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Pari Movie Review: It Will Send A Chill Up Your Spine!

Subhash K . Jha

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pari movie

Starring: Anushka Sharma, Parambrata Chattopadhyay, Rajat Kapoor

Directed by: Prosit Roy

Rating: **** ½ (4 and a  half stars)

 There is a heartstopping moment of elemental  candour  in this chilling portrayal  of love amidst satanism, where Anushka Sharma, in what easily ranks as her best performance  to date,is seen scavenging  food from a dustbin . The irony  of the situation, suffused as  it is in a surfeit  of  ominous forebodings,  is that she is ferreting for discarded food in a kitchen with a refrigerator  filled with food.

The moment to me, defined the  cultural and spiritual crisis that debutant Prosit Roy captures as he  creates layer after layer of terrifying incredulity and crisis in a  narrative spiral that finally comes together in  a  gasping startling rush of  sanguinary salvation.

Pari is  not an easy film to watch. While it duly declares that no animal was harmed during shooting , animals, including  a pet dog and a parrot come to horribly harmful deaths in a plot that impales  its characters to  Satanism and challenges all the traditional tropes  of  the horror genre.

There are no creaking doors and shrieking banshees in Pari. The atmosphere is deceptively placid. Director Prosit Roy and his estimable cinematographerJishnu  Bhattcharjee shoot the macabre proceedings in the fading light of a terrifying twilight. Seldom  have I seen a film’s look and appearance being so commensurate with its mood theme and treatment.

  This is not the Kolkata of  Durga pujas and  Howrah Bridge. Not even the bright tram-travel romantic city of Onir’s Kuch Bheege Alfaaz. Not a glimpse of  the  iconic landmarks  of the city in Pari as it negotiates  through dimly-lit lanes with barking dogs and snarling miscreants. Specially portentous is a chase sequence where the  hero is followed by  a seedy morgue assistant, played with heaving brilliance by  Dibyendu Chattacharya.

The background score (Ketan Sodha) too is minimal, interjecting intimacy and warmth into  the gulps of grotesquerie  that grips  the characters .

The narrative never hesitates in pulling back from its satanic rituals  to give the central  love story room to breathe, and breed.Breeding, let me tell you, is central  to the  plot. The complex ritualism inherent  in the dark omnipotent  plot  goes all out to claim its victims.But  what I came away with was a tender love story  of ahomeless childlike psychologically traumatized  woman and  a kind gentle man who provides her  a home.

Yes, this  the Sadma territory with Anushka Sharma and Parambrata Chattopadhyay  using the measured  spaces of a typical  Bengali home(no fish curry smell wafting from  the kitchen , though) to build  a relationship between the homeless waylaid girl-child a  man so  kind he makes Kamal Haasan  inSadma look a wee wily.

 Parambrata’s unnerving empathy just flows out of  the actor making  his character Arnab quite  a contrast  to his  namesake  in  the media world. ForAnushka Sharma, this is the career-defying role that she can brag  about to her  children. She sinks her soul into her traumatized  role with a sighing innocence. Her Rukhsana bleeds and  bleeds not just from the nose lips and eyes. The wounds  run deep.This is a severely traumatized woman battling the sinner within that  challenges the angel that she could have been if fate hadn’t willed  a satanic karma  for her.

 In many sequences, Anushka undergoes severe physical humiliation and trauma.She rises to the occasion, sometimes  literally as her  Rukshana  climbs building sides like  a ghetto Catwoman.

There are  sequences  of satanic rituals including glimpses of  enchained women with their foetus being   aborted that  could easily have seemed gratuitous and  repulsive.Throughout the  upheavals, director Prosit Roy maintains  a high level of vigilance over  the  proceedings. He directs his actors with a keen sense of compassion and tension. But he knows where to let go. The narrative strains on the leash like  a hound that won’t stop until it bites. The impact is strong and yet moving. Anushka’s imploring eyes beseeching us to understand that those who are pulled into diabolism are  often victims of  circumstances beyond their control, will stay with us forever.

 So is  this the finest supernatural thriller in living memory. Heck, yes! Don’t waste  your time watching the other films  this week. Pari is a film to see and not only for horror buffs. The real horror that this film explores is  the  exploitation of the weak by those who take  on themselves the  task of “protecting” the moral  values of a decadent story. Rajat Kapoor as a one-eyed exorcist is chilling in his normalcy.

When he perishes his false eye does a little dance of death on the floor. Like a child that will have its way even if the  mother must be mortified in the process.

And yes, we will never inhale the scent of an agarbatti in the same away again.

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