Rukh, which means direction, has been astutely used as a metaphor in debutant director Atanu Mukherjee's film. But, on the face of it, the film is about a son's quest to know the truth about his father's death. It is his internal journey.
Three years after being rusticated from his school for ruthlessly injuring his classmate, Dhruv Mathur finds himself at a loose end when he hears of his father's accident and subsequent death. Not that he has a strong bond with his father, but then how the death and accident is hushed up by everyone, including his mother is what makes him and the audience curious.
Following his own instincts, Dhruv tries to investigate his father Diwakar's accident and in the process, he comes across some home truths; that his father was "a good man, a man of his word," and that he was under pressure for want of funds because his best friend and business partner Robin (Kumud Mishra) had betrayed him.
Now that Robin is trying to frame his dead father in a money laundering scam, makes him assume that his father's accident was staged and that he was actually murdered. With this preconceived notion, he sets out on a journey of redemption and self-reconciliation.
Set in a melancholic tone, "Rukh" excels as a fine example of a neo-realism film. It subtly captures the time and the current political scenario with flourish. But the screenplay by Akash Mohimen and Atanu Mukherjee, falls short in its endeavour as it pursues to convert the drama into a mystery thriller. The wrinkles in the mystery quotient seem forced and is probably what sets in the irritant factor.
But what makes the film fulfilling are the performances. Manoj Bajpayee is too passive a character to leave much of an impression. But he leaves his mark in a scene opposite Kumud Mishra, who plays Robin, where both of them accuse each other of extracting their pound of flesh.
Kumud is a charismatic actor, but as the slimy Robin, he is deadpan, yet effective. Smita Tambe as Nandini, Dhruv's mother, is realistic and relatable.
Adarsh Gourav is a compelling actor. He portrays Dhruv's anguish and anger with flourish, while being obsessed with unearthing the mystery shrouding his father's death. Those are the only two emotions the script allows him to display. His backstory seems forced, just inserted in a formulaic fashion to build his character.
The others in the supporting cast like Jayant - Diwakar's accountant, Hassan and Shinde - Diwakar's labourers and Amit - Dhruv's friend, have their moments of on screen glory. Each one of them is natural and they standout for their soulful delivery.
On the technical front, the production design is simply realistic and awe-inspiring. Pooja Gupte's camera work seems to be non-intrusive making the entire viewing experience natural.
The two songs, "Hai Baaki" and "Khidki", along with the background score by Anjo John, merge well with the narrative elevating the viewing experience.
Overall, despite a few blemishes, "Rukh" is a film that keeps you riveted.
(Ratings: 3 Stars)