‘Ghost Stories’ Movie Review: Terrifies you to the core only to lose grip in the end

Screen Shot 2020-01-02 at 11.42.42 PM

The problem with all the segments is a dull finish where the ‘final reveal’ turns out to be bizarrely less horrifying and less gratifying too.

Devoid of forced inclusions of screams or any dramatic appearances of ghosts, Netflix’s Ghost Stories, an anthology horror film, doesn’t fail to frighten you out of your wits. It plays a wait-and-watch game where the stories slowly build up the tension surrounding a character, make you ponder over the mystery, and eventually uncover the eerie situation the character is in. This is seen through four different stories in Ghost Stories where Zoya Akhtar, Anurag Kashyap, Dibakar Banerjee, and Karan Johar have directed one each.

Screen Shot 2020-01-02 at 11.43.07 PM

As the title suggests, each of the stories in the film depicts supernatural elements. A suspenseful story has a same person both inside and outside the room at the same time. We also get a psychological thriller where the line between a human and a bird gets blurred. There’s also a story of a village full of zombies who are led by a man-ape monster. Another story represents a curious case of an interaction between an invisible granny and a man. In all of these, we see a calm-before-storm pattern.

Screen Shot 2020-01-02 at 11.43.32 PM

To make your heart go pitter and patter, the film comes packed with a surfeit of spooky instances. Whether it’s a dead crow on the road, or an isolated, leafless tree, or a combination of two circular designs on the door and a chair below it resembling a face of monstrous creature with a pair of eyes and mouth, or a zombie running towards the camera with rage, Ghost Stories has it all. Background music is so magnificently scored by Benedict Taylor that it raises the tension to a whole new level. Even the exemplary acting from the likes of Janhvi Kapoor, Sobhita Dhulipala, Mrunal Thakur, Surekha Sikri and Sukant Goel keeps us engrossed.

Screen Shot 2020-01-02 at 11.42.14 PM

Even though each of the stories starts off well, gathers momentum and keeps the intensity high, they fall short of greatness towards the end. The problem with all the segments is a dull finish where the ‘final reveal’ turns out to be bizarrely less horrifying and less gratifying too. The disappointing and unsatisfying closures will definitely upset you after an intriguing build-up.

ghost stories

Made In Heaven Web Series Review: A moralising tale that remains a jejune watch

Screen Shot 2019-04-20 at 1.53.12 PM

The didactic narrative is something that prevailed throughout this series.

The series has a superb premise. Two different wedding planners are presenting their ideas of organising the wedding to a rich, affluent family to try and please them with their creativity and sign the deal. While one of them tries to woo the family with taglines like “new age royalty”, the other company called ‘Made In Heaven’ uses love and relationship as part of their efforts to bag the deal. Tara (Sobhita Dhulipala) and Karan (Arjun Mathur), representing Made In Heaven, say that the wedding is a “once in a lifetime event”. They, further, add that wedding ceremony “should celebrate the couple” and “the theme should tell their story”. Tara and Karan do go on to impress the family and end up signing the contract. Amazon Prime Video’s Made in Heaven, a web series comprising 9 episodes, is about how Tara and Karan confront complicated situations while organising wedding ceremonies and at the same time how they deal with the problems in their own life.

It is great to see different sorts of weddings being planned and I liked how a progressive and regressive mindset was being highlighted. But the depiction of challenges associated with the weddings was stretched to an extent that they seemed preachy. For instance, there’s a guy who has no problem knowing that his fiancée is not a virgin. But the complication that arises due to his parents’ disapproval takes too long to establish a conclusion. A guilty conscience starts hurting a girl, in another instance, who has slept with another man when she is already about to get married. This, again, I felt, was protracted to a point that it seemed draggy.

It resorts to teaching us some of the important issues instead of making us realise them ourselves. Karan, who is a gay, emotionally declares that “this is who I am”. We, further, get to hear dialogues like “there’s nothing wrong with being gay” and “it’s natural”. (An aged man confesses his attraction towards men when he says that he has lived his whole life in pretence. This was much more impactful where you really feel bad for that guy without having to hear in-your-face dialogues). In another scene, a group of male workers initially turn down the order given by a woman. Here, the reaction of those workers itself was enough to understand why they didn’t obey her order. But, later, these workers explain that they are not going to take orders from a ‘woman’. This did serve the purpose of depicting the ugly mentality of those male chauvinist guys but when it resorted to explanation, thinking that it might go unnoticed, it took the sheen away. Take Netflix’s Soni, for example, which subtly exhibited the sufferings of women in a male-dominated society. Even Pariyerum Perumal, one of the greatest Tamil films ever made, portrayed the divide in the society in the name of caste but never really tried to educate us through moralising dialogues and the protagonist’s anguish and agony were enough to make us feel the sufferings.

Although the didactic narrative is something that prevailed throughout this series, the performances of all the cast members were terrific. Even a cameo by Vijay Raaz was powerful.

There were little things that were non-didactic and yet were represented brilliantly. I wished the series remained so in the entirety. A father defends his son being gay in front of a throng of media persons. A mother’s disappointment is clearly visible when she excitedly asks “how’s food?” and all she gets in return is “just as it always is”. A girl looks at a syringe on the floor and slips it under the bed and the camera turns right to show her brother sleeping in his bed depicting that he is a drug addict.

Scenes involving sex were both lusty and realistic. Some of them even showed the ‘other’ side of the picture which is not usually represented in Indian movies and series (A man, while kissing Karan, asks him if he wants to marry him). And some even brought out the harsh realities (A minor girl gets raped by a rich, older man but she accepts the money from him to stay silent about it).

Tara’s character brings out the poignant feeling but her strained relationship with her husband (Jim Sarbh) has been stretched for far too long.

Nevertheless, Made in Heaven remained a wearying watch.