Ray: Uneven, but worth a binge

It’s compulsively dark for most parts, often strangely so, the way Satyajit Ray’s oeuvre rarely was. Ray had a way of serving the sombre in layers, with simplistic emotions often acting as masks for deeper subtexts.

“Ray” makes for a good watch, although the series could seem erratic along the way. The show starts on a high note, maintains the tempo for most parts, slumps a bit in the final story only to come alive right at its end.

The other thing that strikes is the fact that despite substantially moving away from Ray’s idiom, the director trio of the anthology has credibly maintained an aesthetic quality with the material at hand. In characters and content, the stories could appear vastly different, but each of the stories retains Ray’s creative spirit somewhere.

Abhishek Chaubey helms “Hungama Hai Kyon Barpa”, the breeziest among the four segments based on Ray’s short story “Barin Bhowmiker Byaram (Barin Bhowmik’s Ailment)”. Manoj Bajpayee is Musafir Ali, a popular ghazal singer who is travelling from Bhopal to Delhi by train. His co-passenger in his first-class compartment is Baig (Gajraj Rao), a wrestler-turned-sports journalist. As they get acquainted, Musafir realises Baig is someone he knows — from a similar train journey 10 years ago. A quirky secret from back then ties their fates.

The mood turns bleak in the second story as Srijit Mukherji narrates “Forget Me Not”, based on the Ray short story “Bipin Chowdhury’r Smritibhrom (Bipin Chowdhury’s Memory Loss)”. The protagonist here is reimagined as Ipsit (Ali Fazal), partner at a start-up who is soaked in his ambition to scale the heights. Dashing Ipsit boasts of a razor-sharp memory, till a chance meeting with a woman named Rhea Saran (Anindita Bose) puts him in a tizzy. Rhea claims they have spent a night together in Aurangabad, and gives vivid details about not just their blind date but about Ipsit, too — details a stranger is not supposed to know. He has absolutely no recall of Rhea, or visiting Aurangabad ever.

“Forget Me Not” scores as a slow burn suspense drama that has an intriguing story of vengeance at its core.

Mukherji returns to direct “Bahrupiya”, easily the most twisted of the four stories and highlighted by Kay Kay Menon’s outstanding performance. The segment is based on a short story titled “Bahurupi (impressionist)”. Kay Kay plays Indrashish Saha, a timid make-up artist who is basically a loser in life. Then, when his grandmother passes away, she leaves him a substantial amount of money and, more importantly, her book on prosthetic expertise. Suddenly, Indrashish is equipped with the power to ‘become’ just anybody. He begins to imagine he is invincible and starts abusing his newfound ‘power’, to his peril.

“Bahrupiya” is a modern-day allegory, and its metaphysics need be interpreted for one to savor the story.

Vasan Bala’s “Spotlight” ends the quartet. Based on a story of the same name, the finale focuses on Vik (Harsh Varrdhan Kapoor), a young actor whose stardom seems to rest on a particular ‘look’ he gives to the camera.

“Spotlight” is a moody and strange piece, uneven in parts.

Competently executed, “Ray” manages to sustain interest despite the uneven patches. Definitely worth a binge, and a second season with new stories.

Image courtesy of (YouTube)

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