Mumbai, 14 Oct 2020 19:05 IST
Updated: 17 Oct 2020 0:46 IST
Produced by Blumhouse and Priyanka Chopra Jonas, the film tries to incorporate too many themes such as violence against women and reincarnation and fails to address them sincerely.
Evil Eye begins with a phone conversation between Usha (Sarita Choudhury) and her daughter Pallavi (Sunita Mani).
In Delhi, Usha has been pushing for Pallavi, who lives in New Orleans and is about to turn 30, to settle down. So, when Pallavi meets Sandeep (Omar Maskati), an Indian-origin man who not only has oodles of charm but is also loaded, you would think Usha would be thrilled. But, to the contrary, this makes the older woman paranoid. "He is too good to be true," Usha tells her husband Krishnan (Bernard White).
Usha and Krishnan had returned to Delhi after their daughter became independent. Usha's paranoia is rooted in secrets from her past, and her fears are amplified when she realizes her daughter might be following in her footsteps. But her repeated warnings fall on deaf ears.
Despite having lived a major part of her life in the US, Usha is a deeply superstitious woman. She makes her daughter wear a bracelet to ward off the evil eye. She believes in astrology but Pallavi does not share her convictions.
The film is based on Audible Original penned by award-winning playwright Madhuri Shekar, who also wrote the screenplay for this latest entry into Blumhouse.
The film's inconsistent tone proves to be its undoing. Evil Eye starts off as a warm and fuzzy rom-com but turns into an intense family drama 45 minutes into the proceedings, finally morphing into the thriller promised by the promotional material only in the last 15 minutes. The idea of interjecting flashback scenes of Usha's horrifying past feels more like an afterthought and doesn't quite work.
Director duo Elan and Rajeev Dassani have targeted the Indian diaspora because certain portions that take place in India have a very synthetic feel to them, as if someone who had seen India only in films or documentaries was tasked to shoot those portions.
Another major drawback of the film is its inability to shock you. The blame mostly lies with the person who edited the trailer, which revealed almost every twist in the tale, thus robbing the viewer of any thrills. Also, major revelations in the films are dropped in casual conversations.
More than the twist and the supernatural thriller elements, it's the family drama that leaves a long-lasting impact. It's the conversation between mother and daughter and between husband and wife that reveal their family dynamic that keeps you hooked.
Evil Eye addresses some pertinent issues like misogyny and male entitlement that still plague Indian society, but it would have been better if the directors had chosen a more subtle approach. When you have to literally spell out your message just in case we miss it, it means you don't have faith in your product.
There is also nothing to rave about in the technical department. The production design by Ryan Martin Dwyer is substandard and feels derivative, especially in the India portions as we already mentioned. The editing by Kristina Hamilton Grobler is uneven and some scenes are unnecessarily stretched and given more importance than necessary.
Choudhury is the pick of the artistes and does a fine job as a mother who is constantly worried about her daughter and also dealing with her own demons. She takes us through the transformation of her character from loving mother to paranoid woman with conviction. It's her performance that keeps you glued to the screen even when nothing significant is happening. Omar Maskati walks the thin line between being a mysterious and menacing charmer.
Evil Eye squanders the potential to be an Indian culture-specific thriller with its dull and unoriginal storytelling. Eventually, the film is just another run-of-the-mill thriller whose parts are greater than its sum.
Evil Eye is being streamed on Amazon Prime Video.
Related topicsAmerican independent cinema Amazon Prime Video
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