Was just wondering the other day, why do [most] Hindi films that tackle the horror genre don't really succeed in their endeavour of scaring the viewer? I mean, real stories concerning supernatural forces continue to make the rounds to this date and make us break into a cold sweat, especially when you listen to them in rapt attention at nights. So why don't these stories succeed in their motive of scaring us in the dark confines of a cineplex? Stories about ghosts, spirits, haunted mansions and paranormal activities aren't alien for us Indians, right?
Like the Ramsays, director Wilson Louis, known for spooky films (Ho Sakta Hai Mallika, now Kaalo), might soon have his name entering the record books. From the current lot of film-makers, here's one film-maker choosing subjects of the horror thriller variety; perhaps he doesn't wish to change tracks. Perhaps, his sole aim is to scare the living daylights of the viewers and also take them on a mysterious journey, which he does quite convincingly with this one.
Also, Wilson takes up the challenge to make a 'day horror film', which may have been extremely difficult to make in view of the fact that you can't conceal details of the visual effects in daylight. Moreover, to scare the audience in broad daylight, without a single shot of an eerie night, is a rarity. Another important aspect of Kaalo is that it's a creature-based movie, not a ghost-based horror.
Kaalo has its share of pitfalls, but the film holds your attention for most parts. It may not be the best in the genre, but makes for interesting viewing for sure.
Kaalo was a witch who lived in Kulbhata during the 18th century. She was killed and buried by angry villagers for sacrificing young girls to satisfy her greed for immortality, but her fear lived on. Years later, villagers spoke of Kaalo's sightings yet again. They claimed she was even more angry and dangerous and she was back to finish what she left incomplete. Kulbhata was vacated overnight by scared villagers.
All roads leading to Kulbhata were sealed by horrifying tales of Kaalo killing anyone who dared to enter Kulbhata. Until a bus carrying a few passengers on its way to Kuldevi had to pass through Kulbhata. One of the passengers on the bus was a twelve-year-old girl named Shona [Swini Khara], who is traveling alone to spend her vacation at her grandmother's house in the neighboring village.
During the course of the journey, Shona and co-passenger Sameer [Aditya Shrivastav] strike a rapport. Sameer is traveling with a bag loaded with gun powder to blast a small hillock, which would give way to a water canal for his drought-hit village. Badly disfigured and thirsty for blood, Kaalo could smell the girl from miles away... and heads straight for the bus. When the passengers realize they were staring into death, everything changes. They realize Shona is their reason for dying. Everyone wants her out of the bus, except Sameer.
The first thing that catches your eye is the way the camera moves in this film [cinematography: Pushpank Gawde]. That, very frankly, impressed me the most at the outset. The second thing I'd like to make a mention of is the visual effects, which makes this film stand out from the various films of its ilk. But the problem with Kaalo is that a few sequences are stretched unnecessarily and that slackens the pace of the film. Besides, the conclusion to the story is not convincing at all. The creature has supernatural powers, yet combats Aditya Shrivastav like a mortal. That's one cinematic liberty you can't digest. Also, though Kaalo belongs to the horror variety, it isn't chilling, terrifying or bloodcurdling, nor do you bite your nails in nervousness while watching the creature.
Director Wilson Louis goes a step forward when you compare it with Ho Sakta Hai and two steps forward when you recall Mallika. His handling of the subject and also the means and ways the creature eliminates one by one is the hallmark of the film. The camerawork, like I pointed out at the very outset, is top notch.
Speaking of performances, Aditya Shrivastav does well. Swini Khara doesn't get ample scope. Amongst the passengers in the bus, Abhijeet Satam, Aditya Lakhia and Raj Arjun register the maximum impact. Prashant Kumar is alright. Paintal and Sheela Sharma are perfect. Hemant Pandey is adequate.
On the whole, Kaalo is an interesting watch for fans of this genre. It has decent merits, but few shortcomings too along the way. If the horror genre excites you then try this one. However, the one factor that goes against the film is that it has been released without much awareness. One genuinely wishes that sincere attempts like these were released with a little more hype and fanfare or else all the sincerity goes completely unnoticed with an unsung release.
Director: Wilson Louis
Cast: Swini Khara, Aditya Srivastav, Paintal