Cast: Prithviraj, Mamta Mohandas, Wamiqa Gabbi
Director: Jenuse Mohammed
Nine sets off on a very intriguing and exciting thread. A comet is going to pass by planet Earth over a period of nine days. In those nine days, the planet will go into complete darkness, with no electricity or modern technology. How will humans survive such a blackout?
Director Jenuse Mohammed, who made his debut with the Dulquer Salmaan film 100 Days of Love has Albert (Prithviraj), an astrophysicist, as the leading character. Albert is a widower with a young son, Adam. Apart from being a loner, Albert also has a strained relationship with his son. When his boss, Dr. Inayat Khan (Prakash Raj speaking horrifyingly broken Malayalam), offers him an opportunity to write a feature in Time magazine about the comet, Albert agrees and goes to the Himalayas with his son to study the event closely.
The film opens with an aged and bespectacled Prithviraj doling out science lessons to his young son, Albert who eventually grows into the protagonist. His backstory is clearly unimaginative—a wife (Mamta Mohandas, the official cameo queen off late) who dies when in labour, leaving behind a lonely unhappy boy. The initial portions introducing Albert's workplace and colleagues were unusually bland with conversations that read like they were part of a theatre performance and colleagues who seemed to be fans in awe of Albert's every word. There is a bit about his boss Inayat Khan that feels like it came straight out of an old Renji Panicker script.
Prithviraj's Albert is the third fantastically similar character he has played in recent times, after Ranjan Mathew (Ezra) and Adam (Adam Joan). The brooding loner husband, who battles inner demons that spill over in all his relationships. The core is also the weakest link in the film—the father-son bond that falls flat. What should have been an intense relationship fails to keep us invested emotionally. The writing is so ordinary that there is not a single memorable scene between the two. And the actors seem to be struggling to display the necessary warmth crucial for such an intense bond.
Nine appears to be a sci-fi film on the surface, but with its frames bearing the texture of psychological/horror film, there is enough to feel the chills. This is eventually what works in the narrative, with the elements of horror being downright eerie. The film really picks up pace when the sci-fi gives way to spine-chilling horror. At the large bungalow, small hints of an impending horror trail are let loose—the enigmatic morose old house-help, and a girl (Wamiqa Gabbi) who is brought home by Albert. Gabbi, with her auburn-tinged hair and gentle smile, is scintillating as this mysterious stranger who creates a bond with the little boy.
At some point in the film, we are on our way to figuring out the paranormal activities, but almost every puzzling question is spoonfed to us. Trimming unnecessary elements like that superficial romantic ditty (that would have worked infinitely better as a brief monologue) would have added some pace to the narrative.
Nine succeeds, to an extent, in covering up the writing flaws with superb production value and technology. The VFX, except for that comical fox, is convincing and creative—especially the star-lit dark sky, the reddish comet, and the black, cloudy ghostly invasion. So was the BGM that effectively gave goosebumps.
The last few portions were uncomfortably like Ezra that also dealt with a similar predicament. Prithviraj, apart from repeating himself, is also causing harm to his films by repeating certain actors and worse, giving them the same old narrative. The talented Rahul Madhav, for instance, looked like he had never left the Adam Joan sets. Either way, the sub-characters were all sketchy. Mamta Mohandas appeared sporadically in black and white gowns and bright pink or red matte lipsticks and failed to evoke any emotion.
Nine, despite having an interesting premise, ended up as feeling like the last in the Ezra, Adam Joan series