Boomika, written and directed by Rathindran R. Prasad, begins with a car accident. But notice how the film arrives here. Normally, we would have started with the man driving his car talking to someone on the phone so that we could catch his name, which would have been used for a pay-off typically towards the climax. Instead, here, we first see the man's wife looking for her mother inside the house. While searching for her, she receives the call and starts talking to her husband. In the middle of the conversation, he is hit by a truck, which leads to his death. One wonders why the film needed to open with the wife when it could have just begun with the husband driving and talking on the phone before meeting with the accident. Why take the extra step? Now consider another scene where two women chat with a man on WhatsApp. It starts playfully as the women ask for the man's photo, but the situation turns upside down, entering the creepy territory by referencing the accident from the beginning. Then and there, it became clear to me that Boomika would not turn out to be a typical genre film.
The setup is fairly conventional. A group moves to an abandoned school building to construct an "eco-friendly township with 500 villas." These are Gowtham (Vidhu), Samyuktha (Aishwarya Rajesh), and their son Siddhu. We also have an architect named Gayatri (Surya Ganapathy), Gautham's sister Aditi (Madhuri), and a helper Dharman (Pavel Navageethan). The building is surrounded by lush greenery, and the camera allows us to soak in the beauty. As soon as the sun goes down, we get the aforementioned WhatsApp incident, followed by a phone that continues working despite having no battery in it. Unlike other horror films, the characters here quickly understand that something is wrong and proceed to leave the premises. But when characters become smart, the movies have to find ways to keep them from leaving, so the car stops working. It's unsafe to go on foot at night as they are surrounded by forest, meaning if not ghosts, the wild animals would delight in killing (Aditi finds this out the hard way).
You think Boomika would turn out to be one of those "trapped in a haunted house" movies where people venture out alone in the dark and lose their lives one by one until a book or an object linked to the ghost or the entire house is burned to the ground. Sure, people go out in the dark, but they make it out alive. Nothing is burned, and no Hanuman Chalisa or Gayatri Mantra is spoken to ward off evil. Furthermore, doors do not automatically creak, and items do not relocate themselves on their own. For the most part, Boomika remains an investigative thriller with characters scratching their brains, figuring out the history of the building. Missing pages are retrieved, giving way to a Taare Zameen Par-type flashback where an outsider encourages the talent of a child who loves painting. Like that Aamir Khan film, Boomika, too, packs in the "every child is special" message.
If this sounds bonkers, it's because is bonkers. The craziness comes from unpredictability. You are never sure where and how the film will proceed. With Boomika, I felt the same way as I had while watching The Princess and the Warrior or, more recently, The Last Paradiso. These three films have in common, not the genre but their zeal to commit themselves to oddity. They astonish by constantly deflecting from the path set by a viewer in his mind without ever deviating from their objective. Within the first few minutes, we form a roadmap of the events that would take place in the film. In a romantic movie, we expect meet-cute, and then hurdles, and then reunion (or death depending on the tone). If it's a slasher, we predict who would die next based on the actions performed by the characters. Usually, the movies go the same way you guess they would. But with films like The Princess and the Warrior, The Last Paradiso, and Boomika, it's futile to even attempt creating a roadmap. Some audience members are turned off by the incalculable paths these films take and label them as "absurd" or "ridiculous." However, if you submit yourself to Boomika, you would be as surprised and shocked as a character who finds the Earth rotating behind a door in an apartment.
I do wish the dialogues were not so over-explanatory though. They reveal every motive and meaning, leaving no room for the audience to decode anything. Some moments turn unintentionally funny, like the constant screams of a woman or a boy painting in the presence of a spirit. The ghost also could've looked a bit more menacing. But the flaws didn't bother me too much. Boomika, once again, proves that a wildly imagined imperfection can always be more interesting than a perfect genre exercise.