Rokto Pipasha (Review)
aka রক্ত পিপাসা aka The Vampire
Written and Directed by Rubel
These vampires know how to have fun!
Bangladesh does their own version of Blade, all Bangla-ed up with plenty of fighting, yelling, dr4ama, people with giant swords, singing, child endangerment, ridiculous vehicles, cheap effects, scratched film, excitement, and only lacking in the budget. Rokto Pipasha is amazing cinema, and deserved a larger audience, especially in the West. Since the current audience in the West seems to be just me (There is currently literally nothing about this film written in English!), it’s time for TarsTarkas.NET to do what it does best, exposing obscure foreign fun to the masses. And as Rokto Pipasha is all over YouTube in a format where it doesn’t look too bad, there is really no excuse not to track it down. Rokto Pipasha does not have subtitles, but at TarsTarkas.NET, we don’t need no stinking subtitles! You also don’t really need them to figure out what is going on. There are some vampires, some vampire hunters, and a lot of fighting. The villains are obvious, the heroes spend much of their time tracking them down or arguing amongst themselves, and the action sequences are rather well choreographed.
For those of you uninitiated with Bangla cinema, their action movies feature a lot of the things common in action cinema in India, Pakistan, and the Middle East. There is a lot of yelling and boasting by heroes and villains before they fight. There are dramatic zooms. A lot of dramatic zooms. In one sequence, vampire hunter Mr. T argues with four other vampire hunters, and we get a reaction zoom to Mr. T, then the first hunter, then Mr. T, then the second hunter, repeating for all. This happens multiple times throughout the film. The action is over the top, bringing in elements of martial arts and super heroes. The characters do punches and kicks that would kill normal people, but because they fight others who are super powered, they often do little damage, except for on whichever character is slated to die in that fight. All the main vampire hunters have a huge weapon, either a ridiculous sword or a scythe or something, and they walk around carrying the giant hand weapon in a world where guns exist. The soundtrack is packed full of stolen music. Rokto Pipasha came out in 2007, so there is no excuse. It’s yet another movie with the James Bond theme, as a weird remix pops up randomly during scenes where characters are looking cool. I also recognized tracks from Gladiator, Star Wars, Jaws, and various Westerns.
Most of the action either takes place in the middle of nowhere or in giant warehouse studios with large hand painted murals as set decoration. There are one or two actual sets that might be part of a hotel or something, unsurprisingly some of the musical numbers also take place here (as those parts will have higher budgets than the rest of the film). And even those locations have walls covered in huge paintings. I would also wager that if I watched more low budget Bangladeshi films, I would recognize some of the paintings.
One thing that isn’t common in Bangla cinema is the characters drive around in ridiculous custom monster vehicles. The cars would be 1000% not street legal in the US, and the vehicle choices make you obvious targets for whoever is hunting you. They also look ridiculous, even though they are awesome. Just check out the wealth of images I took of these monstrosities and try not to instantly want to watch Rokto Pipasha! Another thing that is rare is Western-style monsters like vampires, though films “borrowing” plots from American cinema isn’t that rare in Bangla film. Rokto Pipasha has concepts lifted directly from the Blade movies, but follows enough of its own path that it isn’t a straight ripoff, it just owes a heavy debt.
As Rokto Pipasha is obscure as heck, this will be another classic TarsTarkas.NET longread where I go over everything. Those of you who hate reading will enjoy the large amount of photos and gifs, and everyone will have a good time. Or else I’ll stab you with my vampire sword! The lack of subtitles means the character names are guesses, though I’m pretty sure I’m right about the main vampire hunter Blade ripoff played by Rubel being named Mr. T. The villain vampire in love is definitely named Romeo.
Rubel aka Masum Parvez Rubel stars and also directed and co-wrote the film, along with some writers that I couldn’t find names for. He also delivers the explaination in the beginning and seems to be a big fan of the Blade series. According to a text blurb he put in the film, he “committer himself to give you a good commercial film”, so few films declare their intentions nowadays. Besides Rubel, actor Shakil Khan has a featured role as a villainous vampire in love. Actor names I couldn’t connect with roles include: Bipasha (is this Bipasha Hayat?), Moumita, and Elys Kobra. There is also a cameo appearance from Bangla action star Sohel Rana. The lack of English information in general on Bangla film is a big problem that I hope gets solved someday, and it is made exponentially harder by the few cast members that are mentioned in talk about the film just having a single name. I am eagerly awaiting someone to chime in down in the comments for who is who.
