Before Pari, I had thought that horror films just cannot work in Hindi Cinema because our films need songs, a love angle and of course, an interval. But Anushka Sharma’s Pari makes me believe otherwise. Not only does the film make you believe that Indian cinema can do horror films but it also sets the benchmark too high.
Not revealing much about the film, Sharma plays Rukhsana who is happened to be found by Parambrata Chatterjee’s Arnab in the middle of a jungle after he accidentally kills her mother. Out of guilt, he takes Rukhsana home, not knowing that she is just half human. The film trails along the powers of black magic, of this particular cult in Bangladesh that believes in a demon, Ifrit, and they decide to carry on his legacy, his blackness, by sacrificing women. Rukhsana is a by-product of the same.
I will not say Pari is the best horror film I have ever seen. It is not even close. But it is great. I am not a fan of horror films but I had to see this one for my love for Anushka Sharma and the professional choices she has made over the years. And so, I went. I did shut my eyes a couple of times and I was at the edge of my seat but someone who is a fan of horror films won’t find it as scary as I did. Having said that, there are moments in Pari that will scare the living soul out of you. It is not a full on, only horror film. It is much more than that.
The film does fall a little apart in the second half, but Sharma saves the day! I am yet to see a mainstream Bollywood actress strip herself of all vanity and agree to look like this on screen. And, I am also yet to see an actor-producer willing to invest her money in this kind of experimental cinema, especially of this genre. Hats off Sharma, Clean Slate Films, KriArj Entertainment, and Kyta Productions to believe in this film. In fact, double points to KriArj Entertainment for choosing to back films like Rustom, Toilet and now Pari. In just a few years Prernaa Arora and Arjun N. Kapoor sure have made their mark.
Coming back to Anushka Sharma, the film is entirely hers. She doesn’t care how she looks even one bit. Rukhsana is at times powerful and at others, she’s vulnerable and all this while she brings suffering to the screen, even when it is at the cost of another character. On the surface, Rukhsana is a lot about just her eyes, freckles, hair and toenails but she’s a woman with many more complexities within. And Sharma brings just the right amount of nuance to this character. In fact, after her portrayal of Meera in NH10, this is my favourite performance of hers. And when I say this, it is imperative to keep in mind that Sharma has always given a top-notch performance. This is her film. Pari is perhaps, one of the very few films in Indian Cinema where the leading lady is in almost every frame. Rukhsana is staying in Arnab’s house, eating food off his plate, learning how to brush teeth by him, loving cartoon because of him but she ‘owns’ the film and not him. The best part of the film are moments when she’s alone in his house – when she listens to music alone, watches television or just sits there, daydreaming.
Supporting actors also play their parts to the T. Parambrata Chatterjee as the gullible Arnab, is brilliant. I remember him from Sujoy Ghosh’s Kahaani and he brings exactly that subtlety to Pari as well. Rajat Kapoor as the one-eyed professor is one act above! Ritabhari Chakraborty as Piyali and Mansi Multani as Kalapori also do good but they don’t have much to do.
Thumbs up to debutante director Prosit Roy for having faith in himself and his work of art to be able to make a film like this. It takes a lot of courage and determination to stick even by your own self when you experiment so much. And, I somewhere know, that in his second film, he won’t repeat the same small mistakes he made in Pari. And I hope that he has either Anushka Sharma or an actor as fine as her to play with. Roy’s Pari reminded me a lot of Ghosh’s Kahaani, perhaps because Ghosh’s film acted and still acts as a benchmark for Indian thrillers as Pari does for the films in its genre.
Like NH10 and Phillauri, even Pari eventually points a finger at our society. Are there really demons in black clothes and ghosts in white or does every human being have a shaitan within them? There is a lot to think about when you leave the theatres after watching Pari: Not A Fairy Tale.
All in all, even if you are an eye shutter during horror films, go watch Pari for Anushka Sharma’s sake. Everyone needs to know that it is this talent that we wish to see in every actor…