In a few of our birthday features, we have mentioned how there are certain filmmakers who haven't made a bad movie yet. Count Sriram Raghavan in that. At worst, he has made a very underwhelming film, made so by the hype it was riding on (more on that later). But Raghavan hasn't made a movie that is abysmally bad per se, and all the five feature-length films that he has made till now have stood apart from each other and been dissected in conversations of film buffs. Varun Dhawan Confirms Starring in Sriram Raghavan's Film Based on Second Lieutenant Arun Khetarpal.
Sriram Raghavan, a graduate of Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), had begun getting into films by directing documentaries, writing for serials and directing an episode in Star Best Sellers. His movie career actually took off when he met Ram Gopal Varma (who was then one of the most sought after filmmakers in Bollywood). The latter gave him the opportunity to direct Ek Hasina Thi in 2004, starring Urmila Matondkar and Saif Ali Khan.
While Ek Hasina Thi didn't work at the box office, it gave Raghavan recognition as a filmmaker to watch out for and was critically acclaimed. Raghavan's true-breakout success was with Johnny Gaddaar, a surprise hit that many claim to be one of the best thrillers made in Bollywood. From thereon, the choosy director that he is, Raghavan made three more movies - Agent Vinod, Badlapur and AndhaDhun, each received varied critical acclaim and box office success. 5 Years of Badlapur: Radhika Apte Hails Sriram Raghavan for Delivering an Enticing Thriller, Says ‘He Has Immense Clarity About What He Wants’.
In this special feature, we look at all the films he has directed till now and rank them based on how they appealed to us. You can agree or differ with our ranking in the comments section below.
Agent Vinod makes way for a strange conundrum, It is perhaps Raghavan's most technically proficient work, and also his biggest in terms of budget. There are a few wonderful shots in the film, that need to be praised. Like Ravi Kishan's character jumping out from a moving train. Or the entire "Raabta" song that is shot in one take. It is also a very subversive attempt in the suave spy genre, which is also why the public didn't embrace Agent Vinod as warmly as his other films have been. But there is no argument, that it is a stretched movie and this lack of tethering is what proved to be Agent Vinod's, starring Saif Ali Khan and Kareena Kapoor, Achilles Heel.
You can watch Agent Vinod on Jio Cinema and Eros Now.
You might be surprised by Raghavan's most recent effort, that had critics and fans salivating, this low. AndhaDhun, which gave Ayushmann Khurrana his first National Award, is a very smart film, that gives you something new to learn on your every rewatch. Both Ayushmann and Tabu are fantastic in the lead roles, and the movie loves to subvert your expectations. Like revealing what you think is its biggest twist in the first 15 minutes, and then making you wonder what's the meaning of the final scene. However, AndhaDhun's second half is comparatively weaker, with the subplot of the doctor indulged in illegal organ trade not exactly working out as well as the terrific first half. But the positives fare better and the negatives, so here we are!
You can watch AndhaDhun on Netflix and Zee5.
Ek Hasina Thi
Sriram Raghavan is a filmmaker who loves to give tributes to other movies. Ek Hasina Thi destroys the boy-meets-girl cute love stories in a way only Sriram Raghavan can. But the first half of his debut film, Ek Hasina Thi, veered a bit too close to Sridevi-starrer Gumrah, where Urmila's character is sent to prison because her boyfriend (Saif Ali Khan) implicates her in a false case. It is the second half, however, where Ek Hasina Thi becomes its own dark, gritty beast, as the wounded girl seeks revenge on the one who hurt her the most and the title makes a lot of sense then. Urmila is fantabulous in the role, while Saif's suave antagonist role is something we should discuss in the same breath as his Langda Tyagi in Omkara. Also, that climax scene in a rat-infested cave... it still gives me shivers!
Watch Ek Hasina Thi on Netflix.
Badlapur, starring Varun Dhawan and Nawazuddin Siddiqui, is unapologetically gritty and violent and left many shocked for some of its dark twists. People weren't ready to see how Varun's character could go on to sexually assault a woman and then kill another in cold blood. But that's the point of the movie - it is Raghavan's way of saying 'An Eye For An Eye Makes The Whole World Go Blind'. Badlapur is his most nuanced work in the garb of a revenge drama. It is slow, simmering and brutal and therefore leaves you numb in the end. It is strangely poetic to see how the roles reverse - when the one who is the least sympathetic end up making you feel bad for him and vice-versa. Also, the soundtrack is fantastic.
Watch Badlapur on Zee5.
Think AndhaDhun was smart? Well, Sriram Raghavan's breakout success was smarter. One of the best thrillers in Bollywood, Johnny Gaddaar is a brilliant ode to the pulp thrillers of the '70s, that deftly throws the homages at you, enticing you to catch its twists before they happen. A heist thriller, or so it purports itself to be, the strength of the film lies in its nonchalant attitude in baring open its cards and then making you guess how it is planning its game. The cast is excellent and it is the best film I had seen Dharmendra I have seen this century. If you haven't seen Johnny Gaddaar by now, you are missing out on a great movie.
You can watch Johnny Gaddaar on Disney Plus Hotstar and YouTube.
Honourable Mention - The Eight Column Affair
Since it is Sriram Raghavan's birthday - Many Many Happy Returns to You, Sire - we have a special treat for you. Here's the director's FTII short film that he had made back in 1987 that shows the glimpses of his brilliance as a filmmaker. Also it's edited by Rajkumar Hirani and stars Nana Patekar.
(The above story first appeared on LatestLY on Jun 22, 2020 12:58 PM IST. For more news and updates on politics, world, sports, entertainment and lifestyle, log on to our website latestly.com).