Saturday, October 23, 2004


Vaastu Shastra

If it’s just a few scares you are looking for, Vaastu Shastra delivers plenty, digging into an old trunk of horror movie tricks—spooky lighting, loudly slamming doors, odd growls, howls and giggles on the soundtrack, and lots of ghosts. But if you are looking for a horror film that respects your intelligence, this one isn’t it.

Films dealing with the paranormal may be questioned by the rational mind, but they still have to follow some conventions and have a certain logic of their own. Even if the pale, coal-eyed ghosts that populate this film can send chills down the spine, there still have to be some hows and whys answered.

Sourabh Usha Narang’s film (inspired by The Shining and other Hollywood horror flicks) dispenses with all explanations. You just have to accept that a house in the middle of nowhere is haunted and people get killed for no reason, whenever or however the resident spirits desire.

Virag (Chakravarthy) and Jhilmil (Sushmita Sen) move into a strange house away from civilization presumably because he needs peace to write. In the family is their kid Rohan (Ahsaas Channa) and her sister (Piya Rai Choudhry).

Strangely, nobody knows or warns them about the ghosts—except a gibbering mad man (Rajpal Yadav), which is unlikely in India. Jhilmil sees a ghost on day one, but they seem to ignore the apparition. The house has no guards, no domestic help and no trace of any life nearby.

The child sees the ghosts and befriends them. The parents think he is making up stories. When a local woman hired to look after Rohan is killed, and all kinds of weird things happen, the family blissfully carries on.

Since the presence of ghosts is revealed early on in the film, there are no surprises left, except more ghosts who lurk angrily about the house and take their time killing people. After a point there is nothing happening in the film except white-faced spooks making sudden appearances.

The end is as bizarre as it is terrifying, but answers no questions. Also the heroine is given no opportunity to do anything heroic, so Sushmita Sen’s character comes across as rather dense and very callous towards the child, considering she is a doctor. Chakravarthy does nothing but react with a blank expression to everything.

Compared to this Ramgopal Varma’s earlier production, Bhoot (directed by himself), was definitely superior, and that was no masterpiece.

This one gets all the technical trappings right, and the performances are fine. The child is incredibly cute and adorable, a real find, perhaps the best after Jugal Hansraj of Masoom. Vaastu Shastra does fulfill its avowed purpose of frightening the viewer, but still does not make for satisfying viewing.

Kis Kis Ki Kismat

This is a conundrum that refuses to be solved: how do audiences know which film to stay away from? Despite the attraction of Dharmendra’s comeback, Mallika Sherawat posing in little nothings, and all the publicity about two hot-blooded ‘Jats’ coming together, the first show of Govind Menon’s Kis Kis Ki Kismat played to a sparse audience in a suburban hall.

Sherawat has yet to prove her acting credentials, but if actors like Dharmendra, Satish Shah and Tinnu Anand, known for their comic flair can’t raise a titter, there is something seriously wrong with the film.

To Menon’s credit, he has chosen an offbeat plot about how a baseless rumour can cause havoc in a man’s life, but failed to realize its comic potential.

Wealthy stockbroker Hasmukh Mehta (Dharmendra), quarrels with his wife Kokila (Rati Agnihotri) and flings a diamond necklace out of the balcony. It hits Meena (Mallika Sherawat), who is dumb enough to demand a few rupees for a broken earring when Mehta offers her the necklace. She even fails to recognize the celebrity either by name or face. It would require some effort to be that clueless!

Mehta takes her to a jewellery shop to buy her new earrings and that sets off a chain of unexpected events. The jeweller (Tiku Talsania) spreads rumours of an affair between Mehta and Meena. That leads Iranian hotelier Rafsanjani (Satish Shah) to invite her to stay at his downbeat hotel, in order to please Mehta, who is demanding repayment of a debt.

Co-incidences pile on—Mehta’s moronic son (Siddharth Makkar) meets Meena, who invites him to stay in her suite at the hotel. Mehta’s wife leaves in a huff, so he moves into the same hotel too.

The press splashes the news of the affair, a rival stockbroker (Tinnu Anand) tries to get tips out of a befuddled Meena and the stock market goes haywire. While all this is on, all kinds of people press expensive gifts on to Meena, who can’t figure out what’s going on.

To play an outrageously stupid bimbo, needed someone with innocence and unconscious sexuality, which the over made-up and underdressed Mallika Sherawat cannot manage. If she looks like one who could be stringing father, son and Rafsanjani son along, it ruins the little humour the lines muster up.

Dharmendra looks so out of his depth here you feel sorry for him, and none of the other actors can do much to save this film from hitting the depths of puerility. Tuneless music and uninspired visuals add to its wretchedness. Pity really, because very rarely do you come across a plot that is cheeky and daringly different.


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