Ram Gopal Varma is back with his latest Hindi horror film, “Agyaat, the Unknown” and Neko was lucky enough to snatch up a copy for her very own, although it certainly took some work….. my first DVD for it was terminally messed up and required me to get a replacement sent out so I could finish watching it….
Our synopsis reads: “A film unit goes for a shoot deep into a forest and are killed one by one by some unknown force.”
Ummm? Pretty sparse description, I know… but it’s almost as if people really don’t know how to describe the film at all. In India itself, this one is merely regarded as a “suspense” film. Most marketing for it certainly leans that way…. but the Trailer…. now that gives this lil’ Catgirl entirely different feelings. So… is it a horror movie?….. A “suspense” film?….. Or some sort of “singing & dancing” thriller?
Guess there’s really only one way to find out… and that’s to give “Agyaat” the proper going over so I can clue you all in on just what the heck sort o’ movie we have here….
Psssst!!! That’s your subtle hint to “Read On” if ya wanna find out!!
I’m pleased to say…. having watched this one, “Agyaat” is indeed one of those film likely to be very accessible to foreign tastes. As with most of Ram Gopal Varma’s films, “Agyaat” isn’t exactly your typically Bollywood production. On the one hand, that’s probably why many of his films do so badly at the box office in India itself…. by far, he’s much more “western” influenced than many other producers in the Hindi movie industry. He’s consistently taken to task by reviewers there for failing to provide the expected Indian entertainment elements such as long superfluous musical numbers or overly large casts and unnecessary extraneous plot lines. On the other hand… this does bode well for we foreign movie fans who usually find Hindi films…. well….. somewhat tedious and silly at times and overly preoccupied with trying to make every film into a musical. Ram Gopal Varma seems to be one of the few Hindi producer/ directors that has figured out that unless the Hindi film industry wants to be thought of as hopelessly out of touch with world audiences, you’ve got to take some chances and learn from other film cultures to create works that have broader appeal outside of India itself.
This one starts out simply enough…. with a musical number…. as our hero Sujal (played by Nitin Reddy) fantasizes in a dark movie theater about the popular actress Aasha (played by Priyanka Kothari) for whom he has always had a secret crush on….. (I know… I know… Neko said this one wasn’t going all musical on us, but not to worry, the song is deftly woven into this and actually helps define our hero’s unrequited crush on Aasha without being silly or out of place). Our hero’s daydreams are interrupted by a phone call from his boss, director J.J., to tell him he’s signed Aasha to star in the newest picture he’s planning, a jungle adventure to be shot on location in the wilds of Sri Lanka. Naturally, our boy Sujal is thrilled….. although his best friend Sameera (played by Rasika Duggal), who has always had her own not so secret crush on Sujal, is less impressed. Faster than you can believe, our boy lines up the talent needed to get this project running and it’s off to the jungle to get to the remote shooting location. Only one real headache serves to keep everybody on edge, and that’s the leading man Sharman Kapoor (played to annoying perfection by Gautam Rode) self proclaimed Bollywood “superstar” and all around self absorbed jerk. He’s got it bad for Aasha too…. and as a movie star gets to spend lots and lots of time monopolizing her company to Sujal’s disappointment. But hey…. not to worry…. just about everybody on the shoot just sooooo hates this guy, so Sujal’s got company in his misery.
The film gets off to a bumpy start, but just when it seems they are making progress, a camera snafu ends up creating a two day delay in filming. Their trusty (but awfully weird) local jungle guide, Setu (played by Joy Fernandes) suggests a short sightseeing and camping trip off in the jungle to kill some time. During the first night there, while everyone is partying and enjoying themselves around the bonfire, a freakish sound from the darkened forest upsets them. Setu goes out to investigate…. assuring them that no dangerous animals exist in this forest….. and promptly disappears. When the morning comes, the crew members go out to find him…. as he’s the guy with the keys to the landrover and the only one who knows the way out of the jungle to safety….. Whoops! Instead of finding him playing some joke on them, they find his dead body. Torn to bits in a way none of them could imagine in their worst nightmares. Terrified, they all try to find their way out the jungle, but something unseen follows them……. Trapped and hopelessly lost in the unknown forest,one by one they start dying, victims of the unknown thing.
Here’s where Neko stopped believing this was only a simple “suspense” film. There is no doubt that the thing that pursues our hero and his friends is some sort of eerie unearthly monster….. It’s invisible for one thing…. It can run through the tree tops faster than a monkey smoking Meth… burrow underground faster than a man can run….. not to mention pull a human being into the ground like a man might yank a carrot out of the same ground. Ohhhh…. and did Neko mention it leaves behind pools of boiling blood when it feeds? Ahhhh, yes…. and it’s afraid of water….. like “Dracula” afraid of water. So…. despite what the producer says….. this one is most definitely a horror film. Yep. Now that we’ve got that out of the way….
The bulk of the film deals with the tension between our cast once they reach this point. You just know that our “pain-in-the-ass superstar” Sharman is gonna die…. it’s simply a question as to whether the monster will get him or one of the film crew will get fed up with his whining and kill him themselves. Neko’s not gonna tell ya….. but you just know he’s not gonna be around for “Agyaat 2”. Eventually we find out that Aasha really is a good person inside and out and that she’s been mostly misunderstood by most people who always figured she was nothing more than some spoiled diva. Does this mean she and Sujal have got a shot at romance? Awwww… c’mon, it’s a Bollywood film, naturally that’s gonna happen…. hehehehe!! But first off, most everybody else has got to die…. and die horribly.
There isn’t a lot of gore here though…. much of what happens happens off screen. Part of that is because Hindi films tend to be far less graphic than western efforts, but much of it here is also very purposeful. “Agyaat” takes as it’s central premise the idea that it’s more what you don’t see that gets you to imagining the worst…. and it’s used very effectively here. Your Favorite Catgirl found this one very entertaining indeed, and with it’s nod to “Predator” and it’s lush scenery and solid cinematography, it’s a decent film that deserved better reviews back in India for trying to be something different than the usual crappy Hindi “song and dance” romances that comes out from the industry by the droves. It does this, and still manages to have a very Hindi feel to it that I found nice.
In conclusion, Neko gives this one a respectable 3 “Meows” out of 5 with several nice purrs for making a nice, polished and modern Hindi horror film I won’t be ashamed to recommend to friends. Even Carolyn liked it….. and she’s a hard one to sell with a subtitled film.
Trailer? Yep…. Neko’s got one for you…. so watch and decide for yourself… Horror movie or not?