31st October 2020

Kali Khuhi(Netflix)

Starring Shabana Azmi,  Leela Samson,  Satyadeep  Mishras, Sanjeeda Sheikh, Riva Arora

Directed by Terrie Samundra

Rating: * ½

Damn!  Life can be such a bummer.  Just hours  after Sanjeeda Sheikh made such a stunning  impact in Taish she’s part of a film as  pretentious as a Masaal Dosa with caramel stuffing.  Kaali Khuhi aims ambitiously. It is  a  film with a  conscience(always beware  of  those) about  the  murder  of  the female  child, in  the womb and out of it.And  that should be  enough  reason  for all of us to  give it our reverent attention.

Plus, there is Shabana Azmi.  A hallmark for  excellence for decades. I am sure  she  thought  this film meant well.We all  did. And it  probably does. Alas, good intentions  don’t make  good cinema.  I am  sorry. There is no easy way to say this. But Kaali Khuhi is  a mess.

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Powered by the   bristling selfrighteousness  of  a pulpit preacher who thinks  he(or she) knows  what’s best  for  the entire community,  the  plot  limps  towards  its big  blood-splattered ending with such loud heaving motions  that I  felt  I was  transported  to a government propaganda  film  on Beti Bachao with some classy cinematography  and a  background score that is  sparing in its austerity while everything and everyone else is prone to  wild excesses .

Speaking of  the cinematography Sejal Shah  pays touching  attention to the colour palates, the  despairing blues and fading greys  to denote the primitive barbaric world and its  undesirability. But the  brilliance of  the camera is  largely misplaced.  There are  so many dark sequences  where the  characters barely visible. This , I ‘m afraid, is not what’s meant by a ‘dark thriller’

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The  actors  struggle hard to  look contrite and terrified.The graceful  Leela Samson  as the  stricken Daadi  looks  like  she has  seen  a ghost,when she would rather not.  The talented  Satyadeep Mishra who plays her son gets strangled  by  a girl-ghoul(who ought to be  in school instead of playing  the fool), he then  falls from one floor and still gets up groaning.Miraculous, to say the least.

Sadly, the scares are scarce. There is one sequence where the Daadi’s  corpse is being taken to the cremation  when  it suddenly catches  fire .The  pall-bearers abandon  the  body and flee as though they had just seen  Shah Rukh Khan arrive  on the  other side.I was laughing inconsolably. More mirth  shook my faith in the  fear factor , when Shabana Azmi, an actor I  unquestionably  respect, is  left fighting with little girls turned ghouls  who who are all dead, by the way.Shabana  had  an iron stake  driven into her heart.She was  still running around shrieking.

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I am not sure Shabana  survived  the ordeal. Nearly everyone  was   dead   by the end of  the  film. None more so  than  the script that  seems to have been written in a state  of semi–slumber  when it’s neither night  nor day. Just a listless  dullness when  you feel  life is  worthless.

“I will save you,” is  a  promise to  a  baby made by the film’s main character  a  spunky  little girl actor named Riva Arora who should be  in school instead  of fighting ghouls.Who saves  this  disastrous  film?

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