Mumbai, 14 Jul 2017 12:11 IST
Solid performances by all the main artistes and a technically sound team make this horror film worth your time, even if it takes a trifle too long.
The camera moving eerily through the lush sugarcane fields is a brilliant opening shot. Writer-director Vishal Furia establishes his theme and genre quickly and early. It is made obvious that this is where the action will be. Used effectively not just as a location, but also as a character to spook the audience, the fields become a metaphor for the long-standing evil practices village folk fall prey to that are unveiled steadily (and a little too slowly).
While Furia’s attempt to avoid the usual horror tropes is evident, he barely manages to escape them. Abandoned, spooky house in the middle of nowhere, with no people around, suspicious owners and their habits, a mute spectator, all are there. What does set Lapachhapi apart is the use of these tropes to create an atmosphere of fear at regular intervals to keep the audience hooked.
After the initial fast-paced setting up of the premise, Furia takes his time to unveil his intentions. The camera lingering on long after a character is finished makes you comfortable, while the effective and deft background score makes sure you are jolted right back the next moment. A scary blend of both builds up the anticipation to see how this will end.
Editor Dinesh Poojari captures the mood well, introducing blank screens stealthily and sometimes abruptly to make a point. At some junctures you wonder if they are forced, but the intention is clear and the purpose is served. Similarly, cinematographer Chandan Kowli gives Poojari ample shots from all angles to create a maze of sugarcane fields, which eventually make everything in Lapachhapi seem outgrown to no one’s good. The production value of the film as a whole is high.
Furia has no shade card for his characters — they are either black or white. Maybe a film in the horror genre leaves little scope to find the grey areas. In Lapachhapi, Furia does find a few of these in Kaveri, the woman wronged and villainised by sister-in-law Tulsabai and family.
When Neha (Pooja Sawant), in an advanced state of pregnancy, and her husband Tushar (Vikram Gaikwad) come to the village from the city while escaping some goons, they are warmly welcomed in the home of villagers Tulsabai (Usha Naik) and her husband Bhaurao (Anil Gawas).
A usually locked house is opened up for the city couple, and Tulsabai vows to take good care of Neha who is in her eighth month. Tulsabai and Tushar themselves live in another house (we are never shown where). As Neha starts hearing a lullaby on a transistor (in singer Nandini Borkar's haunting voice) and seeing a trio of boys, Tulsabai tells her to stay away from the boys (apparently an illusion). In a series of visions and supposed illusions, a story is revealed to Neha while the audience discovers Neha is just another project for the superstitious Tulsabai. Singer Rekha Bhardwaj has also rendered a promotional version of the 'Ek Khel Lapachhapicha' lullaby.
Will Neha save herself and her unborn child from the forces that be? Or will she fall prey to Tulsabai and her family’s evil ways?
Many twists add value to Lapachhapi mainly because of how these are handled technically. But the one which comes towards the end takes the cake. The film seems longer than it should have been, and could easily do without the endlessly long days. Furia tries to tie the loose ends but falters as gyan about female infanticide and foeticide starts showing up toward the end. What is with horror films and dead children? A few months ago, there was Pushkar Manohar’s Kanika which had almost the same premise but fell short in content as well as in the technical departments.
Thankfully, Lapachhapi has solid performances and a technically sound team to make your time worthwhile. Pooja Sawant as Neha bags a meaty role and does justice to it. Her expressions are just right for the changing conditions in her story. She successfully treads the path of an effective performance, cutting out melodrama. She is ably supported by Usha Naik, whose mere presence is scary. Anil Gawas and Vikram Gaikwad pitch in with good performances.
Lapachhapi has an interesting story and high production values. Watch it for the brilliant cinematography, acting and Furia’s able direction.