Rokto Pipasha opens with Rubel explaining how vampires work to the audience, which is handy because the traditional vampire mythos is Western in origin, and there are probably a lot of Bangladeshi people who have better things to do than to worry about what the heck a vampire is. This must have been added later in production, with people worried that audiences wouldn’t get the vampire aspect. There are photos of Rubel in the background already made up in vampire form, complete with a cross growing out of his face. Rubel explains how vampires can be defeated by silver swords and silver bullets, and then spins in his chair, showing off that he is now a vampire and sporting some fangs! More movies need a guy explaining the mythology in the movie before the movie. That certainly feels more intimate than a wall of text. It’s like Rubel himself is concerned about me and wants me to understand as much as possible for maximum enjoyment of his film.
It was a dark and stormy night, a woman is attacked by a vampire, and also some stolen footage from a horror movie T don’t recognize! Then the credits play over something I do recognized, incredibly washed out shots of CGI vampires being destroyed in Blade II.
Mr. T works in a huge warehouse office with walls painted in cloud designs. At least 6 couches and a giant guitar line the walls. Mr. T’s intro is an exaggerated action showcase entrance highlighted by him flipping his chair over the desk so he can sit in it, repeated action shots of him putting his legs up on his desk (including special angles of the legs!), and tossing his phone receiver into the air and dramatically catching it, thus answering the phone. Please ignore that the cord is not attached. Mr. T declares he’s not open for business.
All that, and it turned out to be a telemarketer!
He must have forgotten to put up the “Closed” sign in the front door, as an angry guy in an orange shirt bursts in and starts yelling threateningly. Soon desks are flipping and Mr. T is holding a gun sideways, and the Orange Guy leaves. Orange Guy is familiar because he played the crazy brother of the villain in Machine Man.
Mr. T eats an apple…until he hears footsteps. Orange Guy is back, along with eight other guys, and they all got machetes and swords! Mr. T whips out his ginormous silver cross sword! He proceeds to kick all their butts. At one point Mr. T tosses his sword into Orange Guy’s hands and then pulls out his gun and shoots Orange Guy so hard the sword flies back into Mr. T’s hands. Then Mr. T tosses his sword in the air, and in over the course of a minute shoots three guys multiple times, and then he catches the sword on the way back down to stab more people. Mr. T kills them all and then dramatically puts on a red coat. Coat drama!
A 10 year old girl then enters the office with a letter for him, she is unconcerned there are 9 dead men on the ground. She’s Partner, who is Mr. T’s partner and has a convenient name (she might have an actual name, but the lack of subs means she’s just Partner, and he calls her Partner like 500 times anyway!) After a heart to heart conversation they drive away on his motorcycle to go meet the people who wrote him. The man is the father of the woman attacked before the credits, he wants his daughter back, who is being held captive by the Vampire Chief Romeo. In addition, the Markus Brothers are also hunting down Romeo and his goons.
The worst part of Rokto Pipasha is a trio I dub the Three Idiots. They consist of a goonish guy in a fancy shirt that looks vaguely Chinese, and two other very scrawny goons wearing much less than a shirt. They will show up occasionally to threaten various main characters, then act goofy and nonthreatening, until the main characters ignore them and leave. The scenes are slow, destroying the relatively fast pacing, and do nothing for people like me who don’t have subtitles to understand what is probably awful verbal humor. Unfortunately no one ever kills these guys, but they do encounter a random ghost that also has nothing to do with the plot.
That night, a huge delivery van made up to look like a monster with a huge gaping mouth has four fighters leap off of it: three dudes and a chick. These are the Markus Brothers and Karmila. Karmila brandishes a sword, while the three brothers have a sword, a scythe, and a weird bagh naka-looking thing. Bagh Naka guy also uses a bow and arrow. They quartet fight a mob of random vampires who disappear into a bunch of video toaster digital effects squares when killed. During the fight, a fourth guy briefly joinds the vampire hunters, he’s another Markus brother who injects himself with drugs that make him a martial arts fighter, but he’s also sick or something. I think he’s been infected by the Vampires, and he only appears once again after his brief scene here. The battle attracts the attention of the Three Idiots, who says annoying things before wandering off, and of Mr. T and Partner.
Mr. T catches an arrow the Arrow Brother fires, then the teams trade words with a lot of zooming closeups back and forth. So many closeup zooms it gets hilarious. Despite Karmila being part of the Markus Brothers team, she wanders off alone later that night. Because you should always wander off alone at night in vampire country.
