Eerie winds, moaning sounds emanating from supposedly vacant rooms, mirrors cracking are all clichés of the horror genre. Yet, a spooky movie would be incomplete without these. What matters in the end is how well the story is told, and director Vikram Bhatt has just raised the bar for Hindi horror films with 1920.
Complete with the sound of footsteps and doors that creak, Bhatt has come up with a fairly convincing story of ghosts and exorcism amidst love, lust, treachery and betrayal in the pre-Independence era.
IT ALWAYS BEGINS WITH AN ISOLATED HOUSE…
The year is 1920, and promising young architect Arjun (Rajneesh Duggal) and his wife Lisa (Adah Sharma) move from Bombay to Palanpur for a job that has been assigned to Arjun. The job is to pull down a stunningly beautiful castle in Palanpur, and build a magnificent hotel in its place, specifically to attract the British.
With the clichéd housekeeper who pretends he is hiding nothing, the couple make themselves at home in the castle. Trouble starts the very first night, when Arjun is asleep, and Lisa begins to feel a strange presence in the house.
Candles that go off on their own, mercilessly howling winds and groaning sounds from different places inside the house stir up the right atmosphere right from the beginning.
AND THINGS HAPPEN…
Lisa is very disturbed because of the mysterious happenings inside the house, while Arjun doesn’t give them much thought. Lisa goes to a church in and confides in the priest (Raj Zutshi), who visits the house and ‘blesses’ it.
Strange things start happening to him, and when Arjun leaves Palanpur for some other work, the ghostly presence starts working in full force, terrorising Lisa and ultimately taking control over her body.
At some point there are too many evil forces at work and things get slightly muddled. In fact, this is one of the only flaws in 1920.
A mosquito-net comes to life and envelopes the sleeping priest, and there are Satanic symbols on the inner walls of the church. The priest, of course, attributes this to the devil but is proved wrong as the story further unfolds.
Multiple forces of evil making their presence felt can confuse the viewer and it’s like watching a mash of sources of supernatural power. We have stigmata – the statue of Christ bleeding, we have inverted crosses – the staple of most Satan-related horror flicks. What these do is terrify the priests but serve little purpose in the actual plot.
And then there is possession and exorcism (borrowed from The Exorcist, unsurprisingly) and a ghost with a past. All these seeking credit for creating havoc in Lisa and Arjun’s life can leave you scratching your head about of the theme of 1920.
WHAT IS UNUSUAL CAN STILL WORK
There is a flashback in 1920, which takes the story back to 1851. There is a short tale of treachery, love and betrayal mostly related to the uprising against the British rule. Before you jump, no, this film thankfully does not attempt to give the plot a boost with any kind of patriotic angle.
This part has been shot well, and you can be excused for forgetting it’s a horror film you’re watching. It traces back to how the ghost came about, and makes the plot thicker and more believable.
Adah Sharma as Lisa is a discovery to watch out for, she shines in her role as the quiet Lisa and then as the possessed woman who can levitate and make objects fly with her evil powers. She displays her talent in a scene in which she transforms from the possessed Lisa to the normal Lisa, and then back to the possessed Lisa, all in a few seconds.
Rajneesh Duggal is very good in his role, especially in the first half of the movie, which is when he has a lot more to do than running around chasing his possessed wife.
Raj Zutshi (Shiva, Lagaan, Murder) proves yet again that he is a very capable actor. He is well-restrained in the movie and does a pretty good job of playing the priest.
* Pandit Jasraj’s Bollywood debut
* Mudgal to sing for Rakhi Sawant
SCENES WORTH CHECKING OUT
There are plenty of scary moments in 1920, and they will actually scare you if you watch it alone at home.
The first ghostly killing right at the start of the movie is really good, where an architect experiences weird things and gets inquisitive. Of course, these kind of characters are a must in horror flicks. The architect doesn’t feel very bold when his legs goes through and gets stuck in the staircase, the large window in front of him begins to crack, shatters and he is found dead the next morning, with shards of glass stuck in his body.
Another whacked-out scene is when Arjun returns from to Palanpur, only to find a possessed Lisa munching greedily on a cat. Yum!
The effects in the movie are good, and along with background score, ensure that most of the scary scenes manage to spook you out.
TAKE A BOW, VIKRAM BHATT
The direction of 1920 is quite good, and Vikram Bhatt has paced the film really well. Extracting quality performances from his actors, he has been sharp with the execution and has made sure that 1920, far from dragging, keeps things interesting at all times.
He teases his horror-loving audience with the camera moving hungrily near the house….for about five seconds, and before you can jump up all-knowingly and shout ‘Evil Dead!’, the scene is over, as if nothing ever happened.
You can also see traces of Prince Of Darkness, in the scene where the mirror attempts to swallow all things not evil, and of course, during the possession and exorcism scenes you can’t help but think of The Exorcist.
The ending is a bit hard to digest, making you wonder if one faith/belief/religion can do what another cannot.
Unfortunately for 1920, it comes close on the heels of Phoonk, the supernatural thriller from RGV, which has reportedly spooked the audiences well. Nevertheless, 1920 is a movie Vikram Bhatt and his cast may be glad to add right on top of their resume. Box-office collections notwithstanding.
Well-paced and slickly executed, with fine direction and competent performances, 1920 is a film that is Hollywood-ish as the final product and yet maintains an Indian touch. Definitely worth a watch! — (buzz18)