Director: Abhirup Ghosh
Cast: Saayoni Ghosh, Rudranil Ghosh, Souman Bose, Soumalya Dutta
Streaming on: Hoichoi
A magazine decides to do a Halloween issue. One of them suggests a story on the home-grown ghosts of Bengal: mamdo, shakchunni, mechho and Brombhodoityo, once a part of childhood stories, now lost on a new generation. When a couple of team members dismiss the idea as dated and superstitious—they are the cynics of the story, as in any horror film worth its salt—he makes a smart counter-argument: The ghosts in our backyards are an important part of our cultural heritage, like it is in countries such as Japan and America.
The character is a stand-in for the writer-director Abhirup Ghosh, who is aiming for something similar with his film. He wants to package Bengal’s rich supernatural folklore in a way that appeals to teenagers in 2020, who are more familiar with vampires, zombies and J-horror. And so we have an online portal selling vintage Bengali ghosts, where Sayantika (Saayoni Ghosh), who struggles with the assignment, ends up ordering from (even if it’s a prank site, it can be useful for the story).
It’s no surprise when a Brombhodoitya arrives at her doorstep next morning, boxed in a trunk and tied with chains, priced Rs 999. What’s surprising is the difference between how it must’ve sounded on paper and what’s there on screen. Ghosh has an affection for the genre—he has attempted a zombie film in the past—but his execution fails him. He has worked out the little details—the ghost comes with a complimentary gift: a bonsai banyan tree (where the Brombhodoityo in the folk tales are said to reside) and a pair of khorom (ancient Indian footwear) and a sacred thread, a nice austere touch; but the ‘making’ leaves a lot to be desired.
The problems are fairly basic. The acting is terrible across the board; or maybe it’s the dubbing that makes it seem worse. I don’t know if the lockdown has anything to do with it, but even Tiki Taka, another recent release, shared some of the same issues. The quality of dubbing almost rivals those of Telugu films that would play in Hindi channels on TV. The actor playing Sayantika’s domestic help is so loud that you might need to reach out for the the volume button—if you still want to watch it. And if it doesn’t hurt your ears, the background score will (although I, kind of, like the thumping theme music, which evokes a holy, sinister creepiness with sounds of bell)
You think the entry of Rudranil Ghosh might shake things up—he plays a hip tantrik/medium, who wears a nose-ring and colourful lungi—but the actor soon resorts to the same tricks and mannerisms that we’ve come to associate with him. Brombhodoityo (Soumalya Dutta, wearing SFX makeup) himself is a bit of a joke. He shows up too often and his appearance is a disappointment, like a cross between a character from Tumbbad and a zombie from a Hollywood film. You stop taking him seriously after a point.