Television Impossible: Movie review of 13B Monday, 9 March, 2009Posted by ~uh~™ in Bollywood.
Tags: horror, madhavan, movie, neetu chandra, serial, spooky, supernatural, suspense, Television, thirteen
Suspons in Hindi fillum
If we talk about suspense-horror genre in Hindi films, I can very broadly think of two offshoots. The first one is the Ramsay Brother’s school of horror which is a simple story consisting an old haweli or mandir, a loony chowkidar/ caretaker, furry costumes, sharp claws, long nails, a set of hunks with their voluptuous skimpily dressed girlfriends, rosy lips, rain and thunder storms, love making on the haystack, dinner, bath, scream, tantrik/ sadhubaba/ priest and death. The girls always find enough time and opportunity to get drenched, sing a couple of seductive numbers before their bloody rip-off by the Haywaan or the Bhatakti Aatma. I personally love this genre (mainly because of its unintentional comedy content) and wish to write a dedicated post on the films belonging to this genre ( Purani Haweli, Bhoot Bangla, Purana Mandir, Bandh Darwaza) . Before I get carried away, let’s talk about the second kind. These are necessarily based on upper middle class families on urban settings and the story unfailingly involves supernatural and mysterious elements. In recent times we have seen RGV withDarna Mana Hai, Bhoot, Darling and Phoonk, trying to do justice to this genre. Such movies are successful, if and only if it scares the audience and sends a creepy feeling down the viewer’s spine while being inside the dark theatre. Add other ingredients like sudden screams, darkness, suspense and gallons of blood and the movie is not for the weak hearted anymore. Like me, those who are fond of the suspense-creepy-drama-horror-blood-gore combination, its top class entertainment.
After seeing 13B I would easily place it on the same rack of Kaun, Darna Mana Hai and Bhoot for its honest attempt and entertainment value.
13B is a bilingual Hindi film, also released as Yavarum Nalam in Tamil, written and directed by Vikram Kumar. The movie is produced by Big Pictures (Adlabs). The music of the film is composed by Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy. BGM is by Tubby and Parik.
Story (Spoilers protected )
A young Civil Engineer named Manohar (Madhavan) and his brother Manoj moves into a new apartment with their wives, kids, younger sister and mother (Poonam Dhilon). The apartment is in 13th floor and the address reads a ’13B’ – the title of the film. The brothers are much happier as they have taken a loan for a house, which is like a dream come true for any working middle class family. Like any other normal family, the earning members go to office, children go to school and the wives are busy making breakfast for their husbands and kids. Other symptoms of normalcy- kids don’t like milk, female folks are hooked on to soap-serials on TV. Basically the women’s lives rotate between morning cereals to afternoon serials. Manoj gifts Kamasutra (the book) to his sparkling wife Priya (Neetu Chandra) disguised as a cookbook to experiment with Chicken 69. Everything seems as organized like a perfect family of a TV soap.
Problem starts when Manohar senses something uncanny about the house after the milk gets spoilt everyday, the elevator refuses to move for him, nails fail to penetrate the Puja room wall, even the professional driller gets electrocuted by a high voltage shock, his own pictures taken on his mobile phone gets selectively distorted, the neighbour’s dog goes berserk to enter the apartment. At this point, he discovers that his family enthusiastically watches a serial aired on Eye TV on 1300 hrs everyday named ‘Sab Khairiyat’ (All’s well- “Yavarum nalam” ii Tamil), which is the story of a family who moves to a new house. The characters of this serial matches exactly with his own family. The incidents which are shown on the serial are equivalent to that happens to them in real life. The sister passes her exams as indicated on the serial. Manoj’s surprise, after learning about his wife’s pregnancy through the serial, gradually converts to firm belief. Belief ascends to fear towards the supernatural, when couple of accident happens as predicted by the same serial. He succumbs to loss of confidence and tells his belief to his cop buddy Shiva (Murali Sharma). Rest of his family members fail to catch the coincidences and happenings dictated by the cursed ‘Sab Khairiyat’, but he decides to meet the maker’s of the serial to know the ending. To his horror he finds out that the program ‘Sab Khairiyat’ is actually a reality show (compeered by Roshan Abbas) and the serial is aired on TV exclusively for his apartment, 13B ! There comes the intermission.
It would be a spoiler to reveal the story further as that would kill the thrill to a large extent.
