Gaslight: Derivative, predictable thriller with flickering revelations
Obviously, she blames Rukmani for destroying the family. She then decides to play detective every night, roaming the corridors of the palace, looking for answers.
Published: 01st April 2023 10:21 AM | Last Updated: 01st April 2023 10:21 AM | A+A A-
A constant, slow piano keeps clinking in the background in Gaslight. It can get unnerving at times, making one think if there is a clique of music scorers, particularly for horror films, which don’t believe in experimenting. It’s very meta when an actual, self-playing piano appears. The source of all this audible mediocrity. Quite a reveal. But, be content with that.
If you are expecting Gaslight to be a feminist-horror-thriller in which the protagonist fights against the horrors of patriarchy, unites all women in the end and batters the male perpetrator with a shovel while a score hailing Goddess Durga crescendos, you’ll be disappointed. Same if you are looking for a coherent story. With every twist, it seems to be saying: ‘Ha! We got you…didn’t we?’
Directed by Pavan Kripalani (Bhoot Police, 2021; Phobia, 2016) Gaslight tells the story of Meesha (Sara Ali Khan), a paraplegic woman who returns to her father’s royal estate, only to find him missing. The palace inmates include step-mom Rukmani (Chitrangada Singh), the Raja’s right-hand man Kapil (Vikrant Massey), a bearded driver without a scar on his face (so he’s not it) and a timid cook. Meesha’s mother apparently died by suicide and Meesha’s legs were rendered immobile in an accident.
Obviously, she blames Rukmani for destroying the family. She then decides to play detective every night, roaming the corridors of the palace, looking for answers. One time, she gets literally gaslighted when she spots a man, straight out from a graphic novel on Jack: The Ripper, wearing a magician’s hat and gaslight in hand, lurking in the shadows. Is it her father calling from the underworld?
Sara Ai Khan’s characteristic jubilance is tamed in this psychological thriller, so much so that she has been put in a wheelchair. The result isn’t that pleasing to watch. Sara seems to be playing the actor playing the character of a traumatized young girl. She speaks slowly, measuring every word as it comes out of her mouth and her expressions seem like she is racking her brain to spot differences between two pictures.
Vikrant Massey and Chitrangda Singh go by the book and essay their roles satisfactorily. Gaslight seems satisfied with its age-old building suspense tricks: creaky doors, shadows on the wall, creepy paintings and stormy weather. The story flickers brightly at the start but soon burns out, leaving more questions than answers.
Gaslight is quite derivative and the thrills are as great as a lousy jump scare. During a conversation with this writer, Sara Ali Khan, when asked ‘What excites her about a whodunnit?’ cheekily answered, ‘To find out who did it!’ Sadly, in Gaslight, it isn’t much rocket science.
Cast: Sara Ali Khan, Vikrant Massey, Chitrangda Singh
Directed by: Pavan Kripalani
Streaming on: Disney+ Hotstar