Mumbai, 02 Mar 2018 16:27 IST
While the entire cast performs admirably, first-time director Prosit Roy ruins a promising plot by trying to bust a myth.
As an artiste, Anushka Sharma earned her stripes in mainstream 'Bollywood' cinema. But it is as a producer that Sharma has made a bigger impact by backing very different, non-mainstream stories.
First came the dark thriller NH10 (2015). Then she surprised one and all with a friendly ghost tale in Phillauri (2017). The lady has now dived into the dark abyss with Pari, a supernatural horror thriller.
With the catchline 'not a fairy tale’, and the incessant spine-chilling screamers (teasers), Pari promised to be your worst nightmare.
In the previous century, the horror genre was the almost exclusive resting place of the Ramsay brothers, but in the 21st century it was Vikram Bhatt who had emerged as the Grim Reaper, churning out quite a few spooky hits.
The Indian horror genre has often ridden on tales of avenging souls rising from the dead. Seldom has any filmmaker tapped into the myths that exist among people of all faiths.
Now first-time director Prosit Roy taps into an occult tale from neighbouring Bangladesh. In 1995, a few members of an impoverished tribe from Satkhira pledge their souls to the devil, buying into the myth of spreading the bloodline of Ifrit (an evil djinn).
Prof Hasim Ali (Rajat Kapoor) is a witch hunter who will not rest till he kills every Ifrit that takes birth from a witch’s womb. However, Rubina escapes from Hasim Ali’s clutches and gives birth to a child, Rukhsana.
Arnav (Parambrata Chatterjee) is a soft-spoken middle-class man who is too shy to talk to the young woman his parents have chosen for him. But he is impressed by Piyali (Ritabhari Chakraborty) and gently admits to his parents that he likes her.
Tragedy strikes as a human body slams on to their car. The dead woman turns out to be Rubina. Arnav and the police are informed by the villagers that the crazy old woman lived in a haunted hut by the swamp, deep in the woods. There, they are stunned to find a young woman all chained up in the attic. She turns out to be Rukhsana (Anushka Sharma).
Fearing Hasim Ali, Rukhsana takes refuge with Arnav. The guy welcomes her into his house, and then into his life, but he has no idea of the demons lurking around her and the hell that is coming his way.
In terms of storyline, Pari holds promise as it veers away from the cliched and the conventional. Writer Abhishek Banerjee and Roy get it right in the first half and make you believe that the demonic forces will wreak havoc in the second.
Sadly, that devil never turns up and the events in the second half feel like an anti-climax. Rukhsana is not quite the devil you imagined. Pari, despite its promise of being no fairy tale, ends up looking like a horrifying one all the same. Roy ruins a promising plot in his endevaour to bust a myth or two.
The best chills were revealed in the various teasers, leaving you with not too many surprises in the film. That begs the question: was there a need to churn out so many teasers?
Indian filmmakers are often guilty of revealing too much in their trailers and teasers. Pari is also guilty of that, but that is not to suggest the spooky scenes don’t send a shiver down your spine. For instance, the sight of Rukhsana hanging upside down and staring from outside a window is bound to torment this writer all night. So, too, the scene in which her mother shows up at the pond a few days after her death.
While Pari suffers from an average plot in the second half, there is never a drop in intensity of its artistes, led by Sharma. The actress should be lauded for having the courage to subject her face and body to such torture. Leave aside a mainstream actress, how many mainstream actors would be willing to put their body on the line like she has done for Pari?
Apart from the physical challenge, Sharma excels in bringing out the different shades in her character. You feel empathetic towards the frightened girl, but then you also fear the bloody devil in her. She has arguably pulled off the most difficult role of her career so far with elan.
Parambrata Chatterjee was appreciated for playing the compassionate, empathetic Inspector Rana in Sujoy Ghosh’s Kahaani (2012). He brings the same virtues here as well. In fact, he is more humble, more gentle to the ladies in Pari. Chatterjee wins you over with his mild manner.
Young Ritabhari Chakraborty makes her Hindi film debut but shows no sign of nerves. Piyali and Arnav share a great chemistry that strikes a chord with most humble, middle-class couples.
Rajat Kapoor is intimidating as the witch hunter. With a glass eye, long beard and intense tone, this is one avatar we have never seen Kapoor in before. Here is an actor you can see every Friday and yet not get enough of.
What would a horror film be without a deathly background score and haunting imagery. Vivek Samuel Dayal does not go overboard with the spooky scenes. In fact, he uses the natural sounds/reactions for the spooky. Jishnu Bhattacharjee captures some deathly visuals, mostly the eerie shots of the swamp and the woods, well.
One can’t really find fault with the cast or the technical hands, but it’s the unexpected turn of events in the business part of the film that drags Pari down. Pari has a soul, a heart, but it’s not the demon you feared it coud be,