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‘Rukh’ film review: A coming-of-age story shoehorned into a murder mystery

A teenager tries to investigate the mystery behind his father’s death in Atanu Mukherjee’s debut movie.

A debt-ridden leather factory owner dies in a road accident. Was he killed by his unscrupulous business partner? Divakar (Manoj Bajpayee) has been facing trouble at work and on the domestic front, evident in the tense dinner he has with his wife Nandini (Smita Tambe) on the night of his death. The impact of the beef ban on livelihood is fleetingly brought up as one of the reasons for the slump in Divakar’s business, but the bigger culprit here is Divakar’s unscrupulous partner Robin (Kumud Mishra), who now hopes to pin the blame for the losses on his dead colleague.

The dead father leaves behind an angry son and a catatonic wife. Divakar’s troubled son Dhruv (Adarsh Gourav) arrives from boarding school after the incident. Dhruv, who has been banished from home after a violent incident in school that is never adequately explored, is perturbed by his mother’s silence, the lack of information on the circumstances surrounding Divakar’s demise, and Robin’s actions. Debutant director Atanu Mukherjee twins Dhruv’s moment of reflection with a quasi murder investigation that open numerous cans of worms for the teenager.

The balance between Dhruv’s coming-of-age narrative and the pursuit of Divakar’s killer is imperfect, with neither aspect getting its due. The movie’s twinning of two separate stories – an adolescent’s quest to discover the truth about his parents, and the mystery of Divakar’s fate – is far too awkward to achieve the desired emotional impact.

Rukh has solid performances, especially from Bajpayee as the troubled businessman, and Mukherjee is sensitive to the corrosive impact of debt and financial corruption on families. Divakar’s associates – a conscientious accountant and an upright factory worker – are nicely etched counterpoints to Robin’s venality. The adolescent at the heart of the drama comes off as the weakest character. Dhruv’s sullenness doesn’t translate into seething anger, as is hoped, while Nandini’s stoic reaction leaves far too much unsaid.

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Rukh (2017).
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