Shabana Azmi, Leela Samson, Sanjeeda Sheikh, Satyadeep Mishra, Riva Arora
Horror is a genre of moments, scares and unforgettable nightmare scenes that are burned forever into our collective unconscious. But have you ever imagined when a social stigma and horror elements are derived to bring on the screen in the form of a film. For the past many years, Netflix India is trying to present a good horror film for its fans but deep down it always fails. Now with 'Kaali Khuhi', Netflix once again focusing on the terror genre but after watching the film, the story takes a move towards the female infanticide issue. To some extend the film suggests that women are as much to blame as men for the perpetuation of female infanticide, the only element that brings the film to reality otherwise it is uninventive.
'Kaali Khuhi' set on the drop back of Punjab and initially starts a man murmuring something in his mouth, talking about a girl and can be heard saying I'm done with you can't hear your screams more. Then he starts uncovering a well but a girl's hand grabs his neck and kills him. Later on, the girls walk towards the village, knocking on an old woman's house door. When the old woman asked her name, instead of answering her question, the girl asked her, 'Meri Tadaagi'. After hearing this and looking towards her face, the old lady screams and the shot cuts to a schoolgirl Shivangi's life. Where Shivangi usually sees a small girl spirit dressing in a red frock. She uses to tell this to her mother but she stops her and everything to her imagination.
Shivangi (Riva Arora) accompanies her wrangling parents, Priya (Sanjeeda Sheikh) and Darshan (Satyadeep Misra), on a trip to the village to check on her ailing paternal grandmother (Leela Samson). Reaching the village, Shivangi meets Satya Mausi (Shabana Azami) and tells her parents about her paternal grandmother. With the passage of time, Shivangi starts feeling the presence of the same small girl's spirit and inexplicable events begin to unfold. She starts feeling near to her and finds her visible on the mirror reflections. One day, her grandmother encounters a small girl in the room on the first floor. When she touches her, the girl takes the form of a ghost and kills grandmother.
When Priya reaches there she finds her mother-in-law dead and at the time of cremation, grandmother's body catches fire anonymously. The village, enveloped in mist and mystery, is obviously a crucial presence in the story. Many villagers start assuming that the curse is back and others think it's a sickness that attacks the village. But deep down Shivangi starts relating the story with the book that was kept with Chandani (Satya niece) written by Satya herself. The book, where hundreds of names were mentioned and some conceal secret horror stories. Well, a mix of fear and curiosity to know what's in the room on the first floor and the book that keeps names of many girls and secrets hidden with Satya will all be answered in not so horrific Kaali Khuhi.
Helmed by debut director Terrie Samundra tried to put his vision in the story but unfortunately, the topic of female infanticide was much promising but taking it into the horror genre didn't go well with the film. As there were not one or two but plenty of loopholes made this film too loose. The story and screenplay by Terrie and David Walter were too weak, the character of Priya and Darshan was not well-written and kept on disappearing from the screen. Only appeared when they were required, rest the writer forgot to write their part in the rest of the film.
The film has only one male hero Darshan played by Satyadeep Misra, who loves her mother so much that he doesn't want to leave the village even after she dies. But the actor has nothing to do with her family so rather chooses to stay in the cursed village despite leaving and saving her family. Satyadeep Misra is a renowned actor, wasting his talent with such a role didn't bring any new to the story. Talking about Sanjeeda Sheikh, so in the role of Priya she contributed much to the storyline, with the impeccable beauty she adores the screen, in the emotional scene, she wins hearts but even being an important part in the story her character doesn't go along with the storyline.
With intense acting and top-notch acting skills, Shabana Azmi's talent is also gone vague in this not so clear storyline. Satya Masi who lives in the adjoining house was known to the things happening in the village and Shaivangi's grandmother's house. Being from Punjab, you can barely hear her speaking Punjabi, although she can be heard chanting Gayatri Mantra to get rid of the spirit. Her character required a lot of development, but the makers rather focus on the central plot of the film.
The focus of the film is instead on the women of three generations, one of whom appears in the film's most ominous scenes doing what she wills. Shivangi's grandmother and Satya Maasi represent the past, Priya the present and the pre-teen girl the future. The question is, can Shivangi, the girl who got away, gather the courage to reverse the evil repercussions of the past event that still haunts the village.
Riva Arora in the role of Shivangi, really touches the hearts with her acting, the fear, losing her parents, and the curiosity to know the secret is visible on her face. The other girl Chandani also fitted best in the Satya Maasi's niece role.
One of the most intriguing parts of this horror flick was its cinematography by Sejal Shah. Known for his work in South film, Solo, Hindi film Commando and more in the row was fabulous in the film. Each frame captured by the cinematographer requires an applaud. Special thanks to Sanjukta Kaza who helped the director to cut down this not so horrific flick and turned it into a 1 hour 30 minutes.
Sound by Daniel B. George and Sohail Sonwari was commendable as the horror scenes in the film were predictable. So in such a case, horror flicks always depend on the shoulder of a music director. The background score and morning sound, each and every sound has a grip to hold the suspense.
Overall, Kaali Khuhi is nothing but a dull film, based on a serious issue, and to elaborate the film theme the makers tried to put trepidation in the film. It is not the first time when Netflix has released a horror flick or series but still the terror elements are always missing from Netflix's content. Each scene in the film is predictable whether it was Satya milking the buffalo and instead of milk blood pouring in the bucket or the back story that raises the serious issue of female infanticide in the backward classes of the country. But in the end, does it not realize that the story it's presenting the back and forth on the edge of ludicrousness? All in all, if you are a fan of watching mild kinds of horror flicks and want to watch a movie with a serious social issue of female feticide then you can watch this 90 minutes of not so holy terror!