Mumbai, 15 Jan 2019 7:00 IST
Though just over two hours, the inconsistent screenplay portions makes it feel long.
Relatability and realism must be thrown out of the window when you delve into occult films. You need to be captivated and thrilled by the supernatural drama. The standard story tropes don’t spook one easily anymore, and so filmmakers need to dig up fresh stories and tell them better to keep the genre alive.
2018 saw three refreshing horror stories in Prosit Roy’s Pari, Amar Kaushik’s Stree and the web series Ghoul, directed by Patrick Graham. The new year has already thrown up one horror flick in 706. Devoid of any stars, and with zero buzz around it, little-known director Shravan Kumar’s 706 had a limited theatrical release. It is a low key film that could easily slip out of your radar, but if you happen to watch 706, it certainly has its moments of intrigue. It can be best described as a psychological thriller with a bizarre dose of the occult.
Dr Suman Asthana (Divya Dutta) and the police are clueless of the whereabouts of her husband Dr Anil Asthana (Mohan Agashe). Dr Suman has given up hope of finding her husband, but then one day a 12-year-old patient is adamant on being treated by her only. Ten days before, Neeraj (Yashvit Sancheti) was a normal child, but post his seizure, he now makes bizarre, but true predictions. Neeraj is proven right as Dr Anil Asthana is found dead in a car accident 12 kilometers from Lonavala [hill station in Maharasthra], just as he said he would be.
It’s not just Dr Suman, but Neeraj gets the cop Shekhawat (Atul Kulkarni) worried, too, after he subtly hints at the hallucination that has been bothering the policeman. Both Shekhawat and Dr Suman have their individual back stories and their past now comes to haunt them. What does that boy have to do with it? What is the mystery behind the number 706?
Director Kumar has to his disposal an intriguing tale, but he doesn’t back it up with a consistent screenplay. The film’s best moments are reserved for the Shekhawat and Dr Suman conversation. 706 is not just a psychological thriller, but also delves into the dark side of two noble professions – medical and police. It’s hard to recollect a heady concoction of chills and thrills before.
Divya Dutta is exemplary in her sophisticated femme fatale avatar. Last year, Tabu regaled in a femme fatale avatar in Sriram Raghavan’s dark comedy Andhadhun. Even while playing such a character, there is still innocence in Tabu that attracts an empathy towards her character. Dutta instills fear in you. Her warm smile still comes across as wicked in nature.
Suman is left alone after her husband’s death, but she is not really grieving. Once a small-time psychiatrist, Suman’s fortunes change once she marries the owner of the hospital, an older Dr Anil Asthana. Be it Blackmail (2018), Manto (2018) or 706, as an actress, Dutta thrives in characters who knows how to take her pound of flesh.
Atul Kulkarni's Marathi accent makes you think why would any director want him to play a North Indian character? Shekhawats hail from Rajasthan. While he has the Rajputana moustache, Kulkarni's Marathi accent comes to fore every now and then. In one scene, the actor stresses on the 'la' in Mahabaleshwar like all good Marathi speakers do. But 706 is not about Kulkarni playing a Rajput. Shekhawat has bigger things to worry about.
Far too often Indian cinema has projected the cop as a righteous, handsome, over-the-top hero. It is refreshing to see a cop character who is more black than grey. Shekhawat has no emotional attachment with his wife, who cannot conceive. But that’s not the reason for the fractious relationship.
Kulkarni has his moments of intimidation, but he is more convincing when panicky. One moment he is left petrified, and then a minute later, he calls Suman to his office at 1 am, offers her a drink and coolly tells her what she needs to do if they both were to have any peace of mind. Perhaps, 706 is a rare film where we don’t have an archetypal protagonist. The Ghazi Attack (2016) actor compliments Dutta well, and it’s this duo that brings respectability to 706.
While Kulkarni and Dutta are competent in their acts, the director fails with his supporting cast. Child actor Yashvit Sancheti comes across as undercooked. The actors playing his parents are more disappointing. So is actor Raayo S Bakhirta, who plays a pivotal character. The people around Dutta and Kulkarni drag the film down with their poor show.
The film starts off as a suspense, supernatural and psychological thriller, but the back story takes you to a standard trope — seeking help of a tantrik. You fear 706 could get lost in that direction, but it swiftly brings back the psychological thriller elements.
Though just over two hours, the inconsistent screenplay portions makes it feel long. You are really itching for the climax as you suspect things wouldn’t go as planned. The neatly carved climax keeps you on the edge of your seat.
Shravan Kumar's 706 has an intriguing story, a fine mix of genres, but it only for a better supporting cast and tight screenplay, the film would have got another star from us.
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