‘Chhorii’ Review: A Horror Film That Doubles Up As A Scathing Social Commentary Anchored By Solid Performances

Chhorii, directed by Vishal Furia is the Hindi remake of the Marathi film Lapachhapi (2017) which features Nushrratt Bharuccha in the lead role. If you haven’t seen the original, the story revolves around eight-month pregnant Sakshi (Bharuccha) who is not just faced with phantoms of the paranormal world but the horrors of one’s past and the social evils that are far more terrifying. It is her struggle to save herself and her unborn child that sets up the premise for a haunting narrative that is rooted deep in patriarchy and superstition among other things. And it is Furia’s writing and vision, as the helmer of the original, that makes it what it is – a horror film that doubles up as a scathing social commentary. It is upheld by convincing performances by Bharuccha and the entire ensemble, especially Mita Vashist as Bhanno Devi who evokes fear and dread. But, is it worth the watch? Find out in the full review below.

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I haven’t watched the acclaimed original movie, Lapachhapi, and I intentionally didn’t read up on the film because I wanted to first-hand experience of encountering filmmaker Vishal Furia’s distinct world and his take on the Indian horror genre that I believe has not been optimally utilized. The Bhatts and Co. have gave us many a hits (and flops), enticing the cine-goers with sex, gore and unblievevably good albums. But the genre and its takers have yet to reach the rural underbelly which is filled with folklore and even urban legends. But Furia’s film dares to do so and do it very delicately, unfolding layer after layer without any kind of haste. Let’s delve into the details, shall we?

The film starts with a woman running hastily through a sugarcane field; she is pregnant and scared and possibly running from the vengeful spirits that haunt the place. She isn’t the protagonist but the sequence really sets up the tone of the film that is brimming with confusion and chaos. One is then quickly introduced to Sakshi and her affinity towards children. She is pregnant herself and unaware of the terrors that are going to befall on them. It so happens that an unfortunate event makes her skip the town and head for the village. Now, the grounds feel impractical and unreliable but once one has surrendered, the understated quality and orchestrated eeriness makes up for the lack of cohesion in the material and the buildup takes a little too long to set the story and get the ball rolling.

But the feeling doesn’t linger for long because the makers suck you into a world that is distinct and deserted. Nushrratt Bharuccha as Sakshi acts as the conduit between the elements in the story and the outside world that wouldn’t believe everything that’s still practised in the place. The actress tries her best to break the mold and pushes herself out of her comfort zone again after Akaash Vaani (please watch the movie if you haven’t already) and it translates well. Her restrained performance, unlike anything we’ve seen from her, fits the bill. She is even convincing as a woman hysterically running with a prosthetic belly and not once does it feel like it’s not a part of her body. And that says a lot about her performance.

During an interview, the actress had revealed to Mashable India that during the shoot she had attempted the novel approach of not knowing the scenes and only habituating herself with it on the day of shoot. And it has worked in her favour in keeping it real and grounded, without a trace of (over) preparation. Having said that, she aces along with the arc, until it hits a plateau. The graph then falls flat which is when one misses a certain gravity that often comes to the fore with formidable experience.

Which brings us to the force of nature that is Mita Vasisht. The actress is the one who keeps the horror afloat with her electric performance. She plays the part of a matriarch with much conviction and ends up stealing many scenes with her mere screen presence. She often acts with her eyes/body language and it truly reminds one about what a seasoned actor brings to the table.

Director Vishal Furia’s sensibilities catch up strong in the second half of the film which is replete with commentary on sexism and inherent patriarchy that is still prevalent in rural India. That and the causal kind that we have normalized in our homes, in the city. Unfortunately the witch hunt of subjugating women because they are the presumed as the weaker sex continues. Both before they are born and even after their death. And the director signifies and personifies it by using every resource available to him, including props as motifs. He uses the field as a maze, symbolic to the protagonist’s psyche of being trapped. In fact, recurring objects and costumes play a big part in establishing the effect of the illusions that the director wants his character and viewers to undergo.

So much for that it makes up for the pacing issues that once bothered the viewing experience. At this point, one is accustomed to his world and is engrossed in the character journeys. And even enjoys the process as the filmmaker unfolds the story layer by layer. It is safe to say that the movie isn’t as much about the scares and it is about the social evils of the society but the few scares that are scattered throughout are enough to elicit reactions. While the story also gets a little predictable and preachy towards the end because the character delves into the dramatics, the takeaway is almost poetic in the way a horror film tries to expose or shed a light on the social evils that are way more ghastly and terrifying. Furia is a gifted storyteller and with Chhorii he has broken the streak of filmmakers recreating their own marvels and doing it justice.

The cinematography also is framed in order to elevate the material with tonal changes, ranging from natural to a cooler saturation when things get spooky. Even the background score compliments the narrative without exaggerating it. Instead it adds the right oomph to the scares, often letting silence fill the room and grow after screams. Yes, you will scream more and more than just once.

Verdict.

Watch it to catch Nushratt Bharuccha in a completely different light and watch it to witness a complex and intricate horror genre film, replete with sub-layers.

Chhorii is all set to premiere on Amazon Prime Video on November 26.

SEE ALSO: Amazon Prime’s creepy ‘Chhorii’ teaser brings paranormal horror to a rural village

Cover artwork by Bhavya Poonia/Mashable India


John Colin

I am a technology journalist with over two decades of press experience. I have spent much of the last ten years, focusing on open source, tech gadgets, data analytics and intelligence, Internet of things, cloud computing, mobile devices, and data management. I'm a senior editor at Mashable's covering data analytics, venture capital, (SaaS) applications, cloud and enterprise software out of New York.

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