Director: Ram Gopal Varma
Producer: Praveen Nishchol
Banner: One More Thought Entertainment
Cast: Sudeep, Amruta Khanvilkar, Ahsaas Channa, Kenny Desai, Ashwini Kalsekar, Ganesh Yadav, Anu Ansari, Shankar Sachdev, Zakir Hussain, Jyothi Subhash
The surprise has finally ended. The said super-scary RGV movie that boasted of grave suspense and an argument that would silence the science vs superstition belief once and for all is out. And it is no more than just another spooky flick. A flick that will keep you engrossed enough to remember to pass the popcorn. Yes, only that much.
Phoonk is a linear story, almost simplistic. It also has a linear narrative that focuses on what happens rather than who-dun-it. Which works because that is what horror stories are all about. More often what happens than who does it. Phoonk opens on a construction site with our protagonist Rajeev (Sudeep) discussing his pet project with his teammates while the supervisor comes to him with a request. The workers have excavated a stone which is shaped like Ganapathi and they wish to build a temple on that site. Rajeev flatly refuses to alter his foundation plans to accommodate the superstitions of mere workers. He is an atheist who scorns at anything unscientific.
This atheist has a wife who is a believer, two lovely children and a mother. His home life is as pretty as a picture and his professional life is looking up too. When his wife wants to conduct a Satyanarayan Pooja to thank god for their good luck, the hot-blooded Rajeev refuses once again, with the same ferocity he displayed earlier. His wife is silenced but the audience curiosity is perked. It is through Rajeev’s character and his belief’s that the director is going to tell us the story intended to wipe our illusions.
And that is the most compelling part of this film. The transformation of Rajeev from a stern rationalist to a mellow believer speaks of powerful characterisation (that has been done good justice by the actor). The essence of fighting for what you believe and what you don’t and then not fighting for, is a stark statement, loaded with meaning that makes Phoonk an RGV movie. It was this precise layering that made Raat memorable.
Phoonk, otherwise is tame. The story turns out to be just another expose of black magic centered tales that prove their point by being unexplained by science or by telling the whole story from a traditionalist point of view. RGV adopts a pro-black magic point of view, does not bother with rational argument and goes ahead with chills and thrills that are a mixture of tame, funny, loud and even boring at times.
There is nothing wrong in adopting a traditionalist point of view but a traditionalist approach to horror films leave nothing to imagination. Tried and tested techniques of shock, intrigue and suspense, use of light and sound to evoke an atmosphere of tension and suspicion in the minds of the protagonists itself make for a viewing that is as unfamiliar as daal-chawal.
The element of surprise is the most important for horror to strike home and Phoonk makes the same mistake many films make. The protagonists surprise and horror, some light and some sound, is not enough for the adrenaline to rush or blood to freeze. Phoonk, in its simplicity, sadly does not go farther than that.
The RGV-fascination with obstructive frames, out-of-focus shots and unlikely zoom-ins continues. Unnatural objects get their time on footage mostly without relevance. Constant foregrounding of objects kills the beauty of cinematography as well as story-telling by taking away the depth rather than adding it. Unflattering lighting does not make this spooky tale visually enchanting and a typical sound design barges in on scenes even when not required.
There is not much to regard in this film except some good performances by the lead. Sudeep gives a spirited performance which falters in the emotional worried-father sequences but does manage to leave an impact. Amruta Khanvilkar plays her role of a loving housewife and distraught mother efficiently and one admires the range she displays after having played a care-a-damn rebel in the dismal Mumbai Salsa.
The little girl Ehsaas catches attention as she essays her role in a confident and assured manner. The portrayal of black magic practitioners is bizarre and even retarded, making it not only disappointing to watch but also an extreme wastage of talent. Ashwini Kalsekar and Zakir Hussain are two powerful performers that their roles do no justice to.
Not much to spook you with, this Phoonk might just be a whiff of air that tries its best but does not succeed.