Pari review

Anushka Sharma is seen in a still from “Pari.” Her quick mood changes, her general body language and expressions are the highlight of the film. (photo provided)

MUMBAI — Anushka Sharma has proved her range and talent in so many films in the last 11 years. Sadly, she is one of those artistes who, until now at least, is producing films that provide her the scope to do ‘meaty’ roles, but that emerges as the only plus point in all three of them — “NH 10” (2015), “Phillauri” (2017) and now this film.

And whether that is the intention or not, simply put, Ms. Sharma seems to completely lack a script sense to back the right subjects as a producer. This film completes a hat-trick of disappointments for people who look at movies as something worth the price of a (now quite expensive) ticket. This, of course, makes some individual virtues or plus points (performances, technical aspects, unusual themes et al) finally be of no consequence.

“Pari” (“Not a Fairytale,” we have been repeatedly told) is not at all your usual horror film, with revenge or an unrequited love story at the base. The plot is as unusual from the run-of-the-mill as was “The House Next Door” some months back. But it does have some clichéd tropes.

Like, whenever needed, Sharma’s character of Rukhsana can fly through the air, or scramble down drainpipes and at the same time be helpless when chained. There is also a “Bhoot”-like murder and a ghost haunting a woman, who is petrified of it even though it never ‘touches’ or harms her. Worse, this same spirit is also mysteriously chained and helpless in front of an exorcist of sorts.

Gobbledygook uttered by more than one character, are supposed to denote either pious or devilish chants. Randomly, we see an English subtitled translation (the same each time!) — “Spread the blood, Spread the bloodline” and there are other lesser examples, some of which would be spoilers. The harangued hero Arnab (Parambhrata Chattopadhyay) visits some ancient library, miraculously gets whatever material he needs, and gets an inkling enough of the truth behind the mysterious Rukhsana.

One grants that the way both Arnab and Rukhsana, and also Arnab’s fiancée Piali (Ritabhari Chakraborty), a trained nurse, have moral dilemmas are convincingly depicted sans undue melodrama. But somewhere, it all does not add up, especially as a movie that should have a graph, a fast pace (considering the genre) and genuinely scary moments as in the better horror movies.

Arnab, who works in a printing press, accompanies his parents to meet a matrimonial match for him. The girl Piali is frank about her past with him, and expects the same from her future husband-to-be. Honestly, Arnab tells her that there has been no one in his life.

Then while returning home, an old woman falls on their car and dies. Trying to trace her identity, the cops discover that she is a recluse living in a hut in the jungle nearby. They discover a chained young woman there (Sharma) who identifies the body and then Arnab decides to help the distraught girl.

However, things get out of hand when Rukhsana lands at his house, and there are so many incidents, including the horrifying death of a dog, that follow. Rukhsana even falls in love with Arnab and wants him to stay away from the girl who keeps calling him (Piali). Soon, she is pregnant from Arnab!

At the base of it all is a concept that Satan (ifrit) wants his progeny to dominate and uses a method for doing so. Professor Khasim Ali (Rajat Kapoor) is against these malevolent forces and kills the newborns when he gets the information about such a lady impregnated. He even has an agent of sorts in the morgue as an attendant, and latches on to Rukhsana’s mother and Rukhsana from there.

The story does not move at all in the first half, and in the second half, despite some really unpredictable turns, the final denouement is not really impressive after all the build-up and explanations. Prosit Roy’s direction may be dexterous enough (this is his first film), but the script, co-written by him, lacks zing. The sound effects (Debajit Changmai) are impressive, and Ketan Sodha’s background score is decent, despite overdoing the guitar riffs in almost every mood. The sole song composed by Anupam Roy is forgettable.

The cinematography (Jishnu Bhattacharjee), production design (Meenal Agarwal) and visual effects (Red Chillies VFX) are generally competent, and Anushka Sharma’s make-up is extremely well-done.

Sharma’s quick mood changes, her general body language and expressions are the highlight of the film, and as we said before, seem to be the raison d’etre for her backing this script. The fact that her actions are often at variance with her innocent expressions strangely increases the impact of her dramatic sequences. Parambhrata Chaterjee and Rajat Kapoor are superb, though Ritabhari Chakraborty has an undemanding role and is only competent. Mansi Multani makes a small mark in an unusual role.

On the whole, “Pari” is neither scary enough nor is it sufficiently moving to connect with the audience — and BOTH factors are needed for a good horror film. It is just a mélange of overlapping genres that actually conforms (as in “NH 10”) to tropes and clichéd writing even as it has a fake veneer of being path-breaking. The teasers and trailers had given us the impression that Sharma the producer will finally get her act right. But she hasn’t!

Rating: **

Clean Slate Films, KriArj Entertainment & KYTA Productions present "Pari - Not a Fairtale"

Produced by: Anushka Sharma and Karnesh Sharma

Directed by: Prosit Roy

Written by: Prosit Roy, Abhishek Banerjee & Anvita Dutt

Music: Anupam Roy

Starring: Anushka Sharma, Parambhrata Chattopadhyay, Ritabhari Chakraborty, Rajat Kapoor, Mansi Multani & others

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