Director: Atanu Mukherjee
Cast: Manoj Bajpayee, Adarsh Gourav, Smita Tambe, Kumud Mishra
In the novel Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy had famously written that while all happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. Rukh is the story of a deeply and uniquely unhappy family. The father Divakar is struggling with insurmountable problems at the leather factory, which he runs with a close friend. The mother Nandini, is frayed by years of neglect and worry. Their son, Dhruv, is scarred by his own aggression and stubbornness. As soon as you see them, you know that sadness has seeped into their bones.
Debutant director Atanu Mukherjee who has also co-written the film sets up an intriguing premise. Within the first few minutes of the film, Divakar is killed in a car accident – please don’t shout spoiler – this is in the promo. Dhruv is summoned from his hostel. He starts to probe into his father’s death. He is soon convinced that the accident was in fact murder.
Rukh is driven by the performances. Manoj Bajpayee has comparatively less screen time but he looms large – his tragedy evident in his fraught eyes and stooping posture. Smita Tambe as the mother and Kumud Mishra as the wily best friend are strong and at the center is Adarsh Gourav as Dhruv – he is at once, fiery, irrational and vulnerable. We first see Dhruv as he floats in a pool but this is almost the only time there is a serenity about him. Elsewhere, his simmering rage is palpable.
Atanu and DOP Pooja Gupte capture the misery of Mumbai – the cramped living spaces, the frantic deal-making, the mechanical emotions. The city is marked by crowds and corruption. But as the film progresses, the narrative of teenage angst and the mystery of Divakar’s death grate against each other. The plot becomes more stilted and less convincing. The final twist is nicely played but by then, restlessness has also set in. Rukh is intermittently engaging but it never feels essential.
Still there is enough flair here to establish Atanu as an engaging new voice.