THE FOREST movie review: Intellectually dreary

Studded with stunning visuals, excellent camera work and brilliant performances from the lead actors, Ashvin Kumar’s The Forest is marred by the languishing plot and incoherent storyline

A pristine sunrise, dense mist, deep dark woods, and wild creatures captured giving rare expressions; every frame of Ashvin Kumar’s The Forest is meticulously designed and carefully crafted. Unfortunately, the same can NOT be said about the film’s writing and direction for these key elements lack the bite and focus the film of this nature demands. If you are a keen student of the experimental genre, The Forest will titillate you. At best it may entice you with its bizarre tale, but it never quite delivers on the anticipation it builds. Not made for an average movie buff who walks into the cinema for entertainment alone, The Forest is likely to elicit big yawns.

A young couple (Nandana Sen and Ankur Vikal)  trying to sort out their marital discord lands up in the thick forest of Rudraparayag to take a break from their frantic lives and find love in their straining relationship. The couple bumps into one of their college friends (Jaaved Jaffrey) who lives in the midst of the dense Jungle. The forest houses an angry man-eating leopard who was left injured by a poacher and is thus on the prowl. As the big cat makes its horrific presence felt, the three friends also showcase their emotional complexity and their respective wild side.( har insaan ke andar ek jaanwar hota hain!) While the leopard is injured physically and hunting to satisfy it’s hunger, the three emotionally wounded friends reveal their wild side to satisfy their emotional needs.

The movie begins on a promising note. A village kid falls prey to a man eating leopard. As the predator pounces on its prey, the splash of blood finds its way to a flowing water stream and the camera captures the mood from the aerial view. The film’s technical bravura as well as the creative inclination of the director is established. But as the story unfolds, it never quite gives a concrete idea as to why exactly the director is interlinking some unnecessary subplots which neither propel the story forward nor make the film thrilling. You often find yourself untangling the complex strings of relationship binding the three main characters amidst the fear of the man-eating leopard lurking around. The emotional interplay and the fear quotient fail to run smoothly on parallel tracks. There are so many loose ends to this puzzling drama that you struggle to tie them up to form a coherent picture.

What works in the film’s favour though is its brilliant camera work.(Watch Ankur’s character sitting atop a tree fighting to survive as the leopard inching closer to him on the same tree branch) The young students of film-making have enough to learn from the film. Perhaps, they can learn equally well from the film’s mistakes. On the one hand you want to appreciate the makers and the actors of The Forest for daring to do a different film, but on the other hand you find yourself dozing off before the next visual (or Jaaved Jaffrey) recaptures your fading attention. The narration makes you expect a solid background, but the loose script fails to transform a sincere attempt into a good film. Jaaved Jaffrey has delivered a commendable performance. Every time he’s on the screen his brings a lot of dignity, rawness and myriad of expressions. Nandana Sen has done justice to her role as the vulnerable Radha and Ankur Vikal’s calm and restrained presence balances Jaaved’s rugged character.

The Forest is an elaborate and a taut ‘Save the Tiger’ campaign which may find a following amongst those with a hatke palate. Many others though may get lost in the complexity of its dreary intellectual drama.