Director: Sangeeth Sivan
Cast: Kalki Koechlin, Bhumika Chawla, Sanjay Suri, Eijaz Khan, Satyadeep Mishra, Chandan Roy Sanyal, Vikram Kocchar, Omkar Kapoor, Raj Zutshi
Streaming on: Zee5
Snigdha Poonam in her book Dreamers begins a dialectic with ‘Young Indians’. In a shopping mall in Meerut she meets a nineteen year old boy who has an iron rod tied to the back of his motorbike. He looks forward to Valentine’s Day as this is when he, along with the boys of Bajrang Dal get a free pass to accost, harass, and beat up lovers across the city. He aspires for a pure, cultured India, and is confronted by hormones that makes him hate the very object he lusts. The consequences of jilted love that takes up violence is there for us to see.
Zee5 weaves a story of horror around this idea for their webseries Bhram. But before it really gets to make this poignant point, it traverses a messy, convoluted, and frankly boring landscape of drama and some horror. And even when it gets to it, it merely brushes with the idea and then moves on, unwilling to engage with this more deeply.
The times we live in feels like a golden era for horror cinema because it is being used to make extremely relevant points, be it the afflictions of the gaming universe, feminism, and greed. This series feels like an unwilling candidate for this club..
Alisha, played by Kalki Koechlin, is an author fighting her own demons, mourning the loss of her lover. Her sister played by an awkward Bhumika Chawla, tries to reel Alisha out of her despair by bringing Alisha to the hills to live with her family. Ghosts appear, there are two pairs of high school lovers in a cabin who are attacked by a horned creature, there is necrophilia, there is an app that is meant to prevent human trafficking, there is a repentent priest, there is multiple personality disorder afflicted Alisha, and there are adults who are still dealing with the misdeeds of their adolescence. And of course, there is Shimla, the misted forests with tall pine trees; an eerie setup that in and of itself feels like a character that is both haunted and haunting. On paper, the culmination of these elements could have produced something that is engaging at the least, and balls-out horrifying at best.
But nothing clicks. The first, and last truly well executed jump scare comes in the second episode. There are 8 episodes in total, averaging around 20 mins each. The story is fairly simple and didn’t need the runtime it has to unravel.There are multiple story threads, and it takes about two episodes to figure out which story is happening in what timeline. Once that is figured out, there is nothing really to look forward to, other than the “big reveal”.
The times we live in feels like a golden era for horror cinema because it is being used to make extremely relevant points, be it the afflictions of the gaming universe, feminism, and greed. This series feels like an unwilling candidate for this club.
The writing is weak because it is directionless, almost like an Abbas Mustan-esque desire to produce more frills than thrills. There are too many things going on, none of which is given adequate attention to detail in plotting, and execution. The production design though, made me smile. At one point the priest, who also is in charge of the school foregrounds a blackboard. On the edges are written the usual things you would find; homework notices, the attendance of the class enumerated separately for boys and girls, and more space for the other homework that would accumulate over the course of the day. A jolt of nostalgia overcame me. But what I deeply wished for was more jolts of horror. For a horror series, this was the least I could ask for. Turns out, I demand too much.