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 Masala Dosa with caramel stuffing. Kaali Khuhi aims ambitiously high. It is a film with a conscience (always beware of those) about the murder of a 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 in acting 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.
Powered by the bristling self righteousness of a pulpit preacher who thinks he (or she) knows what’s best for the entire community, the plot limps towards ts big blood-splattered ending with such loud heaving motions that I felt I was transported to one of Government's social awareness films 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 are barely visible. This, I‘m afraid, is not what’s meant by a ‘dark thriller’
The actors struggle hard to look contrite and terrified. The graceful Leela Samson as the stricken Daadi comes across as if 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 ground 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 of the frame. 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 are all dead by the way. Even when Shabana had an iron stake driven into her heart she was still running around shrieking.
I am not sure if 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?
Kaali Khuhi directed by Terrie Samundra gets only 1 and a half stars.
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