As Mr. T and Partner are talking and waiting for vampires to show up while hanging out in the middle of the countryside, they see Karmila walk by and yell out to her. But Karmila gets hit by a car! Not just a car, another fancy car, a car mocked up to look like a black panther head with its mouth open! This car is the personal vehicle of Romeo the local vampire chief, who not only is the sexy vampire guy who seduced away the daughter of the man who hired all the vampire hunters, but he also dyes his hair golden blonde. Mr. T leaps upon the Monster Car to fight Romeo, and they spar a bit, though Romeo teleports out of the way of Mr. T’s sword and knocks him off of the Monster Car. How Mr. T was able to catch up to and then leap upon a speeding Monster Truck is obvious, it’s because he’s awesome.
After the fight, he and Partner move Lady Vampire Hunter off of the road, just picking her up and bending her back, because who cares about spinal injuries. She awakens later and they chat a bit, Mr. T and Partner then leave her, and she’s found by the Markus Brothers a bit later.
The love between Romeo and his “kidnapped” girlfriend is so strong it gets its own song and dance number.
Mr. T and Partner encounter four guys with machetes and swords, and the pair beat the crap out of them. Yes, the small girl successfully fights two grown men.
The Markus Brothers are driving around in daytime and finds the Monster Car parked by the side of the road. They go to check it out, and four mean-looking guys with snake symbols on their shirts jump out with weapons and sneers ready. These are the goons of Romeo who protect his car and provide sub-bosses before the main boss. In the long fight that follows, Archer Brother gets injured and the villains escape as his friends run to his side.
Mr. T and Partner are attacked by more random guys in broad daylight. Mr. T is like a magnet for random goons attacking him! After beating the tar out of them, Mr. T gets a name of who keeps sending the random goons to attack them – Lukanda.
Lukanda is a very short guy in a sky blue shirt with a red skull and crossbones on it and pajama pants. He pumps his crotch while a woman in a jester-ish costume sings about Evil and guys dressed in black act as background dancers. The song she sings rules, by the way. This whole sequence is fun as heck, and I want more!
The song goes on for long enough that Mr. T is able to drive to their headquarters and burst in. Lukanda’s goons place an axe in one of his hands and a knife in the other, and then carry him and the box he stands on over to Mr. T so he can yell at him. The yelling soon ends and the killing begins, except Lukanda teleports away when he’s in danger of getting Mr. T’s sword to his face.
Next we see Romeo’s Monster Car driving along, and Mr. T blocks it with a giant log he tosses into the road. Two of the Snake Goons get out to confront him, but two Markus Brothers also appear – Sword Brother and Scythe Brother. They start fighting Mr. T instead of the Snake Goons, who then book it while their enemies fight each other. Mr. T defeats them both and then gives them a lecture.
One of the Snake Goons sabotages the Markus Brothers’ Dragon Car, as the Markus Brothers and Karmila wait outside for him. They fight him, but Archer Brother is not all the way recovered from his injuries and takes more of a pounding. The heroes stab the Snake Goon repeatedly and kick him into a cliff side face first (up to his thighs!), but Archer Brother falls over bleeding and dies.
Mr. T’s motorcycle has engine troubles, so he takes it to a tough lady name Maria who runs a repair shop. It’s implied he saved her from vampires long ago. At some point some mobsters come to threaten her, and she pulls out a gun.
Later, Mr. T tracks down the Monster Car again and spies Romeo’s Girlfriend outside enjoying the sun. She’s guarded by the three remaining Snake Goons, and they and Mr. T have a large battle. Mr. T kills one of the Snake Goons (via an x-ray skull cracking), but the energy exertion weakens him enough that the sunlight begins affecting him. Karmila is also there to witness the battle and helps him.
The Three Idiots get scared in the woods of a wolf howling, and their leader pees his pants. Then some sort of ghost dressed in all white hood with white facepaint hops nearby, going “Wauk!” with each hop, and then says something that makes the Iorons faint and the ghost hops away.
Karmila tells Mr. T of watching her mom being burned alive by a mob as a young child. Mr. T is then about to tell his story, but then leaves and she’s disappointed.
