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Pihu Is The Most Heartbreaking Horror Take You’ll Ever See

Subhash K . Jha

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Pihu

Starring Myra, Prerna Sharma, voices of Rahul Bagga and Hrishita Bhatt

Directed by Vinod Kapri

Rating: ****(4 stars)

 If  Macaulay Culkin was a little girl who was a far better actor than he, and if Home Alone was a tragic terrifyingnervewracking exposition on  a 2-year child left  all alone in a house filled with electric gadgets and dangerous inclines and a dead parent  , this is the film you would get.

Let’s be thankful for the new wave in Hindi cinema that has  gripped the  Bollywood script in 2018 like  an obstinate fever.  Pihu pushes the envelope so far you can’t see the stamp of any other film on  it. On seeing the trailer  I had compared Pihu toChetan Anand’s Aakhri Khat.And  to a large extent  that parallel remains pertinent.

To simply watch a child  fending for  herself is  the most hearbreaking ode to vulnerability on this side of  Sadma.As Pihu  prances, giggles, groans and finally weeps her way through the nightmarish  emptiness  of her well-appointed home, I kept wondering  how  the director   would hold our attention for  a full-length  feature film with just a 2-year protagonist on screen…Or for that matter, how will he get  the 2-year child  to go through the motions of an imminent catastrophic crisis?

 On  both counts I am happy to say Pihu scores high points. Not only are we unconditionally riveted  to little Pihu’s  instinctive survival methods(don’t think Culkin, think Tom Hanks in Castaway) the  little wonder-actress is astonishingly  clued  in to the way the camera works. In no time we  surrender to Pihu’s  distressful circumstance  while she remains oblivious  to it. At times  her expressions of exasperation at  the  mess that karma has suddenly dealt her, are so profound I felt I  was watching a seasoned actress  rather than  a child who doesn’t even know  what the camera(or karma)  is.

And yet Pihu , for all its disposition to  overpower us with a one-character  survival saga,  is never short  of  breath. Director Vinod  Kapri never runs out of ways  to engage our senses  in the most heightened  state  of emotional vulnerability.  I can’t begin to imagine how Kapri  directed the child. I suspect the  child directed herself most  of the time, mumbling cajoling coaxing and  pleading  baby-talk as her mother refuses to answer, breaking into a lisping song(Nani teri morni ko more le gayiwill never be the same again), tiptoeing on her little feet to reach for her mother’s cellphone to tell her absentee Papa that Mama is  sleeping.

Oh, this is the most heartbreaking horror tale of domestic desolation you will ever see. That’s for sure. The jarring notes are provided by  extraneous voice. Pihu’s father  on the phone  sounds like he is  participating in a  Vividh Bharti play. Noises of a maidservant, watchman  and others  incidental  voices  outside the  apartment where  Pihu  is trapped(think Rajkummar Raowith a feeding-bottle  in Trapped)  sound like they’ve been hired to create sound effects.

 These apart, Pihu hits all the right notes scaring the hell out of us as  the little girl gets into one potentially life-threatening situation after another, all in the ironical ‘safety’ of her own home.

Yogesh Jaini’s camera lets  little Pihu do as she likes. The camera is  a stoic bystander in this tale of a domestic idyll gone horribly wrong.The background score (Vishal Khurana) remains remarkably liberated  from over-punctuation, coming on  with a frugality that spotlights the vulnerability  of the  protagonist.

 If you’ve ever worried about your child’s wellbeing then Pihu will remind  you of just how much at  risk a child can be put into by selfish parents  who  forget that once  you give birth to a new life your life no longer belongs to  you.

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