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A Welcome Urban Chiller
Jul 16, 2003 01:56 PM 4606 Views
(Updated Sep 23, 2003 11:14 AM)





Talk of movies that serve as a pleasant treat to the refulgent eyes of cinegoers, Bhoot undoubtedly rules the roost. It takes real grit to experiment with one’s own abilities as a storyteller. “Geronimo!” says Ramgopal Varma and takes the plunge. With an urban chiller like Bhoot, he demonstrates once again his adroitness as a director par excellence. Fear is such an irrational emotion; its all in the psyche and RGV manages to suffuse this very fear into the minds of the audiences, with style.

The Indian horror genre has always been associated with isolated and haunted mansions, white sari-clad lady with a lantern/candle in her hand, midnight strokes of the clock, rupestrian paintings and sculptures, foggy graveyards, stoury pile of books in an old library and the like. Bhoot has none of this. The movie rides on a simple yet enticing storyline (by Sameer Sharma & Lalit Marathe) and is backed by remarkably noteworthy contributions from the cast, the technical crew and the director himself. It spells the story of a couple Vishal & Swati (Ajay Devgan & Urmila Matondkar) who move into a duplex apartment in one of the high-rise buildings of Mumbai. It is said that the previous lady occupant Manjeet, hurled herself down the balcony to end her life and the same is told to Vishal by the real estate agent. Vishal, being a non-believer of superstitions and myth-motivated tales n’ rumours, moves into the apartment with Swati and prefers not telling her about the drop-down-the-building suicide. However, Swati learns about Manjeet in a short course of time. There on, starts a riveting sequence of events where she sees a ghost, is fankled by chimerical illusions and hallucinations, sleep walks and loses her sleep. The halcyon days now cease to exist for the couple. Vishal only finds himself helpless. He summons the services of a psychiatrist (Victor Banerjee) who concludes that Swati suffers a state of multiple personality disorder. A little ahead into the story, the house maid (Seema Biswas) opines that Swati is actually possessed and no doctor can be of any help. This leads Vishal to resorting to help from an exorcist (Rekha). What follows is the revelation of the ‘whys’ and ‘becauses’ of all that’s been happening in the couple’s so very beautiful apartment.

The cinematographer (Vishal Sinha) does a fine job. The camera has been used brilliantly in the movie. So much so, that 5 minutes into the movie and you as an audience are yourselves into the apartment. You exactly know where the refrigerator is, where the balcony is, where the bedroom is, where the idiot box is, where the loft is and which is the way to where. The use of the camera lends a character to the apartment itself. If you keenly observe the camera placements and movements, you will probably understand how the director takes the audience into confidence while presenting the story, thereby creating fear and scaring the daylights out of you. Watch out for the use of camera and its movements when the ghost is introduced for the first time and you will know what I’m talking about.

The screenplay presents a proper flow without any unwanted digressions from the story. A few loose ends do sprout up though. For example, Rekha’s interaction with Urmila could have been a little more elaborate, thereby catapulting the screenplay to a higher pedestal. The use of lambent lights in the apartment provides the relevant illumination that is just apt for each of the scenes.

The sound effects by Dwarak Warrier and background score by Salim Sulaiman create magic. Sound compliments the screen sequences to provide the right jolts, jerks, spine-chills and the shrieks-n-screams in the movie hall. The moments of complete silence assaulted by sudden and devastatingly murderous stabs of sound and music, jettison you out of your seats and cause over activity in your blood vessels.

The editing is crisp except for the repeated journey of Vishal to and back from his office and the frequent shots of the lift going up and down (though these shots do keep you anticipating about what happens next).

Ajay Devgan executes his part well with controlled demeanor as the husband who finds himself helpless time and again. Seema Biswas comes up with a fantastic performance as the mysterious looking maid. Nana Patekar does justice to the character of the pokey inspector, though his character could have been scoped better. Victor Banerjee excels as the psychiatrist trying to pull Swati out of her ballistic state. Rekha and Tanuja do their best in the limited roles that they have. Fardeen Khan is reasonable and does tend to dawdle a bit. Sabeer Masani, who plays the watchman, depicts churlishness and mystery in a sound manner. Barkha Madan as Manjeet is good with those incessant and lacerating stares. One thing about the casting that is apparently very clear is that all the others except Ajay Devgan and Urmila Matondkar have been cast in smaller roles intentionally. Come to think of it, this was very much required, with the focus being on the protagonists. And now………. Urmila Matondkar is simply superb and moulds herself into the character of Swati with great ease. She juxtaposes expressions of fear and scare simultaneously on her face with appreciable dexterity. If you have been hearing that this has been Urmila’s best performance to date, I couldn’t differ from this view even by a centimeter.

Talking about direction, RGV does a highly commendable job with Bhoot. When he said that he wanted to scare the audiences, I think he precisely knew how to do it. Its all about the way this movie has been made. If you notice carefully, the play of titles on the screen right in the beginning also tells a story. Without wasting any time, he gets the ghost into the movie early on. He avoids the use of songs and keeps the rhythm going in swashing strides. If you think you could expect some light moments or relievers, you are mistaken. The doorbell, the mirror, the television have all been used so well. The murder before the interval has been fantastically conceptualized. You do not see the murder but once you see the corpse, you realize how gruesome it must have been. And you do feel it. Now that’s what a brilliant director does to a scene. The climax does disappoint though. The climax is just what you don’t expect from RGV. All in all, he is able to successfully translate his vision of bringing ghosts into an apartment amongst the hustle and bustle of city life. Leading from the front, he extracts the best out of every single member of the cast and crew, thus bringing on to celluloid what you least expect in a safe and secure apartment. His sense of understanding the psyche of the audiences and narrating a simple story as this with such an impact, remains unparalleled. For RGV, Bhoot definitely qualifies as an anabasis. So then,“ WELCOME “ moviegoers, it’s “ A Ramgopal Varma Film”.

© Milind Gadagkar 2003

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