The two surviving Markus Brothers spot Romeo’s Monster Car, and Scythe Brother grabs Romeo’s girlfriend when she gets out of the car to enjoy the sunlight again by a bridge. Romeo emerges when she screams, only to have both his arms burst into flames in the sun (and also because that’s the easiest place set the actor actually on fire while he delivers lines!) The Two surviving Snake Goons pop up and the Brothers and Goons fight, Romeo’s Girlfriend managing to escape back to her flaming lover. The battle doesn’t go well for the Markus Brothers, Sword Brother is slain by the Snake Goon with a big S on his shirt (who uses snake style kung fu to poison him), and Scythe Brother is knocked off a bridge into water. Scythe only has Karmila left as an ally.
Romeo is scheming something, and also is getting vampire urges. It’s implied his girlfriend doesn’t know the extent of his monstrous desires, and he’s suppressing his urges for her, including actively not biting her despite his instincts.
Lukanda’s Singer has now replaced him as boss after he teleported away, and she sits on his throne with lots of admirers scattered around, including two guys with Hitler mustaches and bowl cuts. Twin Moe Hitlers?
Romeo and Girlfriend stop by, Singer is happy to see Romeo and a little less than happy to see Girlfriend, but pretends otherwise. Girlfriend a bit annoyed that Romeo seems to know the Singer. Romeo and Girlfriend stare at each other and talk, he almost vamps out on her neck again but holds it back. That alone is good enough for her to jump into a love song for him.
The Three Idiots get spooked by their random Ghost again, though luckily no one pees their pants this time.
Mr. T discovers the two surviving Snake Goons, and tosses his sword into a cliffside so he can martial arts fight them both with his bare hands. Because he’s Mr. T, he kills them with their own weapons, but as they die they tell him about Karmila and how she’s attacking their base in a trap and will be killed.
It’s true, Karmila and Scythe Brother are attacking Singer’s compound. Singer teleports around Scythe Brother and manages to turn him into a vampire. Mr. T arrives just in time to get into an argument with Karmila, as Partner runs off, angry that they’re fighting. Partner hears Singer plotting her long shocking plans that seem to involve Mr. T becoming her main squeeze by nefarious means, and then sends goons after Partner when she’s discovered listening in.
Vampire Scythe Brother (now with bite marks!) attacks Mr. T, shoving Karmila aside when she gets in the way. The two guys fight, but Karmila tells Mr. T to go find Partner and she’ll handle Scythe Brother. But she can’t, he spends most of the fight choking her and is about to win, but then the random fourth brother we all forgot about shows up for three seconds, grabs his brother, and they both explode!
Wait, huh??? Was fourth brother an exploding vampire? I guess so.
Karmila then battles Singer, who spends her time laughing and teleporting around the room out of the way of her sword swings. Then suddenly Romeo enters, he’s mad at Singer for having bad plans for his girl and fights her, teleporting around until he ends up behind her and strangles her with a scarf, the traditional way to kill vampires.
Partner is dead! And totally covered in blood, presented on a swing surrounded by feeding vampires! Mr. T walks in and takes off his sunglasses in shock! This is the dramatic lynchpin of the film, as Mr. T wails and cries as goons beat him savagely and stab him. Who knew that involving a small child in violent battles against blood-sucking monsters wasn’t a good idea?
Mr. T then awakens his spark of vengeance and you know vampires are gonna die now! He goes full vampire and begins breaking limbs and necks of dozens of foes. When he’s done killing everyone, Romeo and Girlfriend decide to take that moment to stroll by, but Mr. T is still in a killing mood, and he’s not going to take Romeo’s “I’m not evil any more” stuff without a brutal fight to the death.
So they fight and fight and fight. They keep fighting until Romeo is stabbed in the stomach….part of the way in the stomach. Mr. T stops just enough that Romeo doesn’t die, and after a bit of chatting, he lets Romeo live to be with his girl. Mr. T takes Partner’s body, and he and Karmila leave. Partner gets buried, but there are still more evil vampires out there to kill, so Mr. T’s work will never be done!
Rokto Pipasha is a relentless action charge that keeps the violence coming. The choreography is pretty decent, the world building is shades of crazy, and the whole thing is just ridiculous enough that it works. I rather enjoyed the film, which sadly without a subtitled DVD release will never get the cult following in the US it deserves. So we’re stuck with the choppy VCD prints on YouTube, but the power of Rokto Pipasha is that it rises above the presentation. It’s even helped by the print looking scratchy. It makes the cheap cardboard effects look that much more charming. If this was shot on digital and looked clear and new, things would just not work the same.
Vampires are made of snow!
Rated 9/10 (no cord phone, skull shirt boogie, Bangla Fantastic Four?, totally not stolen footage, phone grabbin’, snow cones, Pirates vs Vampires, skull crack, bite scars)
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