Flush with the success of my earlier movie plan which turned out such great results, I decided to go one extra and spice up my next movie outing as well. So, I proposed ‘Kitsch is Kool’. The idea was to do something unusual with a touch of whackiness, all in the name of entertainment. I decided to pick something different. Comedy…nah, we did that last week. Oscar winners…too bloody high-brow (Besides it was more fun to diss celebrity style)! Drama…umm, show me something else. How about horror? And what could add more ice to the chills than watching it in a rundown, semi-seedy theatre to add atmosphere? No comfortable plush sofas to sink your face into during the scream-moments, no multiplex comfort food of caramel popcorn and seat-delivered colas. Just rattling, creaky rexine seats where your knees bumped into the cold metal of the seats in front of you, each time you shrieked. 13B at Chandan cinema was the plan.
I’d love to tell you how, full of daring and adventure, I set forth with my brave bunch of movie-buff friends. Instead, every single one of them chickened out!!! Even my plaintive sell of
But guys, just imagine the thrill of facing up to your fears! After all, darr ke aage jeet hai!
was met with,
No!! Darr ke aage nightmares hai!
Like that. Hmph, so I ended up mall-ratting as usual and watching 13B in the aforementioned multiplex complete with comfort food. So not kitschy, definitely not kool. Maybe that took away from the experience, maybe my review would have been nicer if we had gone with the original plan.
13B is driven forth by Madhavan who despite his cult status in Kollywood (the Tamizh film industry, for the uninitiated) has failed to make a splash on the rest of the Indian audience. To his credit most people have fond memories of him in Banegi Apni Baat and Sea Hawks but the big screen seems to be rather cruel on South-Indian men, doesn’t it? Considering the hero is a very large proponent of a movie’s appeal, it already starts off with a handicap.
In addition, 13B is playing in that rather unfashionable genre of Bollywood horror movies. After the steady Ramsay brothers diet of B-grade potboilers (Veerana, Khooni Murda), the Indian audience was introduced to relatively more sophisticated offerings minus the ketchup-blood and clay-masks of yore. Ram Gopal Verma played guardian angel to this movement with Bhoot and Darna Mana Hai. I don’t know how commercially successful they were, compared to the other Bollywood fare but they certainely ushered in a new age of horror in Hindi movies.
Cut to the present. The audience has been seeing a steady stream of ‘experimental’ movies right from the short-length skits favoured by Nagesh Kukunoor to NRI flicks to collages (Darna Mana Hai, Dus Kahaniyan) to audience-targetted films. Purely from a marketer’s standpoint, now would have been a good time to take a leap forward in the undeveloped theme of horror movies. By that premise, 13B is over a decade too late. Raat was made ages ago, Urmila’s wide-eyed Bhoot has shocked us all years back. What else is new?
The characterization of 13B is extremely dated with a honey-sweet joint family that precedes the generation of saans-bahu politics. None of the characters really stand out. Poonam Dhillon in her comeback avatar could have done so much more, had she just had a bit more to do than look annoyed at being disturbed during her noontime soap viewing. Sachin Khedekar (who shot to fame with Sailaab, a king among Hindi TV soaps) was perhaps a little too larger-than-life for TV but shrunk to his podgy-man frame in the movie. The movie doesn’t exactly make the best case for Madhavan to kick-start his Bollywood career either, since he alternates between huffing & puffing up the staircase (what on earth was that about the broken lift anyway??), wide-eyed mania and goofy grins. That boy needs a lesson on not smiling too much, it makes me want to call him Mr.Cheese (and not as in Kya cheez hai!).
What’s worse, there was actually a background score! Not a soundtrack to add dimension to the horror theme, a fullblown honest-to-Hindi-movie-goodness, background score complete with running around trees and *shudder shudder* an item song! This was about the only scary thing in the movie (and trust me on this, I’m a real ‘fraidy-cat otherwise).
With a theme like Sab Khairiyat Hai, I was rather hoping this story would experience a Stepford Wives-esque ephiphany and explore the sublimnal horror of mind-controlled perfection. No such luck. By the end of the movie I’m only left with the feeling that there is someone who’s even more petrified of gadgets and technology than I am! After all, my nightmares have never been of spooked television sets (even if I did entertain a haunted lift once). It looks like the makers were rather spooked with the idea of making a movie too. If you’re looking for chills down the spine, ask a friend to dump an ice-tray down your shirt. Don’t bother with 13B.