A lot is riding on the star-studded horror-comedy ‘Roohi’, directed by Hardik Mehta. This Hindi-language film is the first major theatrical release in the UAE and Indian cinemas after the COVID-19 pandemic upended the global film industry, halting production and closing cinemas.
Uncertainty is a strong sentiment plaguing film industry players, who have bled millions due to the pandemic-induced restrictions and are now limping back to normalcy.
In February, cinemas in India were allowed to operate at 100 per cent capacity, which was seen as a window of opportunity for filmmakers to roll out their movies that were kept on hold. But director Mehta (‘Kaamyaab’ and ‘Trapped’) is not letting the pressure engulf him, even though he is aware that all eyes are on his new film starring Janhvi Kapoor, Rajkummar Rao, and Varun Sharma.
“There’s a lot of pressure, but I also think we have the privilege of getting people into the cinemas again … It’s almost poetic justice that ‘Roohi’ is the film that has the charge of bringing people back into the cinemas again,” said Mehta in an interview with Gulf News.
The ‘poetic justice’ that he’s alluding to is the fate that was meted to his film ‘Kaamyaab’ and Dinesh Vijan,‘Roohi’ producer.
“Last year around the same time, both ‘Kaamyaab’ and ‘Angrezi Medium’ were released in the theatres. But the onset of the pandemic meant that the theatres shut down abruptly and our movies didn’t get a run … It’s almost like we are taking revenge a year later by coming together for a movie which will be the first film to release after a long time … We want to bring the magic of the cinemas back in people’s lives,” said Mehta.
The director believes that destiny and fate have come a full circle with producer Vijan and Mehta joining hands — two cinematic casualties who got swept away last year when the pandemic wave struck globally.
‘Roohi’, co-produced by Jio Studio, is a horror-comedy about a witch who targets brides if their grooms are found sleeping on their wedding night. Though not an extension of the 2018 sleeper hit ‘Stree’, the genre of these two films is the same.
“There couldn’t have been a better film than ‘Roohi’ to entice people back into the theatres. It’s a film that’s perfect when you watch it with your friends. The laughter’s infectious and the spooky elements scare you only if you watch it in the theatres. For you to get the feels, you must watch this film in the cinemas only,” says Mehta.
He believes that film distribution companies, exhibitors, and multiplexes have ‘suffered’ tremendous losses globally. Bollywood wasn’t immune to it either.
“We now must give back to the cinema. While OTT platforms are amazing, all our lives we have watched movies on the big screen. It’s time to pay forward and give back. A movie like ‘Roohi’ can only be enjoyed in the cinemas,” says Mehta. While he is aware that his film is being looked at as a litmus test on whether movie fans will flock to the cinemas, Mehta is confident that a good movie will always triumph.
Actor Varun Sharma shares his sentiments and has posted a heartfelt, personal note to all his fans before his release day in India on March 11.
“For us, Actors, cinema halls, and multiplexes are nothing short of a shrine. A year back, when the on-going pandemic hit us hard and theatres had to stay shut, the entire cinema industry incurred massive losses. But more importantly, it took an emotional toll on us. Today after one year I visited the Theatre and I feel so much Gratitude in my Heart,” he wrote on social media.
The self-made actor claims that his memories of watching films in his local cinemas ignited his acting ambitions.
“I grew up in a middle-class family in Jalandhar. I knew no one in showbiz. Despite all that, I wanted to be an actor for the only time I was utterly and truly happy was when I would be before the big screen living the magic and absorbing the larger-than-life charm of Hindi films. Soon, first-day-first-shows became a way of life and before I knew it, I was seduced into the world of movies,” said Sharma.
While he implores his fans to watch ‘Roohi’ in the cinemas, he cautions viewers to wear masks and exercise safety precautions while heading out to the cinemas for a theatrical experience after more than a year.
“I am happy to share this special film with my audience who has been waiting to watch me for the past two years. Roohi is my first release after Chhichhore that released in 2019. Let us come together and relive the magic. But don’t forget to stay safe. Wear your masks and enjoy the rollercoaster ride that Roohi is,” wrote Sharma on social media.
His director Mehta echoed his sentiments. “From the start, our entire team including our technical crew worked on this movie keeping in mind that this film will only be justified if viewed on the big screen. We hunted for forests with tall trees, shot in real locations …. It would be a big disservice if this film did not release on the big screen.”
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‘Roohi’ releases in UAE cinemas on March 10.