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Review: Watch 1920 with someone you can hold on to

Review: Watch 1920 with someone you can hold on to

Source: Sify

Critic's Rating: 17/5

Friday 12 September 2008

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Movie Title

1920

Director

Vikram Bhatt

Star Cast

Rajneesh Duggal, Adah Sharma, Anjori Alagh, Raj Zutshi and Vallabh Vyaas

Sonia Chopra

1920, India: A young couple has just wed despite severe opposition from the boy?s father. Arjun Singh Rathod (Rajneesh Duggal) turns from religious devotee to disbeliever when his family?s resistance threatens wife Lisa?s (Adah Sharma) life. A lucrative work assignment takes the pair to scenic Palanpur where an old haveli is to be broken down for a spanking new hotel. (Yup, this architect wizard is helming the project by himself, we?ll let that be.) But the new bride is unhappy as she can sense something unnatural in the home. These signs become all the more prominent; but by the time Arjun can begin to believe her, Lisa?s already possessed. Arjun then attempts uncovering the raaz (excuse the punning on the director?s first horror film) of the spirit?s thirst for a score-settling. The possessed Lisa, meanwhile, is indulging is gymnastics, flying in the air, and even playing a mean hide-n-seek game as long-stemmed candles, lanterns and flying curtains add to the sinister air.

It would be a crime to give away the frightful parts ? but there?s one where the husband sees his wife?s terrifying transformation for the first time. Another where Lisa is being jostled by an unseen force and then pulled into an opaque black hole of a room. There are several such where you?d rather not look at the screen, letting a half-open eye steal a hesitant peek. The non-horrific, bordering-on-parody parts include bright white eyes opening in close-up and a few scenes employing unnecessary special effects (they usually take away from a scene rather than add).

1920 maintains several horror clich?s; but reworks them a little. The possessed, like most horror films, must always be a woman. Usually the possessing spirit is also female; mercifully, here it?s a gender-balanced equation. We?re also used to seeing the errant ghost in sympathetic light (like in Bhoot), but here the spirit is an evil, mischievous one. Arjun adds the list of devoted husbands (Bhoot, Bhool Bhulaiya) who must rescue their ailing wives. Another horror film must-have ingredient is the science-vs- supernatural debate, which this film smartly wraps up in a few scenes.

The exorcism bit naturally makes an appearance. Despite its technical chutzpah and earnestness, this frantic portion plunges the film from classy horror to the accustomed religion-endorser. Another grouse is the film dispensing with the important character of a priest, in a near-fatal condition, without defining what happened to him.

Dialogue is effective, though at times, it goes in the horror-melodrama mode with lines like ? Uske shareer mein shaitan hai. And there?s a nice nod to Sigmund Freud who we learn, at the time, is researching multiple personality disorder. Cinematography (Pravin Bhatt) is quick to change from painting the frame with picturesque beauty to bringing out the horror through lighting and angles. Background score ups the creep-quotient. Art Direction is splendid. Music by Adnan Sami is all right. The location (the film was shot in Allerton Castle, London) is breath-taking.

Adah Sharma (why the faux blue eyes) bides her time playing the wife wearing pretty dresses with fawn coloured lace umbrellas. But she really impresses in the scenes where her character is possessed. It?s an incredibly convincing performance, one that could have easily gone over-the-top. It is to Sharma?s credit for keeping the fear and tension alive without making a caricature of her difficult role. Anjori Alagh who plays the key to the mystery does exceedingly well. Rajneesh Duggal shows potential, especially in the first half. Indraneil Sengupta is effectively menacing. The actor playing Balwant gives a terrific rendering of the mansion?s mysteriously cagey caretaker.

By virtue of their close releases, 1920 must concede to comparison with Phoonk. Both talk about spirit-possession; the savior-of-the-day is an atheist who must revisit his decision; and both are let down by their bordering-on-the-comical culminating sequence. In 1920, too, the finale turns out too exaggerated for you to be moved. But here?s what ? if you run the scare-o-meter on the two, 1920 is far more chilling. It?s a true-blue horror film where writer-producer-director Vikram Bhatt uses everything in his scope ? be it lighting, camera or sound to make your hair stand.

Watch the film with someone you can hold on to. The thoroughly spooky scenes are few and far, but they?ll get you while they?re at it.

Verdict: Three stars