Mumbai, 21 Jan 2022 14:30 IST
With its atmospherics and slow-cooked script, Rahul Sadasivan's film builds on a solid foundation and straddles the psychological and paranormal realms.
For a rationalist, all fear is born in the mind. For a believer, there are some things the mind cannot conceive or grasp. A creator of a horror show has to tread the boundary between these two, finding the right terrifying moments. No wonder writers sometimes suffer from terrible psychological consequences.
Rahul Sadasivan's film falls somewhere between the two categories. It has great atmospherics, good performances and a curious premise, but revels in its examination of the psycholoical mind.
Asha (Revathy) lives in a rented apartment caring for her debilitated mother. Her only solace is her son Vinu (Shane Nigam), who is jobless and wasting his life. When Asha's mother dies, it triggers a sense of loss and brings her latent psychological problems to the fore.
Lost and repressed, Vinu seeks to escape the place but is trapped between his mother's clinging and his own inability to find a job. As these pressures grow, he begins to see things around the house. As a depressive herself, Asha begins to fear that her family's heredity is repeating itself through Vinu. Yet, there might be more than just his internal ghosts haunting the family.
Written by Rahul Sadasivan, Bhoothakaalam (The Past) plays well with the title and the themes surrounding it. The struggle of a caregiver managing a career and a long-running sickness in the family and the toll it takes on her mind is portrayed well. It helps when you have an artiste of the calibre of Revathy taking the lead. The actress is vulnerable yet determined at having her way. This builds on the conflict the story aims for.
Revathy is contrasted by Shane Nigam's subdued, controlled performance. The actor plays a young man trapped in an inescapable situation. The struggle of balancing the many responsibilities, including love, falling on his shoulder adds to the character's complexity. He is judged for his alcoholism and dismissed as crazy for his behaviour, without anyone understanding his struggle.
This slow construction of each character's trauma is Rahul's success. The screenplay takes its time to build up the terror, relying on each element of societal intrigue, doubts and personal demons. Yet, this same process also becomes its flaw. After a point, the film begins to veer towards the plane of the supernatural. That is where things begin to get a bit muddled.
Saiju Kurup plays the audience's role as a counsellor coming across this dysfunctional family. His scepticism towards the supernatural yet inexplicable draw towards it needed some detailed handling. In the end, the character exits as abruptly as he had entered.
Shehnad Jalal's cinematography is good and moves with close focus on each character, capturing their facial tics and expressions. The movement of the camera also mimics that of a character's vision, which adds to the scare. The jump scares, set up with the background score, feel predictable at times, however.
Despite that, Bhoothakaalam is an eerie atmospheric horror drama that delivers on the promise of fright with a psychological twist thrown in.
SonyLIV is now streaming Bhoothakaalam.