Mumbai, 08 Nov 2020 7:30 IST
Director Pushkar Mahabal and writer Ankita Narang have crafted an unflinchingly gory albeit well-intentioned film.
Pushkar Mahabal’s Welcome Home keeps its cards close to its chest for a fair length of time. This ploy works well as the viewer is sucked into the narrative from the first frame.
We have seen visuals of villages or small towns times without number in the movies. Yet, Welcome Home stands out for its brilliant technical achievements. The heady mix of crafty camera work, haunting background score and sharp editing help the film create a universe of its own.
There are a couple of moments when the background music is halted abruptly, which jolts the viewer. Those who are familiar with Marathi cinema will recall the use of such techniques in Aadish Keluskar’s Kaul: A Calling (2016).
Coming to the story, we are introduced to the character of Anuja Rao (Kashmira Irani), a girl-next-door who shifts to a small town in Maharashtra from Pune after getting a schoolteacher's job. Her fiancé wants to tie the knot immediately but it’s impossible for her to get leave since she has only just joined her job. This angers her fiancé who feels she must quit.
Anuja’s fiancé is clearly an unabashed chauvinist, though we only hear his voice, a man who even blackmails her by dragging her father into their tussle. At this stage, the film seems to be about the unfair treatment of women.
Anuja and a chirpy colleague Neha (Swarda Thigale) become friends. One day, they are sent on a census-related assignment. This brings them to a bungalow situated on a no man’s land. There, they encounter a mysterious and confused pregnant woman, Prerna (Tina Bhatia).
Anuja and Neha get the same strange feeling about Ghanshyam (Shashi Bhushan), who has taken maun vrat (vow of silence) and who appears to be Prerna’s husband, his creepy younger brother Bhola (Boloram Dass) and their physically challenged mother (Akshita Arora).
Anuja is unable to stop thinking about the family even after returning home. She believes Prerna is being abused by her family and her concern for the woman compels her to revisit the home with Neha. Little does she know that this will turn out to be the worst decision of her life.
Welcome Home takes its time revealing itself as a film about the extreme brutality that women endure, but the journey towards this revelation is as engaging as solving a puzzle, for which Mahabal’s direction and Ankita Narang’s script deserve applause.
The best example of Welcome Home's visual narration is when Anuja and Neha visit the family a second time. As soon as they enter, we notice the showpiece of a caged parrot, a hint to what is to come.
The transition of the film from emotional drama to gory saga is as subtle as possible. Welcome Home is definitely not for the faint-hearted with its unrelenting scenes of physical and mental torture. One might argue against the level of violence, but the climax justifies the mayhem.
The only aspect that is irksome is that we aren’t given the back story of a few violent, negative characters. We deserve to know why they became so bloodthirsty in the first place. This would have not only made the story more complete, but it would have also lent an air of verisimilitude since it has been claimed that the story is inspired by true events.
Anuja and Neha literally go through hell. Portraying their journey must have been physically and mentally taxing for Irani and Thigale. But the actresses undergo the ordeal and nail their respective characters’ state of mind.
From just his second scene onwards, you start hating Bhola, which can only mean that the actor Dass has entered the skin of this horrible character. Without speaking a word, Bhushan induces terror. Bhatia and Arora also pull off what was asked of them — to be scary and mysterious.
Sony LIV is now streaming Welcome Home.
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