Taran Adarsh

? Review by Taran Adarsh

2

It started with the super-successful Kannada actor-director Upendra flashing just the pictogram of a hand across the posters of his film, instead of a regular film title. Now Percept Pictures is striding the same course with the icon of a question mark for their newest offering — ? — a movie on ‘found footage’.

For those unacquainted with this variety of cinema, ‘found footage’ can be described as a genre of film-making, predominantly horror, wherein the entire/extensive part of a film is presented as discovered film/video recordings, often left behind by missing or dead central character/s. The events on screen are seen through the camera of the character/s involved. The filming may be done by the characters themselves as they narrate their lines, and unsteady cinematography is frequently brought into play for the sake of pragmatism.

CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST [1980] started it all, but the genre came into the glare of publicity thanks to films such as THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT [1999], PARANORMAL ACTIVITY [2007] and CLOVERFIELD [2008].

A lot many people I know have this uncanny fascination for the supernatural. Besides, each one of us have, at some point, heard stories or read incidents concerning paranormal occurrences. These unusual experiences lack scientific explanation, even defy logic, but the lure of listening to stories is insurmountable nonetheless. Last year RAGINI MMS and now ? walks the same path. However, unlike RAGINI MMS, a film that amalgamated components of horror, paranormal and sex seamlessly, ? is about the escapades of a young film crew [students all] that lands up at a haunted mansion at a hill station [Kodaikanal]. The viewers are told that they were never seen or heard again, although their video equipment along with the footage they shot was discovered much later. In terms of concept and execution, ? takes its inspiration from THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT, but it lacks the stunning impact that the American psychological horror film generated.

This one is a brave, innovative endeavor as far as Indian cinema is concerned, but the movie enthuses in bits and spurts. I’d like to single out the sequence wherein Simran gets possessed, besides a few sequences that do make you believe in paranormal activities, but the film stagnates towards the latter part since one can estimate by now what the culmination would be. Predictability is what bogs the film downwards. Besides, it’s not petrifying at all [the sound design does startle you, but the visuals don’t!] and if the objective was to give you those heebie-jeebies or make you break into a cold sweat, nope, it’s just not alarming enough. The frights and frisson are few and far between, honestly!

The unsteady and rickety camerawork provides the movie with a sense of realism, while the edit could’ve been razor-sharp. The sound design is exceptional. The cast is natural to the core. In fact, every actor [Akhlaque Khan, Yaman Chatwal, Varun Thakur, Chirag Jain, Sonam Mukherjee, Maanvi Gagroo and Kiran Bhatia] enacts his/her part with fervor. The actress enacting the part of Simran [Sonam] is incredible in that particular sequence that I mentioned earlier.

On the whole, ? is a daring attempt, but is deficient in shocks and shivers, besides being cliched and foreseeable after a point. The title [?] may’ve attracted your attention, but the movie doesn’t in its entirety!

? 2 Taran Adarsh 20120217

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