Haunted by child’s play

THEY’RE back — the oncepossessed daughter Raksha (Ahsaas Channa) with her incredulous parents Rajiv (Sudeep) and Aarti (Amruta Khanvilkar), the short-haired maid, the blind Tantric, the crow a

Published: 18th April 2010 04:12 AM  |   Last Updated: 16th May 2012 02:04 PM   |  A+A-

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THEY’RE back — the oncepossessed daughter Raksha (Ahsaas Channa) with her incredulous parents Rajiv (Sudeep) and Aarti (Amruta Khanvilkar), the short-haired maid, the blind Tantric, the crow and yes, Ashwini Kalsekar as Madhu. Sadly the grandmother with the violently shaking head has been sent off on pilgrimage and the animal figures that adorned the earlier house have been put into storage. The setting has changed to a remote and incomplete beach house skirting a jungle.

Raksha and her younger brother Rohan venture into the jungle where they find a rather menacing doll. The arrival of the doll into the house sets into motion a chain of events that has a tragic conclusion. Amidst the fears rising in the hearts of the children and Aarti’s failing health arrive Rajiv’s sister and her husband, immediately establishing their dispensability.

The punchline of Phoonk 2, the sequel to the hilarious horror Phoonk, is the return of the ghost of Madhu, exorcised and killed in the first part. Her spirit vows to subject all those around Rajiv to a gruesome and horrific death. Rajiv seeks the help of the same blind Tantric who had saved his daughter from Madhu before, but the disgruntled spirit is wiser to his ways now.

In typical Ram Gopal Varma production style, sound effects and background music attempt to do what the script fails to — set a scary mood. Expect creaking doors, squeaking swings and musical swells. The camera angles and positions are strange, often originating from within objects, once from behind the ghost’s tangled hair. The story, in true horror format, follows no logic and leaves many loose ends. But there are one too many in this script — like why the parents don’t believe their children sooner; why are they in this remote setting; why doesn’t Rajiv do more to save his family; why assume that only those who have seen part one will come to see the sequel? There is no explanation or context as to Madhu’s enmity with Rajiv and the family’s troubled past.

The first hour is the set up — which is so dull you find yourself constantly checking to see how much time has elapsed and how long it will be before the raggedy Madhu starts her death tally. Post-interval, a series of bloody deaths follow. Once the killings start, they are relentless and imaginative.

It’s frustrating that Rajiv is so helpless — both at the script level and in Sudeep’s rendition of the role. Protagonist Sudeep is so busy trying to be a leading man that he does not bring the requisite vulnerability required to win over the audience. In spite of knowing that their daughter, Raksha, has been possessed before, the parents are still skeptical when she warns of a presence and some evil being in their new beach house. Fortunately, the child actors compensate and pitch in with convincing performances. However, this is not enough to salvage director Milind Gadagkar’s attempt at a spook-fest.

Apparently, Phoonk was a hit, which is surprising given how ridiculous it was.

Phoonk 2 disappoints at various levels — it does not keep you at the edge of your seat, or cause you to jump out of your skin. The story is not interesting, you have seen all the characters before and a number of issues remain unexplained. The most frightening thing about Phoonk 2 is the possibility of Phoonk 3! That’s a scary thought.

uditaj@gmail.com

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