There are movies that impress critics and rake in box-office moolah. Then there are movies that excel at one of the two categories – and are still considered critical/commercial successes. There are, of course, films that neither critics nor cinegoers like (get in touch with Sajid ‘Himmatwala’ Khan for more information on that). And then, dear readers, are gems like ‘Haunted Child’.
Now, I am no professional movie critic. Even if I were, I would not have dared to review ‘Haunted Child’ – a movie that is so amazing that it is beyond the level of petty reviews and box-office collections. You must not (whenever you get the chance to witness this epitome of cinematic brilliance) think of it as just another Bollywood spookfest – for it’s much greater, much larger, much more inspiring than that. Here’s what I learnt from ‘Haunted Child’ after having the unbelievable fortune of watching it this weekend:
- There can be Indian horror movies without Bipasha Basu. There were indications of this unthinkable fact earlier, thanks to howlers like ‘1920-Evil Returns’ and ‘Haunted 3D’ and ‘Darr @ The Mall’. But ‘Haunted Child’ ESTABLISHES this seemingly impossible scenario. Down with ‘Alone’!
- There is no substitute for eternal optimism. Salim Raza (heard of him?), the creator (the word ‘director’ sounds too mechanical) of ‘Haunted Child’, had earlier failed to resurrect the careers of Govinda (‘Naughty @ 40’) and Rajesh Khanna (‘Wafaa’). Did the man lose hope? No, sirs and madams, he stuck to his guns and made a film that…ah…well…resurrected spirits (of viewers and the movie characters).
- For certain people, love for babies know no limits. A lady can wake up at 3 A.M., hear the rowdy bawlings of a random baby girl parked on her doorstep, pick her up, and bring her inside the house. No Questions Asked.
- Continuing with the ‘love for babies’ theme. ‘Haunted Child’ teaches us never to suspect that something is horribly wrong – if a baby gulps down a full saucepan of milk, and still cries for more. It’s not a scary kid folks, it’s only a over-hungry one. Awww!
- Beauty is not even skin-deep, ladies and gentlemen. You do not have to be a Hrithik-esque Greek God or a Katrina-esque ethereal beauty (no questions about her acting prowess here, please!) to star in a Bolly movie. ‘Haunted Child’ gives us fortunate viewers the oven-fresh pairing of Varun Kumar and Hina Rajput – faces that only their respective mothers can (with a little effort) love. There is also Pankaj Berry in a hideous wig for all you guys to feast your eyes on.
- Plumpness is NOT something that can prevent a hardworking girl work her way up to glory – and Sonakshi Sinha is not the one we learn that from. Instead, we get this valuable life lesson from Muskanta Shekhawat – a woman who is literally bursting at the seams. She hams…oops…acts with elan, sways to a brilliantly conceived steamy number, and gets quite a bit of under-the-sheets action too. Move over Mary Kom, India has a new female inspirer for the young generation.
- Multitasking is key to success in life. In ‘Haunted Child’, we meet ‘Suleiman’, who is a building promoter by day, and dances freestyle with the most vulgar item songs by night. Oh, and he also sings holy qawwali-s at the local mosque (at least the building looked like it). Mushtaq Khan at his most versatile – that’s what ‘Haunted Child’ offers.
- There is nothing called an ‘aesthetically shot item number’. Salim Raza has the guts and gumption of including one of the most unnecessary, disgustingly shot, and totally non-foot-tappable item song (‘Chameli’) in the movie. The camera pans repeatedly on…ahem…the lower half of the lady’s figure – and the movements of the same. The lyrics – ‘Whisky, vodka aur rum ho gayi/Sheher me charcha Chameli jawaan ho gayi’ (credits to Salim Raza again!) is beautifully apt. Item numbers are meant to be titillating, and ‘Haunted Child’ is not afraid to call a spade a spade.
- ‘Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi’ had taught us that every love story is extraordinary – even if it seems ‘just another affair’ to others. ‘Haunted Child’ goes a step further and says that love stories MUST have a recurring theme song. Even when it is as bad as ‘Tujhse Rishta Nahi To’. Hey, who are we to judge, when the <cough>zero-chemistry<cough> couple think of it as THE symbol of their mutual affection?
- In recent times, no horror movie has been as realistically created as ‘Haunted Child’. Just think of this: Couple 1 encounters the creepy milk-gulping baby when she’s a toddler, and Couple 2 encounters the same spirit 12 years later – and the spirit has actually grown up to become an young adult. To everyone who said that spirits do not age, we know that you are lying!
- RGV had tried the ‘kids-smeared-with-dough’ routine to scare viewers in ‘Vaastu Shastra’ – but that had hardly worked. He should learn a thing or two from the make-ups used in ‘Haunted Child’. The ghost (in the grown up avatar) has snow-white powdered face, almost-black lipstick, and curiously large red circles around her eyes. In fact, I cannot say for certain whether it was not ‘Bella Swan’ from ‘Twilight’. The resemblance is remarkable.
- They say expensive special effects are required to make a horror movie. Pure hogwash, as ‘Haunted Child’ proves. In the opening minutes of this Oscar-worthy movie, a strange blue ray shoots from the paranormal baby’s eyes – to light a gas oven. At another point, soft toys burst into flames – only when the lead characters are trying to hold them. It’s the feeling that matters, sillies, not the brilliance of the special effects. Learn, Vikram Bhatt, Learn!
- Every film needs a star. ‘Kick’ had Salman, ‘Happy New Year’ had SRK, ‘PK’ had Aamir…and ‘Haunted Child’ has Shakti Kapoor (probably the sole known face in the entire cast). And like most megastars, he does no acting whatsoever in the film. As the super-powerful ‘peer-baba’, he only shouts ‘Khaamosh’ a couple of times, and listens to a particularly obscene backstory. It’s his presence that matters.
