The best thing about Khamoshi is that it’s not a horror film. The worst thing about it is director Chakri Toleti expending every Bollywood horror cliche — the English countryside, creaky floorboards, NRI women paying a price for wearing joggers indoors — to recalibrate this dull home-invasion movie. He appears so smitten by the genre that he enlists filmmaker Vikram Bhatt, founding father of Indo-Goth cringe scares, to make a cameo in the film. “I trust you every time, but you disappoint,” Vikram says in one scene, to no one in particular.
At a manageable 86 minutes, this is a story of a disadvantaged man trying to enter a lush country house (Get In if not Get Out) and stars Prabhudheva and Tamannaah in the lead roles. Much of the setup has been laid out in the trailer, so to spoil it further won’t be fair. I hope the Tamil version, Kolaiyuthir Kaalam, which has been delayed due to a legal hitch, plays a few tricks differently. It might not — given the lack of ambition in the Hindi run-through and the unbending linearity of character and plot.
Following his performance in Karthik Subbaraj’s Mercury (2018), Prabhudheva shows a great knowledge of the slasher grammar, prefixing his nimble moves with a gleeful, over-the-top stillness. As always, it’s startling to see the soft-spoken, monosyllabic star transform into these beasts of quiet menace (what a perfect candidate he’d make for a motion-capture movie or game, a medium that can make wondrous use of his calculated muscle transitions).
It becomes clear how much of the film is rested upon its leading man. As the female lead, and alleged centre of the story, Tamannaah has little else to do than look scared and run. She plays a painter we never see painting and a trustee with no one to trust. The actor single-handedly drains the film of any sense of danger as her comical hyperventilating — on ledges, behind doors — never comes off as dread. The supporting cast, though dispensable, is a notch more fun: Sanjay Suri and Bhumika Chawla as a meddling couple, and Vipan Sharma as an expatriate patrolman.
In today’s entertainment age, it’s lame to remake a legally-streamable American film and not recontextualise it for an Indian audience. The pointlessness of such endeavours casts a depressing shadow on real genre work happening in the country, from horror to thriller to romantic comedies. Khamoshi may try to simulate the aural thrills of Hush, A Quiet Place, and Birdbox, but it still remains a bit thick between the ears. In the crudest way, this film has nothing to say.
Director: Chakri Toleti
Cast: Prabhudheva, Tamannaah
Rating: 1.5/5 stars