Debutant director Sai Kiran's film Masooda is a skillfully crafted horror thriller that gives you the immersive theatrical experience of a supernatural drama with nail-biting suspense, gore, and fear. It is a simple story of a young woman possessed by a spirit.
The narrative follows three major characters Neelam (Sangeetha), a science teacher and a single mother, who lives with her daughter Nazia (Bandhavi Sridhar), and Gopi (Thiruveer), a cowardly software engineer who is their neighbour. Nazia begins to act weirdly and a suspicious Neelam seeks the help of Gopi to set things right. Situations turn worse than they anticipated and what spirals is a chain reaction of chills interspersed with dollops of red herrings.
With emotional yet realistic dialogues, the major strength of Masooda lies in its plot and camera work. Although the story is familiar as we can predict a large chunk of the narrative, the film still manages to suck you into its drama because it's set in a middle-class neighbourhood and is treated like the kind of tragedy that could happen to just about anyone.
The film does have its share of unanswered questions, which can be overlooked. Despite the narrative bookends with a few gruesome scenes, the plot is tense without having to lower itself to the jump scares of the horror tropes. The different shades of morality and the very purpose among the three characters give them more depth than most of the gimmicks played out in this genre.
The characters are developed through the small scenes of explanation as well as their actions. As the story progresses, despite Gopi's cowardly nature, you actually root and worry for the character. The drama is neatly woven, intensely pulsating, and gory in parts that you get the feeling of claustrophobia and you experience the pulse rate increases throughout the movie. At the same time, you also wish that the suspense unwinds fast.
The actors are all earnest and sincere in their performances which makes the film look intense as well as authentic. Their anticipation along with their anxiety and fear are all palpable. But it is Bandhavi Sridhar, who stands out as the terrifying young woman. She and her actions add suspense and fear to the film that you can't cast your eyes off the screen.
The film is visually stimulating as it moves at a dramatic pace. Cinematographer Nagesh Banell's camera work shifts the tone of the film from one point of view to the next, giving us a feeling that most of the film is one long take. Also, the scenes shot in the farmlands on a rainy night or involving night vision are so neatly executed that you will be on the edge of your seat. Prashanth R Vihari's background score along with bouts of silence and spooky moments elevate the viewing experience.
Overall, Masooda succeeds in staying true to the genre conventions and offers something that is both unusual and exciting.
Cast: Sangeetha, Bandhavi Sridhar, Thiruveer
Director: Sai Kiran
Ratings: 3 out of 5 stars