1921 Review

Actors Karan Kundra (left) and Zareen Khan play the lead characters in Vikram Bhatt’s horror drama “1921.” The film has a complex end and just satisfactory performances though Kundra is impressive when he acts as possessed. (photo provided)

Lone Ranger Productions, Reliance Entertainment & Motion Picture Capital present: “1921”

Produced and directed by: Vikram Bhatt

Written by: Vikram Bhatt, Tanya Pathak and Esha Desai’

Music: Harish Sagane

Starring: Zareen Khan, Karan Kundra, Toby Hinson, Sonnia Armstrong, Naina Chitrakar, Aradhya Taing, Vikram Bhatt and others

We have, until now, watched umpteen-squared films in which characters are insular (if that’s the word for someone who seemingly has no relatives at all), which of course, saves the producer a lot in budgets. We have seen even more where characters live in HUGE mansions and apartments minus a single domestic help (remember “Kaabil” last year, though the lead pair was blind!).

Vikram Bhatt, here, produces a hero who only has a father (who is never seen again after the first reel), a heroine who has lost both her parents, and an England where barely anyone is seen on the roads, in streets, universities, hotels/guest houses and even hospitals, unless he decides to crowd them once in a long while! 

And as a sharp colleague noticed, the heroine even informs the hero (in the year 1921!) that her (British) father was a martyr in “World War 1.” The lady can communicate with spooks (but is scared of them and fearless as per convenience), but we really admire her for her future vision when she knew that the war that had ended a few years earlier was the first of two, the latter to happen almost two decades LATER!

This heroine, Rose (Zareen Khan), has an Indian mother who dies, passing on a gift of being able to deal with ghosts. And when her father is killed, she wants to commit suicide. Why? Ha, ha, stupid question. What saves her? Read on!

There is this poor student Ayush (Karan Kundra), who has come from Mumbai to look after a mansion belonging to a rich Parsi Wadia (Vikram Bhatt in a ridiculous disguise), who employs his father. Well, Ayush is a brilliant musician, and Wadia decides that he can learn music in England (at his expense!) while being caretaker for his bungalow.

He then starts playing the piano and earning money when the locals come to hear him sing (in Hindi) while he plays. This stops when Wadia’s niece Meher (an ugly version of actress Neha Sharma) comes and tries to seduce him, in return for not spilling the beans to his uncle. But in the ludicrous happenings that follow, she is inadvertently killed.

Ayush now seeks the help of Rose when strange things begin to happen in the mansion, which he thinks is because he killed Meher. Rose is now known through a newspaper report, and he does not know that his music has inspired her NOT to die after her parents did! She has even thrown her blue tube of poison into a nearby stream. Does this poison have anything to do at all with the plot! Naaah!

And so begins a love story, wherein Rose (who is vaguely studying something) also becomes determined to save Ayush’s life from the bad spirit. Rose has a roommate in Nafisa (Naina Chitrakar) who is her best friend and had another called Vasudha (Aradhya Taing) – in a kind of Amar-Akbar-Anthony trio (we hope that Manmohan Desai’s spirit did not trouble the writers!) who committed suicide.

As Bhatt knows that Indian mantras and pandits are ‘un-cool,” he sticks to Christian recitations as he unravels his cards, though the ‘amavas’ (no moon) comes in later. But the complex denouement, although different from a stereotyped horror film, leaves us unmoved. The end is even worse. And we are never told why Rose saw a bloodied British soldier twice.

The screenplay is too convoluted, and while a few shots give you momentary jitters, there are many more that make you titter, including the corny dialogues. Prakash Kutty’s camerawork is very scenic, and Iain Andrews’ production design is remarkable. Kuldip Mehan’s editing is over-indulgent, and the make-up and VFX are serviceable. Sangeet and Siddharth Haldipur’s background score is alright.

A very sour note is struck by Harish Sagane’s music, where every high-pitched song, written with pretty formulaic words (Shakeel Azmi) sounds just the same.

Karan Kundra’s performance varies from alright to impressive (when he is possessed), and Zareen Khan is alright. The three girls – Nafisa, Vasudha, and Meher are just adequate. Bhatt’s cameo is ridiculous.

In the final analysis, just like the film.

Rating: **

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