Saturday, March 14, 2009

Why 13B is an uncomfortable watch

With a subtitle that says 'Fear has a new address', a viewer expected 13B to scare him to death.

But then 13B is not your usual horror film.

In fact, pundits would debate it's genre since in most parts, the film amuses you on the strength of its bizarre proceedings, giving you the chills only occasionally and going on to become an edge-of-the-seat thriller in its concluding hour.

That's calling for trouble, if you know how Indian audiences have been consuming horror in the recent past.

In a few months from now, if the makers of 13B were to discover that the film did not recover its costs, they'd be asking themselves: 'What were the audiences thinking?'

There's reason for the skepticism. Simply because 13B is an uncomfortable film to watch.

For the last few years, we became so used to the Ram Gopal Varma school of horror - Bhoot, Vaastu Shastra, Naina, Phoonk - all of which were replete with occasionally loud bangs in the background score, powder-in-their-face ghosts, creaking doors, long silences and wafer thin plots devoid of a sequential series of twists and turns.

So suddenly when a 13B came along, promising to frighten audiences, the viewer although intrigued by the natural curiosities that a horror film brings along is still expecting recycled Ram Gopal Varma tricks.

The promotional publicity of 13B wasn't any different. Naturally, the movie was therefore not expected to pop up any surprises.

Which fortunately, it has managed to pull off.

Sure, the premise of a haunted house is familiar. The direction despite being clever in most parts of the film, is also tacky in some portions. The background score is loud and jarring.

But where 13B wins, is in the fact that it has incredible story to tell. And a solid script to back it up, with convincing performances.

Now with such merits, you'd argue that the film should be a blockbuster! People like me, came out impressed with the debutante director's ability to strike a gold at first attempt.

But for many, accepting a film may cannot be explained in such simple terms of a good story and a good screenplay. A film which provokes contrasting emotions while promising something else, is a disaster.

Which unfortunately, is what 13B also ends up doing.

Think about the possibilities. A bad thriller can turn into a laugh-a-thon. A comedy can bomb, if it fails to live up to its promise of making you laugh. A Yash Chopra film brings certain sensibilities with it. An Anurag Kashyap film has certain sentiments attached.

13B, unfortunately, then becomes uncomfortable because it promises fear and horror, and ends up providing a lot of nervous laughter, minimal chills and suspense of the murder-mystery genre, with supernatural elements thrown in.

So even though the viewer might be hooked, he's not willing to forgive the film-maker for making him giggle in several portions of the movie. And the director's not at fault here, simply because the sequence of events in the film, is so bizarre that its natural to expect a few laughs.

Which is why, people who've seen the film cannot seem to classify it as a horror film. Of course it's a horror film - ghosts, spirits, paranormal, its all in there - but they don't send chills down your spine the way they did for many years.

Things change, I guess.

No comments: