Director: Ajay Bahl
Writers: Ajay Bahl, Pawan Sony
Cast: Taapsee Pannu, Gulshan Devaiah, Abhilash Thapliyal, Krutika Desai Khan
In terms of psychology alone, Blurr is somewhat similar to Vasan Bala’s recent Monica, O My Darling. Both are Hindi whodunits that – through their final twists – reveal the perils of social consciousness. Both stories are driven by the lethal desire to be seen by a world that often sidelines supporting characters. Whereas Bala’s film uses the narrative language of Bollywood as a medium, Blurr employs actual blindness as an allegory. Its protagonist, Gayatri (Taapsee Pannu), is slowly losing her eyesight while battling to uncover the hilltown mystery behind the death of her blind twin sister, Gautami. Despite the evidence, she refuses to believe that Gautami died by suicide. So every character, including Gayatri’s own husband Neel (Gulshan Devaiah), acts shady. At one point, a senile old caretaker literally foreshadows the film’s conflict; he laments that nobody notices people like him, that he is invisible, until they need his help. And that’s the problem with Blurr. The execution is too self-serious to realize the complexity of its themes. The movie is too preoccupied with being scary, suspenseful, stylish or clever to empathise with – or even understand – the humans within.
After Looop Lapeta (Run Lola Run) and Dobaara (Mirage), Blurr is the third Hindi remake of a European film starring Taapsee Pannu this year. This time it’s the 2010 Spanish thriller, Julia’s Eyes. Unlike the other two, however, there’s a dull sense of replicating without really reading into the original. Pannu’s Gayatri experiences a whole lot of trauma as a person – losing her loved ones, her vision, her bearings, her sanity even. But her performance makes it hard to invest in Gayatri beyond the immediate threat to her life. I appreciate Pannu’s eclectic choice of scripts and her screen presence, but Blurr is all design and no instinct. Gayatri’s grief is never allowed to breathe. The perpetually jolted expression rarely conveys a broader depth. It’s also awkward writing. It’s often about what’s happening to her within a moment, in isolation to the rest of the story; the tone is totally different in the next scene, with some sequences entirely missing transitions and chunks of exposition.
After one specific tragedy, for instance, the film cuts to Gayatri in the hospital with her eyes bandaged; there’s no mention of a surgery or donor, or that she has to stay bandaged for the next two weeks at home. As a result, there is very little emotional continuity, as though the makers are only concerned with the plot rather than the mental consequences of being stalked by a psychopath. Nobody – not the police inspector, not her husband – believes Gayatri about a ‘presence’ out to get her, despite her being chased and almost killed on multiple occasions. Even the sound design seems to be gaslighting her; “it must be an animal” is used too casually as an alibi, after which she settles into a new segment of the film without questioning those physical threats. A near-death incident is often followed by a romantic or disturbingly still scene, like it’s another timeline or life altogether. This dissonance is jarring, the jump-scares are desperate, and it only goes to show that the film lacks a sense of touch despite being a giant metaphor about sensory connections.
The treatment suggests that Blurr belongs more in the space of the cringier whodunits of the year like Forensic, Cuttputlli and Hit: The First Case. (Why must the perpetrator always be either queer or a reclusive stranger?). The use of darkness, for starters, is gimmicky. A crucial sequence involving Gayatri and an attacker happens in a pitch-dark room, with only the flashes of a camera providing visual snippets of the action. This is no other explanation for the killer using a camera, other than that it looks creepy in a curated sort of way. The world-building feels incomplete too: Gautami being a famous musician makes no difference to the plot, as does Gayatri’s identity as an anthropologist. It’s almost like these details were written in with a purpose, but then edited out at the last minute. A cop’s only role is to declare that he’s closed the Gautami case despite Gayatri’s repeated warnings. Neel and Gayatri speak to one another like strangers because they’re in a crumbling marriage, but never once does it feel like they’ve shared a history together. Her seizures, too, are vague, and seem to happen only when a scene has painted itself into a corner.
By far the dodgiest creative choice in the film, though, features a 15-minute montage where a post-surgery Gayatri is nursed by a person…whose face we never see. The camera uses every trick in the book – producing every neck-down angle there is – to not reveal the identity of this person, which in itself is the silliest way to reflect the protagonist’s condition. She can’t see him, so the film also refuses to show him, a clunky film-school-level device that feels like a parody of twisty horror movies. To make matters worse, Gayatri gets comfortable with this anonymous character. As a viewer, it’s most frustrating when a film decides to get cute but gives itself away by doing so. By treating this character as a headless human, the film leaves nothing to our imagination. When the motive of the killer is eventually revealed, it’s again unclear, like a few key sentences are missing. At over two hours, it all starts to feel like a blur – a murky whydunit where the film becomes a needy killer while the viewers slowly lose their ability to see the film.
Blurr is streaming on ZEE5.