- There is no substitute to blind trust, be it in your personal or professional life. In the piece of celluloid magic that is ‘Haunted Child’, we find a random dude clicking photos of our…err…buxom second leading lady, confidently asking her to expose more, offer her for lingerie photoshoot – and after all that, the guy reveals that he is a freelance photographer. See? If there had been no trust, the girl’s career would have stranded, and movie would not have been made.
- ‘Haunted Child’ reminds us to trust the authorities. There are black sheep everywhere, but all in all, Indian police is a more than efficient lot. There is a police officer on patrol at the dead of night to save our heroine from committing suicide, the same guy is on hand to capture the final criminals…and the guy also remains present at the police station to jot down FIRs. It’s a one-man justice army in ‘Haunted Child’, and wow, the man is always at the right spot, at the right time.
- Without luck, we would be nowhere – and neither would be ghosts seeking savage revenge. A baby gets killed at a god-forsaken house, its spirit wanders over there – and relies on divine justice to bring the person who is the cause for her, well, arrival on Earth, 12 years later at that place. And bingo, that’s precisely what happens. Rakhee believed that ‘mere Karan Arjun aayenge’, and we know where such strong beliefs stem from.
- Humans are not the only beings that can tell a story in flashback. Ghosts can do it too…and in ‘Haunted Child’, close to an hour in the second half goes by with the spirit explaining how her mother had been ‘used’ by everyone, and what ghastly crime had been committed on her (the spirit, when she was alive, I mean). Everyone listens in rapt attention. And so did I.
- Relationships are complex – way more complex than what Karan Johar can ever think of. There is a particular scene in this once-in-a-lifetime film, when the ghost shouts at the hero ‘Tum meri baap ho’ (You are my dad), and the hero shouts back ‘Tum meri biwi ho’ (You are my wife)! Now, it does not get more intense and thought-provoking than that, right? (Note: naysayers might call this a hint of incest, but to hell with them!).
- A mother’s love knows no bounds, even when she had never seen her child and the latter has turned into a bad-ass ghost. In the touching climax of ‘Haunted Child’ (why did the movie finish? Why?? Why???), the ghost (complete with powder, lipstick et al.) tells her mother…’Mammi, main ab aisi dikhti hun’ (I look like this now). Your eyes will well up. They WILL. Such emotions have never been portrayed in Indian..nay…World cinema before this.
- Some mystery about the movie title is important – Four years back, I had watched a movie called ‘Chase’ at the theaters – under the impression that it would be a mindless English actioner, and finding that it was actually a Udita Goswami-starrer Hindi film! Salim Raza adopts the same tricky, streetsmart strategy for ‘Haunted Child’. Just imagine if he had chosen a hindi title like ‘Bhutiya Bachhi’ or ‘Shaitani Munni’. It would have sounded like a B-grade flick, which ‘Haunted Child’ is certainly not. Class matters…and an ‘angrezi’ title always helps.
- Choreography is overhyped. These Saroj Khan-s and Farah Khan-s and Shiamak Davar-s are simply after money, as I learnt from ‘Haunted Child’. Just look at how simple Pappu Khanna (don’t blame me, that IS the name of this film’s choreographer) has kept things over here. All that the dances (there are about 4 of them) involve is gentle swaying (not necessarily in sync with the music) by the people they are picturized on. Oh, and for the item number, the dancer has to make her hips sway faster than an abnormally fast pendulum. Dance is an easy thing, folks – it’s us who make it unnecessarily complicated.
- Background music can never ever be neglected. I mean, look at the comedy sitcoms – where every funny dialogue is followed by collective laughter. ‘Haunted Child’ hits bull’s eye on this count too. Every attempt at comedy is followed by a ‘twang’ sound, while the spooky moments have weird ‘hoooooooo’ noises. In case you miss any of the important parts of the movie (who am I kidding? The entire movie is important!), the sounds will serve as an alarm…and you can push back your media player a few seconds to watch those magic moments.
- Even those who have passed the veil have to pee or take a dump. I have been a horror movie fan for close to a decade now – and till date, no film had ever informed me about this basic necessity of a spirit’s life. In ‘Haunted Child’, the building promoter finds a positively scary ghost sitting on the loo – thinks that nothing is out of ordinary, and proceeds with his life in general. A way more informed person than I am. Did you know this trivia?
- Every story should have a solid morale. Most spookfests mess up things by simply projecting ghosts as bad, and God as good. In an unexpected twist in the end, ‘Haunted House’ starts focusing on the value of the girl child – and how so many wannabe parents kill off their newborns, simply because it is not a boy. There is one dialogue that will forever stay with me – ‘Agar beti na hoti to bete kaise hotey?’ (If there had been no girls, how could there be any boys?). Now that’s what I call realization!
I realize that my attempt at highlighting the high points of ‘Haunted Child’ has been, at best, feeble. There are many other virtues that this wonderful movie teaches us, which I might have missed out on (the sudden changes in the eye colors of characters, the naughty camerawork on the well-endowed second leading lady, etc.). I strongly recommend every cine-lover to watch this once-in-a-lifetime movie (those who cannot grab a copy, contact yours truly!).
There are a couple of side-effects of watching ‘Haunted Child’ though. You might lose interest in watching horror movies for the next few months. Or might feel that the film insults your intellect. But hey, those are your headaches…and anyway, these are small prices to pay for beholding a film that is beyond all superlatives.