What haunts (pun intended)
- Being a sucker of horror genre, I found 13B satisfies almost all the criteria of a classical horror movie. It has dark and morbid moments, unexplained phenomena, malfunctioning gadgets challenging laws of physics and electronics, flashbacks in sepia, supernatural elements, mysterious people, scream, tension, agony, frustration, murder weapons like sledge hammer and of-course lots of blood on the floor. As clichéd as rum with cola. Works for me.
- The storyline is creative, though I am skeptical to believe it’s original. I read somewhere that there’s a short film called ‘Soap’, by Bejoy Nambiar for the Gateway contest, starring Jackie Shroff. The film is also based on a short story. (The spookiness reminds me of Satyajit Ray’s horror stories. Each deserves to be made into full length features)
- Performance of Madhavan and Neetu Chandra as a young married couple is realistically portrayed. Madhavan actually takes a lot of responsibility on his shoulder as the audience basically sees the narration through his eyes only. The Kamasutra- cookbook discussion in the bedroom is one of the interesting and easy moments of the film. Neetu, clearly has come a long way from Garam Masala to 13B via Oye Lucky, Lucky Oye.
- Veteran ‘art house’ actor Dhritiman Chatterjee plays the blind neighbour who adds lots of dark undertones to the already spooky settings. Quite a short role for him and his Doberman, though apparently may feel unnecessary, but was important for character establishments. Nieghbours always add life to otherwise dull apartment buildings.
- In other supporting casts Murali Sharma, Sachin Khedekar, Deepak Dobrial (remember his debut in Omkara?) had very important roles to play with minimal screen presence. Deepak Dobrial plays a mentally challenged person who doesn’t have a single spoken dialogue. Nevertheless, his macabre screams and facial expressions, to say the least, are not funny.
- Using a television as a medium of communication is an interesting idea, more so through a TV serial. TV serials are a deep rooted into most joint families’ psyche. Thus, the very thought of the storyline dictating the viewer’s lives, is eerie.
- There are lots of small details and hints scattered along the narrative, like join-the-dots puzzle. As the movie progresses towards climax, the alert viewer tends to mentally join the dots and the figure emerges when the last dot is joined. Is it predictable? Depends on the viewer’s intelligence, I guess.
- P. C. Sreeram‘s cinematography is excellent. The portrayal of the apartment and lives of its inhabitants is minimalist and perfect. The shot at TV shop just before intermission is awe inspiring. Sreekar Prasad‘s editing is good, though he would have saved some 15 minutes on the movie easily. The flashbacks could have been made faster by snap shots, instead of predictable prolonged narratives.
What daunts (pun intended)
- The first half takes too long to build the story and further stretches with few of the songs inserted as per Hindi movie formulae. Other than the ‘Sab Khairiyat’ opening jingle for the TV serial, all other songs, though good to listen to separately, spoils the dark theme of the movie. Why is the number ‘O sexy mama’ played at the end with the title credits rolling? Useless.
- The movie length of 140 minutes is longer than required. A real horror movie should make the viewer’s chew their fingernails for 90 minutes flat and come out of the hall with spiked hair and rounded eyes. Instead 13B may demand an additional loo break.
- The biggest flaw in the script, how the saas-bahu’s can overtly miss the loud similarity between the TV serial and their life is hardly digestible.
- The BGM is loud and torture to ear-drums at places. Cotton balls recommended.
- Poonam Dhillon looks happier than she should be. I mean, with two vulnerable nascent bahu’s within reach, she doesn’t even bother to nitpick or plot any evil plans. Instead the three ladies joyfully squeeze into a 3 seater sofa in front of the TV, the whole afternoon. Impractical.
- The hand-held camera at places shakes too erratically, especially over the blood strewn floor.
- Many repetition of elements like taking snaps by mobile phone, to & fro oscillation of lifts inside the lift shaft adds boredom.
I would recommend the movie, irrespective of its flaws and negative newspaper reviews. It’s a well made ‘whodunit horror film’ with a twist of supernatural forces. You don’t need to be superstitious to get entertained. All you definitely need to believe is in Television, to get scared.
The movie is not for children. I wish this movie could de-addict the wives from the real serial killers at home. To check if you have the nerve to see this movie do a self test by watching some spooky videos and reading supernatural stories.
Why don’t you see it on the next Friday, the 13th of March…………….?