When was the last time you saw a good horror movie in Bollywood? Are you tired of the pret-aatma stuff that Vikram Bhatt and his ilk have been churning out for years? Can Pari change our perception about horror cinema that's made here? These questions played in my mind as I went to watch Anushka Sharma's latest production, that is directed by Prosit Roy and co-produced by KriArj Entertainment. Anushka is also playing the lead here with Parambrata Chatterjee, Ritabhari Chakraborty and Rajat Kapoor in other important roles. The promos (screamers, as per the movie's PR campaign) were disturbing. Here's our review,
Arnab's (Parambrata Chatterjee) life takes a weird turn when a old woman comes in front of his car and gets killed. Guilty about her death, he takes the help of the police to find her house where he comes across her feral daughter Ruqsana (Anushka Sharma) who is tied in chains. Who is she and why is she in chains? And why is a bearded one-eyed occultist (Rajat Kapoor) after her trail?
Revealing much about the plot here is actually doing injustice to Pari. The fun is in watching the mysteries unravel before us, as we wait for something horrifying to happen any moment. And if you are a gorehound or a horror freak, there is enough in here to satiate your tastes.
Director Prosit Roy has created a chilling atmosphere throughout, replete lurking thrills and scares. He also doesn't shy away from adding some really disturbing, gory imagery that a family-friendly Bollywood cinema rarely dares to attempt. If you thought our news channels have made bathtubs look like a murder accessory, wait till you see how it is put to use here. You will think twice before getting into one for some time! Also if you are a dog lover, well, stay away!
Maybe it's the Bong in Mr Roy that allows him to be so creative with gore, as Bengali cinema has some really disturbing horror movies (will recommend a movie called Ludo here, in case you are interested).
But it is not just scares that make Pari worthy of your attention. The main thread involving Arnab and Ruqsana, whom he gives refuge due to unexpected circumstances, is quite involving and well-written. We know the outcome of this story is not pleasant, but we are still hooked on to know how the characters will get out of this.
There are shades of The Woman (a far gorier movie that I won't recommend for the faint-hearted) as well as Dario Argento's The Sect. But overall, the plot is quite a fresh attempt when it comes to our cinema, including the less -explored dark aspects of our folklore. After all, how many movies in Bollywood has a feral woman as a leading lady, played by an A-lister?
And that brings us to that said leading lady, Anushka Sharma. As a movie buff, I have this deep appreciation for Anushka for taking the less-trodden path when it comes to her productions. NH-10 was thrilling, and Phillauri had an interesting premise ruined by some pedestrian writing. But it is with Pari that Anushka Sharma goes for the kill, both as a producer and an actress. When major studios fail to shy away from making horror movies (let's also clap appreciatively for KriArj here), she not only makes the most engaging scare-fest in years, but also shorns off her glamorous image to take on a role any A-lister would never dare to attempt in Bollywood. Nearly throughout the movie, she appears soiled, bruised and even repulsive. Some of her actions will make you look away from the screen till you are sure it is over. But then like Arnab, we can't help but be mesmerised by the child-like qualities she displays. This chameleonic change that she brings in her role shows Anushka's true class. Just look at the way she utters 'I Love You Too' to Arnab, and you will smile despite the fact that you saw her commit a really vile act a couple of scenes back. Special mention must be given to the makeup team for doing such a fine job on her scary makeup.
As the other lead, Parambrata Chatterjee (or is it Chattopadhyay?) is simply excellent as the everyday man with a heart of gold who finds himself in the most bizarre situation ever. This is easily one of his best performances, even better than what he did in Kahaani. Though I won't tell much about his character as it has a twist, Rajat Kapoor manages to bring out the required creepiness for his character, while remaining mystifying. A couple of movie's most disturbing scenes is reserved purely for him. Ritabhari is decent, though I am not a fan of her subplot.
The cinematography by Jishnu Bhattacharjee enhances the chill factor of Pari using the monsoons in Kolkata to the best use. The sound design is the reason behind many a damn jump scare (though sometimes it makes the scares predictable too), while the background score is adequate enough for the genre.
While Pari works nearly well for a horror movie, there are some clinks in the armour that we need to address here. Some of the character motivations lacks basic understanding, like why doesn't Arnab find it worrying enough to allow Ruqsana to stay in his house even after her creepy intrusion, knowing very well her strange background. We also wish Rajat Kapoor's character has more to do in the second half, so enigmatic he is in the role. The third act is disappointing as the movie goes the Fatal Attraction way, while also raising some very pertinent questions. Even the scares get predictable here and the CGI is quite average. But still these flaws doesn't take away the fact that Pari is definitely one of the best horror movies to be made in years in Bollywood.
- ANUSHKA SHARMAAAAAA!
- Parambrata's sympathetic performance, and Rajat Kapoor's enigmatic act
- The different premise for a horror flick
- Some really disturbing imagery
- The scares work in most of the portions
- The chilling atmosphere created
- The disappointing third act
- CGI could have been better
- Some confusing character moments
- The subplot with Arnab's fiancee doesn't really work
Pari is the makeover that Bollywood horror desperately needed as a genre. It is genuinely creepy and boasts of some really stomach-churning scenery that we have rarely seen in mainstream cinema. Make sure you don't miss this one, if you are a horror fan and are not weak by heart. Also watch it for Anushka Sharma, who delivers one of the best performances in her career.
A fair word of warning though - just think twice before you go for that samosa counter!