It’s time again for some Asian horror with a spicy curry flavor, this time out, it’s Ram Gopal Varma’s latest film, “Phoonk”, which I mentioned here at the Litterbox some months back. This one almost slipped on by me, and the DVD hadn’t shown up anywhere I usually grab my Indian DVD’s. But then…. out of nowhere, it turns up, at of all places, Amazon. There was no mention of subtitles….. and no amount of Internet searching could confirm them, but I took a chance anyway and grabbed it up before is mysteriously disappeared into the mists of legend, never to be seen again….. Well, it finally arrived, and wonder of wonders, it was indeed gloriously subtitled into english!!!Yay!!!
Well… the synopsis for this one reads as follows: “Rajeev, a successful construction engineer, lives happily with his aged mother, his lovely wife Aanjit and their two children aged 10 and 8. Rajeev is a hardcore aethist and scoffs at people who believe in black magic and evil forces. But all of this will change drastically when his life is shattered by the evil forces that put his loved ones to unspeakable horrors. His belief system that refused the very existence of these dark forces is left virtually in tatters.”
Since I hadn’t seen an Indian horror film in a while, I eagerly watched it that very evening. Is it the crazy Hindi creepfest I’ve been hoping for? Let’s check it out, shall we? “Read On”!!
This one is a pure gem for those wanting an Indian film that actually is enjoyable to a non-Indian viewer. The story, while simple, is easy to get a grip on…. it’s basically the old “Revenge through the use of the Black Arts” plot. There is an attempt to elevate this one by making the argument that all such supernatural elements are actually dependent upon the belief of those who are so influenced… but that message isn’t as heavy handed as to ruin the film.
Rajeev spends much of the film dismissing all the creepy Hindi Voodoo/ Witchcraft curse elements that surround his little daughter’s strange ailment. His wife on the other hand is a firm believer in the Gods and she keeps trying to convince her husband that something terrible is afoot. Naturally he doesn’t want to listen…. so we get lots of nifty scenes of the little possessed girl doing all those crazy possessed things right out of any of that sort of “Exorcist” inspired genre.
There is a nifty evil crow that spends it’s time following the girl around and cawing ominously…. there’s a shady chauffeur that works for them that you just KNOW is up to something bad. There’s Rajeev’s elderly mom…. who knows all there is to know about the “old legends”… if only her thickheaded “modern” son would care to listen.
The horror elements are subdued…. as has been the trend in recent Hindi efforts, however the overall tone is appropriate for the genre and I found it balanced just about right. Not tooo scary…. not tooo dull or preachy…… and surprisingly easy to watch.
Perhaps the best element of “Phoonk” for me was the character of the Tantric Master…. a blind, twitchy and downright unnerving hermit right out of one of the old Ramsay Brothers films, who deserves a movie all his own. He’s got the mojo and he ain’t afraid to use it as he goes about slapping the mystic whammy on the evil witch behind it all. There’s a cool beheading here…. but unfortunately it’s been edited to reduce the shock factor and ends up just looking a bit schlocky and sooo, sooo fake.
Naturally, by the end of the film, our hero Rajeev has to reevaluate the existence of the Supernatural, and of course there’s the nice twist of his devout wife abandoning her pure belief for a new found respect for Science and Medicine. That about sums it up, without giving away toooo much of the plot.
Sooooo…. to wrap things up. Neko has to give “Phoonk” her firm 4 “Meows” out of 5, despite what the Hindi reviewers might say to the contrary. This is just the sort of film that should be made in India to help break the Hindi film industry into a more widely accepted worldwide market. While it’s not Oscar materiel nor groundbreaking or even terribly original from a storyline perspective, it actually does what a film should do. It entertains….. by telling a story, not by selling Music CD’s. It’s a bit hard to find outside of India…. but not impossible. Although it looks like Amazon might just have sold out on this one, the DVD ought to pop up on Ebay or somewhere accessible for those willing to look for it.
…….and c’mon….. it’s just soooo fun to say “Phoonk”! Hehehehee!!!
And yes…. as always, a nifty lil’ Trailer to put you in the mood.