Director: Vishal Furia
Writers: Vishal Furia, Vishal Kapoor
Cast: Nushrratt Bharuccha , Saurabh Goyal, Mita Vashisht, Rajesh Jais
Cinematographer: Anshul Chobey
Editor: Unnikrishnan Payoor Parameswaran
A young married couple go to a new place; the wife is pregnant and there's an older couple taking care of them. They are nice – perhaps a bit too nice, hiding sinister plans behind their over friendly facade. Chhorii's premise recalls Rosemary's Baby except we are in the sugarcane fields of Haryana, and the couple in question, Sakshi (Nushrratt Bharuccha) and Hemant (Saurabh Goyal), haven't moved into a new apartment, but are in hiding, running away from a creditor who had sent goons to beat him up; Hemant is given one day to pay him back and he is trying to buy time. Their driver Kajla ji (Rajesh Jais) takes them to his village 300 kilometres away. It's a pretty serious situation – she is pregnant after all and the creditor guy sounds dangerous – but without this pretext, though, it would seem as if Sakshi and Hemant are on vacation, enjoying the rustic pleasures of country life ('Let's have hookah', 'Chalo khet dekhne chalte hai'). This is just one of the many instances where Chhorii bypasses common sense for convenience, and loses the audience a bit every time it does so. A final twist that seemingly makes everything fall in place in retrospect doesn't help, as they rarely do in films that overly rely on shocking climactic reveals to salvage themselves; more often than not the back calculations seem too obvious.
Either that, or Sakshi is a really dimwitted person, the kind of horror film heroine who has never seen a horror film in her life and therefore remains supremely naive for the most part, ignoring all the signs that she is in one. From the beginning she's taken on a ride. We see what what she sees, we know what she knows. And yet we are smarter than her.
Whereas Chhorii is pregnant with possibilities – this joke had to be made, but it's also true. Like a number of Hindi horror films made in the recent past, Vishal Furia's film (first made in Marathi as Lapachhapi in 2016) wants to show that real horror is not some vengeful spirit but something like female infanticide, a social evil that is still so prevalent it's scary. The setting is perfect: the way to the house Kajla ji and his wife Bhanno Devi (Mita Vashisht) live is through sugarcane plantations with grass tall enough to dwarf human beings and maze-like enough for them to lose their way. Furia gets an effective nightmare sequence out of it – Sakshi tries to escape in the night and keeps meeting dead ends – but doesn't manage so much as a decent scare for the rest of the movie. He makes the mistake of falling back on the worst horror film devices like ominous background score and disfigured ghosts popping up and disappearing – Chhorii is the kind of horror film that reminds you why 'jump scare', a fairly lethal device when used with some thought, became a bad word in the first place.
Ultimately, the film doesn't terrify us the way it wants to because it's too caught up on the overall design to develop characters and make them seem like real people in a real situation. The film's emphasis is on Sakshi's relationship with Bhanno Devi, who makes for a formidable antagonist, but Hemant's character is so poorly conceived that we don't get any sense of his equation with his wife – he is packed off to the city so that the story can take its course, and brought back when needed. Of course, the ending will explain everything but why wait till the end? Or watch it at all?
You can stream Chhorii on Amazon Prime Video