Netflix’s Ray is a four-part web series that is loosely connected to the theme of ‘identity'. Now, this theme has been translated into four different ways. The first episode deals with a man whose identity is his brain whereas the second episode deals with a man whose identity is his face. The third one is based on personality and the fourth one is based on a single look. Ray isn’t modeled like the popular Indian cinema anthologies like Paava Kadhigal or Ajeeb Dastaans, it’s more like Black Mirror. As an anthology, Ray is clearly a unique approach to Satyajit Ray’s short stories but not all of them are able to reach their destination.
1. Forget Me Not
Forget Me Not revolves around a man who is known for remembering everything. Ali Fazal plays the role of a man who never forgets anything. One day, a girl from his past suddenly meets him at a bar and tries to make him remember about herself but Ipsit (Ali Fazal) doesn’t seem to remember anything about their meeting. The film is crafted skilfully and even has a good plot but it just lacks depth. The condition of a man who is proud of his memory when suddenly comes to know that he is losing his mind is at times stretched and it may create a haunting and a perfect paranoid thriller experience but it still doesn’t seem to have layers. The film is hauntingly shot by Swapnil Sonwane and Ali Fazal gave an amazing performance. So, overall Forget Me Not can somehow be considered a watchable experience but not great.
Kay Kay Menon’s Bahrupiya is probably the worst in the lot. Kay Kay Menon basically plays Joker in a Kolkata setup and just has a magic book that helps him create brilliant prosthetics. The problem with this film is that it is oversimplified and seems to get lost after a while, the intentions aren’t clear, and it doesn’t even try to create depth with its plot. It can be easily called a cheap version of Todd Phillips’ Joker or probably worse than that.
3. Hungama Hai Kyon Barpa
This is the best episode among the lot, in fact, it is the smartest one. Abhishek Chaubey’s Hungama Hai Kyon Barpa is a delightful and well-crafted piece of cinema that has a simple plot but it’s so uniquely executed with its frisky screenplay that just makes this episode a must-watch. Two men meet on a train after 10 years but one of them remembers that he had stolen a watch from the other man ten years ago, what follows is a spectacular journey of awkwardness and a playful story. Manoj Bajpayee and Gajraj Rao have done a brilliant job and so did the other cast members. This is probably the only episode in the anthology that stays loyal to the source material and inserts creativity in the execution of the story rather than the plot. The interplay, the well-executed montage, the awkwardness, the last-minute twists and metaphors are just charming and a delight to watch.
This is probably the most creative and unique episode among the lot. It has taken so much creative liberty that probably the soul of Satyajit Ray has clearly vanished from the plot. However, if you judge the film clearly on its own merit rather than comparing it with the source material then you might really enjoy the film as I did. Vasan Bala’s Spotlight is a unique social satire in which the element of ‘social satire’ is hiding with a disguise in a back seat and letting stardom and religion play an interesting war. The film has long stretches, weird-trippy segments, and dialogues ranging from Kafka to David Lynch. This episode is wild and can be enjoyed if seen under a certain lens otherwise for some it is going to appear weak or even idiotic at times. It all depends upon how much bizarreness one can handle. Harshvardhan Kapoor did an amazing job, he probably revived the version of himself which he used in AK vs AK and used it brilliantly in a wild and strange story. The film even uniquely mentions all the popular films of Satyajit Ray in a scene. Overall, the fourth episode is a trippy ride and it may not be suitable for everyone.
All in all, Netflix’s Ray isn’t completely successful but it does have three films that can somehow work. The last film is going to have mixed reviews, the third one is clearly the best among the lot, the second one is easy to forget and the first episode can be just called passable. However, if one is looking to see all Satyajit Ray’s short stories coming alive in the form of cinema then they are going to be heavily disappointed by almost all the films in the anthology.