Ray on Netflix is an anthology of 4 films, each that have been inspired by short stories written by the legendary, Satyajit Ray. The first story, Hungama Hai Kyon Barpa' features ghazal singer Musafir Ali, played by Bajpayee along with a traveler, Aslam, played by Gajraj Rao as they bond over during their train journey. The two seem to have this familiarity, only to discover more as the journey progresses, and eventually, it will leave you in a state of shock, or surprise (as you'd like to see it).
Next up, there is Harshvardhan Kapoor as Bollywood actor Vikram along with Radhika Madan as a God woman. This makes for an intriguing plot, but only on paper. It narrates the tale of the life of an actor and the struggles in their careers while trying to find a mojo. On the other hand, there's Didi, a religious leader, enjoying so much popularity, and that's when things change.
The third movie, Bahrupiya, is the story of Indrashish, played by Kay Kay Menon. He plays a make-up artist in the film, and while he is at it, he seems to have been caught up in the God complex. Finally, the last story with Ali Fazal as Ipsit in Forget Me Not is the story of a businessman who has a memory to die for, but then he questions everything on his meeting with a lady.
The 4 stories are written by Niren Bhatt and Siraj Ahmed, and directed by Abhishek Chaubey, Vasan Bala, and Srijit Mukherji.
One may think that nothing can go wrong with a cast as varied as this, and well, the performances truly stand out. My personal favourites are Gajraj Rajo, Manoj Bajpayee, and Chandan Roy Sanyal. Gajraj Rao as the Urdu poet brings an absolute essence of its own to the screens, one that is truly best suited for him, and we didn't even know-how.
Harshvarrdhan too does a great job with what he is given. However, the story is not one that stands out, but due credits to him. Also, a saviour in this story is Radhika's 'Didi' and we truly love her on-screen presence. Sanyal, is yet another great addition to the cast, and also one of the top performances in this movie.
Ali and Kay Kay Menon's stories Forget Me Not and Bahrupiya, respectively, have a dark side to the stories, and while they seem to be the week points here, the performances are a saving grace. Menon might have delivered one of his finest performances, and we love the layers that are there to his character, along with those on the skin. Dibyendu too, does a good job and has your attention.
Ali manages to do what he does best, act and own the screen, and that charm continues. Both the ladies, Shweta and Anindita are also a treat to watch and render great performances.
Ray is an absolute great attempt at trying to give a contemporary twist to the classic storytelling of Ray's stories. However, the novel attempt isn't all that success, but the risk that the creators have taken sure pays off. Manoj and Gajraj's story, is almost the only one that sticks to what it tries to say, and also true in story-telling, for it catches the nuances right, makes sure you are glued to the screens, and in the end, it all works out just fine.
Meanwhile, Vasan Bala's Spotlight, though very traditional in the sense that you know what transpires, it does give it a fun spin and that works out great for those watching. This, could be the closest to authentically incorporate the vision that Satjyajit Ray tries to incorporate in his work.
Also what makes this a great watch is the direction, from each and every single director. The stories that they narrate are visually appealing and play an extremely important role in keeping the viewers engaged. Also supporting the direction and performances, the editing, the music, and the cinematography are absolute highlights.
Srijit's Forget Me Not and Bahrupiya, both rely highly on performances and the technical department. While both films are gritty and dark in nature, they still don't hold your attention for long enough and come across as rather mediocre. With the stories that the makers are narrating and such talent on board, one is likely to expect a tad bit better when it comes to these two stories. Nonetheless, they aren't absolute bummers but could've been made better.
You want to give all the movies a chance as Ray on Netflix is truly a gem in a lot of ways. One is sure to learn so much about filmmaking while observing small nuances here and there. However, it is also true that in an attempt to give the stories a modern spin, and making the stories taut, some essence of Ray's filmmaking go amiss.
Ratings: *** stars (3/5)