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Fleeing the curse in Raksha

The long history of immigrants entering the US has made countless benefits to our society, proven time and time again. The influences of different cultures from across the globe weave to create new combinations as well as their original signature. Hollywood is the undisputed film capitol of the planet and immigrants have contributed greatly to its success. Most significantly, the ideas and stories from other cultures are offered up to audiences in America and other locations because of these immigrants. There’s a type of sociological investigation mixed with artistic interpretation that is represented in many films, productions like Raksha. While this tale of an Indian family living in the US is not unheard of, the cultural ideas presented are unfamiliar to much of the audience. Director Meredith Koch envisioned writers Vidhya Iyer and Jhanvi Motla’s story Raksha as a thriller. These two artists were the ideal collaborators to tell this story, presenting a multicultural exploration (Meredith is not from India) of the them both. Koch imagined a dark atmosphere to the film in order to immerse the audience who might not recognize aspects of the Hindu religion and astrology.

One of the most interesting facets of Raksha is that it doesn’t take the low hanging fruit; it rejects focusing on the immigrant label in deference to exploring the life of a woman who is simply part of an immigrant family. This direction by the filmmakers cultivates a much more immersive environment that transfers the “thriller” tempo of the story. The essential elements that drive the action of the film could be possible anywhere in the world outside India but Priya (the younger sister) has a decidedly more American perspective than her sister Archana. The sibling subtext here is that one sister has “escaped” her heritage while the other finds this impossible. In a time when immigration is everywhere in the news, the creators of Raksha have both presented the topic and adeptly avoided it.

The story and Archana’s fate is rooted in the Hindu religion. Her mother goes to see an astrologer while Archana is still very young. When the astrologer informs the matriarch that Archana is “Manglik” (cursed from having any stable relationships) the family takes steps to counteract this. Clothes, conduct, and social interaction are controlled and scrutinized in hopes of circumventing the curse. During an unexpected encounter, Archana reacts with extreme violence and nearly kills a man. It’s at this point that she begins to theorize that this curse is perhaps rooted in truth. The realization spins her world out of focus as she ponders whether she is not in control of her own fate.

Joachim Gautier saw the evolution of the film in his role as one of the producers. From the weeks of preproduction meetings to the shooting, schedules, permits, and infrastructure, he worked closely with cast and crew to ensure that writers Vidhya Iyer and Jhanvi Motla and director Meredith Koch’s vision came through. Performances by cast members such as Rhiona Bhatt (known for Primetime Emmy Nominated The Mindy Project) and Sharmilla Devar (of ABC’s Golden Globe nominated hit Scandal) resulted in the film winning the Festival Prize at the Delhi International Film Festival. Joachim notes, “I’ve been to India several times as I have family members who live there. I was therefore quite familiar with Archana’s background and it was easy to understand where Jhanvi and Vidhya got their inspiration from. They’ve very accurately communicated an idea that is not common to many other places in the world with this film.” Perhaps the greatest effect of film is that it allows us to inhabit the experiences of different people than us and feel their emotions. For viewers of Raksha this can be simultaneously frightening and enjoyable.

Written by Kelly King

Fleeing the curse in Raksha Reviewed by JaamZIN on 5:38:00 PM Rating: 5
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