can be less so.
Where can you watch Raastha in the UAE?
An engineer-turned-journalist, K Balakumar’s career began in print publications as a sports writer. That also opened doors for other journalistic avenues like films, music, finance, technology and politics, which nobody can escape in India. After 30 yrs in mainstream journalism, now a freelancer for various digital publications.