Updated: August 24, 2021 8:57:14 am
Earlier, in an essay, I had argued about how the horror genre in India is dying. The genre has reached a saturation point as our filmmakers have been stuck in a time warp, hardly demonstrating the will to innovate and experiment. We urgently need to infuse new thinking to redefine horror, so that it reflects actual challenges and realities of our current times. At least in that aspect, director Rathindran R Prasad’s latest movie Boomika, streaming on Netflix, feels like a breath of fresh air.
A heavily pregnant woman finds herself alone in her house. Her mother seems nowhere in sight. The husband in turn continues to engage his wife in pointless chit chat on phone about a social media meme he just created. She hardly seems excited about her husband’s talents as a meme maker. Out of nowhere, a lorry rams into the husband’s car from the side, throwing the vehicle into the air. The wife, who is still on the phone, is shell-shocked and helpless as she hears the sound of the crash. She cries out as her husband lies dead.
The movie’s title appears on the screen coupled with an ominous background score. Who was that woman? Who was the man driving the car? Why was he killed? He seemed like an ordinary man with no evil plans. After all, he’s a meme creator, what harm could he have done to deserve such a gruesome and untimely death?
The man in question is no villain. But, we later find out that he had played a role in the destruction of the planet. At least, that’s the underlying sentiment of this film. His death and a few other deaths before and after him were a kind of the earth’s way of protecting itself.
I liked the way Rathindran tries to flip the trope of who’s evil and who’s not. Mind you, he attempts to do it but never pulls it off. The initial suspense he creates loses steam an hour into the movie. Child psychologist Samyuktha (Aishwarya Rajesh), her husband Gautham (Vidhu), their son Sindhu, her sister-in-law Aditi (Madhuri) and a friend Gayathri (Surya Ganapathy) take a trip to the property deep into the woods as part of a project to build 500 luxury villas. Everything seems normal until the night falls.
Gayathri seems to be exchanging messages with a friend. She is happy to have reconnected with an old buddy. And after a few creepy WhatsApp texts, she finds out that the friend was Krishna — the man from the opening scene accident — who has been dead for a few hours now. That is when things begin to get a little bumpy.
Unlike other films, Rathindran wants to make this horror film work logically. So the characters in the movie do what ordinary, terrified human beings would do: run for life and to safety. But, the problem is, you can see Rathindran’s hand in every scene. The story flow doesn’t feel natural and seamless. The narrative plays out in a way that Rathindran wants the audience to appreciate the fact that he respects logic. “See, the characters can’t escape the house because of this reason. Not because they are dumb like in other movies,” reads the invisible subtext. In this attempt to retain logic, he loses the fluidity of the plot.
Boomika does not break any new ground. But, I liked Rathindran’s idea about imagining the horror on a universal scale as opposed to making it a scarefest about ghosts baying for vengeance.
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