Ram Needs 75
23 Mar 2022
Ashish Ramnani, Sumeet R Borana, Ashline K Shaju, Mohit Maheshwari
In India there’s a stringent rule where 75% attendance is compulsory for all students in order to appear in final exams in all engineering colleges all across India. Whilst the rule may appear fair and helpful to students by encouraging them to attend their academics, in recent times it has become more of a burden than a benevolence. It restrains students and prevents them from exploring more online, or out of college studying, furthermore, it doesn’t take illness into account.
It’s this idea that gives ‘Ram Needs 75’ its title and largely it’s story. From the first acoustic strums of The Beatles iconic song ‘Let It Be’ the film establishes itself firmly in the perspective of a teenager, or a group of teenagers, who are fed up with the system and just want to live their life. It isn’t just the 75 rule which is stopping them either, the teachers are cruel, especially the mean-mannered Professor Britas, whose reign of terror includes tearing a girl away from a boy for hugging him goodbye.
This is very much a teenagers world, the stench of adolescence is so overwhelming you can smell the mesh of cheap deodorant and sweat as the students navigate their way through the corridors. As with any story of adolescence, the adults are the biggest enemies, the barriers to a better, more free way of life. The problem with having a film so firmly set in this perspective is that it fails to take into account a broader narrative view, with adults presented as one-dimensional monsters simply because they enjoy tormenting those beneath them.
Whilst this rebellious spirit can certainly work to great effect, just look at ‘Ferris Bueller’s Day Off’ or ‘The Breakfast Club’, very rarely does ‘Ram Needs 75’ pull it off. That’s not to say it doesn’t - there’s an excellent sequence of Ram and his friends running to get into the school after he lost his ID - but for the most part the younger characters are rebellious for the sake of being rebellious, whilst the adults are cruel for the sake of being cruel.
The other, substantially larger, issue which stems from this is that it is extremely hard to empathise with Ram. There doesn’t seem to be anything barring him from attending his classes other than sheer laziness and oversleeping. Everyone is capable of attending something which they don’t particularly want to, everyday millions of kids reluctantly trot off to school, so why should we care that Ram doesn’t want to go. There’s a very funny gag involving a desperately ill student attending class so that he gets past the rule, surely he has more of a reason not to attend than Ram. Had the film centred around that boy’s struggles to get to college then the film has more of a base to connect with the audience, as it is, Ram comes off as lazy.
The failure to connect with the audience cannot be placed at the feet of any of the actors, who all do fine jobs with their roles, believably portraying young students in various stages of stress. Nor can it be placed at the feet of director Rameez Poyil, who shows a remarkable aptitude for shot design. Each shot is well orchestrated and Poyil can hold his head high knowing that opportunities will no doubt come his way. Similarly on the script Poyil has done an impressive job, wasting no time on exposition and making each character other than Ram engaging.
The closing shot also demonstrates a level of maturity mixed with the flair of youth from Poyil, ending just as the story was reaching a lull with an ambiguous conclusion which will leave you thinking afterwards. Had that same level of maturity been more evident in the overall mood of the film, then the film itself would be outstanding. That being said, the incessant music is also irritable, often failing to build any tension and chiming in at the wrong time.
There’s a lot of potential with ‘Ram Needs 75’ and there’s definitely a strong story hiding somewhere in there. It has all the right ingredients just in disproportionate amounts. The unabashed teen spirit should definitely have it’s place but it needs to be reigned in. The direction, script and acting is good but leaves you wanting more. More than anything ‘Ram Needs 75’ is frustrating, because director Rameez Poyil clearly has all the talent in the world, it just feels as though he chose the wrong story to channel it into.