Synopsis – A bureaucrat is imprisoned in a haunted house for interrogation. However, things take an unexpected turn when she gets possessed by a spirit.
My Take – While it might have seemed that the massive debacle of the Akshay Kumar backed Laxmii was impactful enough to tarnish the trend of allowing filmmakers to recreate their regional-language hits in Hindi, exactly one month later Kumar‘s production company, Cape of Good Films, has just dropped another one in the form of this latest Amazon release.
Helmed by director G. Ashok, the film is an official remake of his own 2018 Telugu-Tamil horror-thriller, Bhaagamathie, offering him a second chance to tell his commercially successful tale to a wider belt, however, despite being uniquely billed as an horror investigative crime thriller instead of a comedy (like Laxmii), he squanders the opportunity presented, reminding once again that Bollywood horror still has a long way to go.
Crafted almost frame to frame, the film comes across as clichéd melodrama more than next-level scare fest as it tries peddling horror with a message. The outcome is neither scary nor relevant commentary, mainly as the subject matter highlighted here is far too familiar to leave an impact. Leaving the only saving grace to come in the form of the twist in its climax, which too interestingly seems reminiscent of a popular Bryan Singer directed film.
Sure, as film, Bhaagamathie too was called out by for serving an illogical script, however, Anushka Shetty‘s performance, the visuals and the camerawork made for an arresting final product. But, here, Bhumi Pednekar despite her inarguable talent, is simply no match, hereby making this 155 minutes film a tedious watch.
Yes, the film might not be as awful as Laxmii, but it also doesn’t offer anything exactly worth praising, and just lands down as another poorly made remake.
The story follows Chanchal Chauhan (Bhumi Pednekar), an IAS officer, who used to work as an aid for Ishwar Prasad (Arshad Warsi), the Minister of Water Resources, but is currently under trial for the homicide of her fiancé, Shakti Singh (Karan Kapadia). With controversy around the theft of dozen-odd rare idols from temples in the last six months increasing, the ruling government finds themselves in a severe spotlight when Ishwar Prasad announces his retirement from politics if the government doesn’t solve the case in 15 days.
Believing this to be a political move to strong hold his position, CBI senior officer, Satakshi Ganguly (Mahie Gill) is assigned to dig-up or concoct a controversy against Ishwar. And as Chanchal had served two tenures with him as his secretary, Satakshi directs ACP Abhay Singh (Jisshu Sengupta), who also happens to be Shakti’s brother, to relocate her from prison to a deserted mansion for an off the record interrogation process. However, the team is unaware that the abandoned mansion they are moving her into, is believed to be haunted by the spirit of Queen Durgamati, who once used to rule the region.
The initial ten minutes of the film catches your attention, but as the film moves, it takes a dip. The sloppy narrative soon loses focus on what the film was originally sold as i.e. a horror thriller. As the story plods ahead, the plot falls all over the place. The film would seem like an unusual mainstream attempt using horror as a vehicle to focus on societal ills.
The idea would have worked had director Ashok shown an amount of imagination and finesse in scripting and execution. The gripping quality that is so essential for narratives mixing drama and thrill is missing. We get a sense of watching a low-grade production and the dialogues further add a dubbed feel to it. Director Ashok is remaking the whole thing as it is but the soul of his original isn’t replicated here.
As usual, some forced comic moments are regularly thrown in along with the typical love angle, but neither the affair nor the tragedy involving the couple looks convincing from any angle. The stray ‘scary’ scenes are too pedestrian to startle. You know a horror film is not working when what unfolds on screen fails to hold your attention.
Despite the art department’s efforts, the film never manages to induce chills because director Ashok never really uses the setting to his advantage. Instead, he relies on cheap jump scares and weird camera angles. There are extreme close-ups, but the character’s fears never get transmitted to the audience because of the over-the-top performances. The characters’ bizarre antics, in fact, bring unintentional humor to some of the genuinely scary scenes, which are few and far between as it is.
Plus, the film possesses every cliché associated with supernatural thrillers: an abandoned centuries-old mansion, passages engulfed in darkness, massive intricately carved doors, huge dust-covered mirrors, faded portraits and a secret exit. Also, how can we forget the crusty watchman whose warnings fall on deaf ears?
At an excessive long 155 minutes run time, the film becomes a victim of unnecessarily stretched sequences that keep struggling to generate the desired impact. But what actually hampers it the most is its strange editing, loud portrayals, and an annoying background score. To sum up the film on the whole, all that I can say is that the writing is so bland, the editing so uninspired, the clumsy narrative so stretched and the lop-sided style so unexciting that there is hardly any surprise for the poor viewer is surprising enough to evoke interest.
Even Bhumi Pednekar’s considerable talent is wasted in a role that demands little of her and all that we get to see her is screaming at the top of her voice intermittently. She is let down by a ludicrous and uninspiring writing and direction. Arshad Warsi is convincing and smooth as always, while Karan Kapadia is alright in his role. Jisshu Sengupta too makes a decent effort, but Mahie Gill‘s head-scratching attempt at a Bengali accent takes you out of the film. On the whole, ‘Durgamati’ is a bland and boring remake let down by its poor writing and low making standards.
Directed – Ashok G.
Rated – PG15
Run Time – 155 minutes