Cast:Rahul Khanna, Jimmy Shergill, Sharman Joshi, Tanushree Datta, Vishwajeet Pradhan, Vivek Shauq, Rekha Rao, Neena Kulkarni, Mona Chopra, Kishori ShahaneDirection:Anurag SinghProduction:Raj KanwarMusic:Pritam Chakraborty

Suspense thrillers are tough to make. And film-makers need to follow three golden rules to make a thriller work: Cast fine actors… The needle of suspicion should vacillate from one character to another, keeping the viewer guessing till the finale… The suspense should come as a surprise.

RAQEEB, directed by debutante Anurag Singh, holds your interest at crucial points. Even though the story bears a striking resemblance to two films — Venus/Abbas-Mustan’s HUMRAAZ [in turn inspired by A PERFECT MURDER] and Tips/Ken Ghosh’s FIDA — the film in actuality borrows from a different film altogether — MURDER BY NATURAL CAUSES [1979] — a lesser known English film. In the original, one of the leads wears a pacemaker. In RAQEEB, he’s asthmatic.

RAQEEB is not without its share of deficiencies. Fortunately, the uppers outnumber the downers in this case. The twists in the storyline and the dangerous games indulged by the lead characters make up for the drab moments in the enterprise. In actuality, the film gathers speed minutes before the intermission and the graph only goes upwards as the reels unfold. But here’s a direct question to the debutante storyteller: Why didn’t you opt for an unconventional end, for that would’ve been the perfect icing on the cake? Sometimes, evil also wins!

In a nutshell, RAQEEB isn’t great cinema. It isn’t low on substance either. It floats somewhere in between. Watch it without expectations and you wouldn’t be disappointed.

Remo [Rahul Khanna] is the owner of a highly successful software company. Remo’s parents had died in a car crash when he was a child. Siddharth [Sharman Joshi] is his employee and probably, only friend. Siddharth is the exact opposite of Remo who is shy, introvert and asthmatic.

Siddharth constantly pesters Remo to socialize so that he can meet a few girls and fall in love with one of them. Remo seems to be averse to the idea until, one day, Siddharth plays a prank and sets Remo up for a blind date.

Remo meets the girl and after a misunderstanding falls in love with her. The girl is Sofie [Tanushree Dutta], a theatre actress. Everything is perfect until Remo and Sofie discover that her parents died in the same car crash in which Remo’s parents had been killed. Sofie realizes that Remo’s parents were responsible for the death of her parents.

Remo doesn’t know how to deal with this tragic discovery. Siddharth persuades him to propose to Sofie. Remo proposes and after the initial hesitation, Sofie accepts. Remo and Sofie get married.

Sunny [Jimmy Shergill] is a struggling actor who is in love with Sofie. But Sofie always desired a luxurious life which Sunny was unable to provide. Hence, Sofie married Remo. When Sunny and Sofie meet again, the old love is rekindled. Thus begins a torrid affair between them.

Tired of having to meet secretly and only occasionally, they plan to kill Remo. The plan is to hide Remo’s asthma medicine and then aggravate his asthma so as to trigger an asthma attack. Once the asthma attack occurs, Sunny has to pretend to shoot Remo with fake bullets so as to aggravate his condition further, eventually leading to death. The post mortem will reveal that Remo died of natural causes and hence, no one will be suspected of any foul play.img156/150/raqeep18053fu9.jpg

The D-day arrives and Sunny comes to Remo’s house to execute the plan. But there is another twist in the tale. Sofie double crosses Sunny as well and he is arrested and accused of Remo’s murder. But there’s more to this story…

Unlike most thrillers that reveal it all in the climax, RAQEEB peels off the mask of the scheming wife much before the intermission card is flashed on the screen. The reason why this film works is because everyone’s playing games here. That makes it extremely difficult for the viewer to guess the prime suspect — the manipulative and scheming mind.

The reason that prompts the prime suspect to indulge in dangerous games is completely justified. But the writer-director messes it up with such a tame ending.

Debutante Anurag Singh succeeds in presenting an unconventional theme with care. The idea of an ambitious woman in a relationship with three men at the same time is undoubtedly interesting. In terms of execution, Anurag handles the drama well, building the suspense beautifully.

Pritam’s music is foot-tapping. ‘Channa Ve Channa’, ‘Dushmana’ and ‘Qateel’ are nice compositions. Fuwad Khan’s camerawork could’ve been better. The locales of Thailand are striking, but the visuals don’t make you scream ‘Wow!’. Dialogues are well worded at places.

RAQEEB belongs to Sharman Joshi, who is evolving into a powerful actor. He slips into the role effortlessly and looks natural all through. Rahul Khanna is perfect as the suave tycoon. Why doesn’t one see more of you, Rahul? Jimmy Shergill’s role reminds you of the obsessed lover in DARR, but after he’s shown getting arrested, this track is sidelined completely. Nonetheless, Jimmy does a worthy job.

Tanushree Dutta is a revelation. Although her makeup and outfits [why so much skin show?] continue to be atrocious, you have to give credit where it’s due. She enacts her part very well, expressing a lot through her eyes. Vishwajeet Pradhan is hardly there. Rekha Rao is wasted. Vivek Shauq excels. He provides the much-needed light moments.

On the whole, RAQEEB is a fairly engrossing fare. At the box-office, the bold theme may find its share of advocates and adversaries. Besides, the not-as-aggressive promotion and minimal hype will tell on its business.

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