Cast: Jyotika, Poornima Bhagyaraj and Hareesh Peradi
The first thing that you’d probably say after walking out of Jyotika’s Raatchasi is that it’s a well-intentioned and relevant film on the current state of affairs in government schools but not hard-hitting enough to leave an impact. As much as Jyotika tries to shoulder this project single-handedly (she succeeds to some extent), it’s evident that Raatchasi sounds exciting only on the surface, and works only in bits and pieces. For instance, one of the film’s sub-plots about students divided by caste which would’ve made a great social commentary is never dealt as seriously as one would’ve intended.
The film features Jyotika as Geetharani, an honest, fearless headmistress of a government school in a village on a mission to bring about change and awareness. Right from the first day of her arrival, she goes on a reformative journey in spite of facing stiff opposition from all quarters, including teachers and students in the school. Gradually, she earns the trust and respect of her colleagues and the students start to embrace her ideologies.
Cut from the same cloth as Rani Mukerji’s Hichki and Tamil films such as Sattai and Appa, Raatchasi has good intentions but lacks heart and finesse. It’s a film that relies more on melodrama and message-heavy dialogues more than sticking to making its point via powerful scenes. The film makes its protagonist mouth pages and page of dialogues to drive home the point, making it tiresome, at times, to sit through till the end. At times, Raatchasi isn’t sure if it wants to be treated as a message film or reformative drama of a teacher who can fight a group of bad guys. The film does feature a scene where we see Jyotika, a la a mass hero, bash up a few goons.
Despite Jyotika’s earnest performance and here’s another reminder that why she’s one of the best actors among her contemporaries, Raatchasi lacks a soul to be really taken seriously. While it manages to stay mostly relevant in the first half, it’s getting way too melodramatic and problematic in the second half. There are two beautiful sub-plots featuring a father and daughter and Jyotika and a little boy from her school. The latter brings so much warmth into the narrative and genuinely makes you smile, but the film’s other sub-plot never gets properly fleshed out.
Raatchasi is a film you wish you could wholeheartedly embrace, but it ends up being an effort you want to merely discuss and not rave about.