“A more inaptly titled film there has never been. But that isn’t necessarily a smart sleight. Pari, which means fairy, is a horror flick that does not transport us to a universe of angels. The film may not be outright horrid in terms of quality. However, in seeking to deliver an unending supply of heavy-handed chills and thrills, it goes all out without a safety net. It comes up short and falls with a thud. The screenplay is the principal culprit. It is all over the place.
The lead actress is also the film’s producer. She spares no effort in either of the two roles to prop up Pari. The technical attributes are well above average, the acting is strong, and the intent seems to be to blend genre elements with a certain degree of social relevance through the means of referencing recent events in India’s neighbourhood. It is, in the end, too laboured a film to enthuse us to ignore its many failings and get into the swing of things.
Pari isn’t exactly the sort of supernatural thriller that Bollywood fans are accustomed to watching, yet it abounds in several of the obvious tropes of the genre. Its flights into fear and foreboding are frequent. It leaves nothing to the imagination and yet feels exasperatingly fudgy. First-time director Prosit Roy gives a wide berth to subtlety. Like the heroine of the story, he goes hammer and tongs at the job of creating a full-on scare-fest. The effort falls flat because it stretches credulity to snapping point – and then some.
Pari is a ‘deadly’ variation on Anushka’s previous production Phillauri, in which a benign, impish spirit had pined sweetly for an unrequited love from an earlier era. Here, the focus is squarely on malevolent spirits. Amid all the cinematic fire and brimstone, blood flows free. Some restraint might have helped.
Anushka, who plunges headlong into her role and does not hold back at all, has a perfect foil in the form of the solid, steady Parambrata Chatterjee. He gets into the skin of a gentle, unassuming soul who lets himself into an arranged marriage. On the way back from the nuptial rites, a car accident unleashes forces that he cannot understand, let alone control.
There are many passages in the film that fall between two stools – the romantic and the morbid – and fails to be convincing. Anushka and Parambrata, bred in divergent cultural spaces both as the actors they are and the characters they portray, display fine rapport, which is strained at times owing to the inordinate length of the film and the disconnect between the two opposed strands in the storyline.
Surely a horror flick can do without musical interludes. Pari does not and pays a price as a consequence. The director and the actors pass muster when they are doing what is central to the film – summoning the ghouls and rustling up dread-inducing acts.
One thing that Pari isn’t is predictable. But that isn’t good enough. It just isn’t the sort of spine-chiller that the pre-release “screamers” would have us believe. It lacks the narrative consistency that its in-your-face methods needed in order to be truly effective. In the end, the makers of Pari try way too hard. The outcome is an extended blur that leaves you dazed but totally unimpressed.