Creaky doors are out. Rustles in the jungle are in. Like all capable
spook sojourns, "Kaal" takes a bit of time to grow on you. But once
you fall into the fearful rhythm, you are in for a rollicking scare.
One thing is for sure - there has never been a horror film quite like
this one. In case you thought shiver givers in Bollywood were passť,
here's a wake-up call.
"Kaal" shows us how it is to be done, without degrading the genre
or stepping too hard and fast on those peripheral scares. The best thing
debutant director Soham Shah has done is to take his ingenious plot
into the great wild outdoors.
Unlike Ram Gopal Varma's "Jungle", which used bizarre camera movements
to stress the predatory mood in the wilderness, "Kaal" lets you into
the secrets of the jungle without getting technically complicated.
a directness to the deft and dark terror treatise as Vivek Oberoi, Lara
Dutta, John Abraham and Esha Deol, plus a couple of other wacky friends
(Kushal Punjabi and Vishal Singh) and two scowling chauffeurs manoeuvre
their cars into the quaky kingdom - shot in a wildlife sanctuary.
The film starts with an ecologist (John Abraham) expressing concern
over the growing extinction of tigers.
The ambience is electric - thanks in no small measure to the incredibly
accomplished sound design (Dwarak Warrier). And the terror stems from
within the plot. The film has the bare minimum of window dressing and
the adrenaline is kept going from within.
Shah never falls into the trap of creating superfluous scares. The
entry of Ajay's character mid-way signals a unique journey into the
supernatural, not just for the characters but also for the audience.
Performances, though not outstanding, fall into place in the larger
scream of things. The girls, Lara and Esha, are suitably skimpy in their
attire and the men get the story pace just right.
Ajay Devgan heads the list of acting honours - partly because of the nature of his role and partly because he acts with such appealing languor.
Vivek plays his
volatile character with a flair for bridled fear. John definitely makes
his presence felt - the hair falling on his face denoting a quaint state
of grace in the environment of dizzying fear.
The rest of the cast gets to do little, except grow increasingly wary
of the invisible forces that seem to stalk the ominous jungle.
Vishal Singh's death on the wobbling wooden bridge is filmed with gory grace, proving the director's strong hold over the complicated issue of suspenseful storytelling.
There're no superfluous moments, no song breaks and no diversions in
this full-on-horror film, and wild animals lend a powerful backdrop
to the bristling plot.
You may not be a horror buff. But you can't deny that "Kaal" believes in what it's telling us. It is truly a film that provokes one to look over the shoulder for evils lurking in dark shadows.