GAURI: THE UNBORN. Director: Aku Akbar. Players: Atul Kulkarni, Rituparna Sengupta, Rushita Pandey, Anupam Kher. DVD (Myth Productions).
Inexpensively produced genre exploits of the horror variety had their hay day during the 1980s when the Ramsay Brothers rode on the dark wings of some astonishingly low-budget films (Purani Haveli, Shaitani Ilaaka, Aakhri Cheekh)that more than once nailed the box office bulls-eye. Aku Akbar and party appear determined to breathe new life into that same genre. The unlikely result is Gauri: the Unborn, a supernatural drama which milks every scream and late night tap on the window pane to become a contemporary validation of Bollywood horror flicks.
Unabashedly lacking in character development or writing, the B-grade Gaurihaunts a successful married couple (Kulkarni and Sengupta) who return to their family’s ancestral upcountry homestead along with their nine-year-old daughter (Pandey). Some truly creepy nocturnal events soon has the couple believing that things, or more precisely, their daughter, is not who she appears to be. What follows is a 90-minute psychologically charged mishmash that is entirely passable. Are there two nine-year-olds or not? Why does the window glass keep mysteriously shattering?
Why does the grandfather (Kher) sense malevolence that no one else senses?
While there are no acting kudos (Sengupta surely could have done this with less glycerin), the movie’s other-worldly tone is undeniable. The opening sequence has the camera literally swooping down to earth from far, far above, akin to a determined vulture zeroing in on its hapless prey. And who would think that a down-market title like this would dare take on a sociological diatribe against, of all things, family planning by enlisting Hindu piety, some cosmic mumbo-jumbo, and playing topsy-turvy with that ever-present fear of the unknown? Suspend belief and go along for the ride.
Globe trekker, aesthete, photographer, ski bum, film buff, and commentator Aniruddh Chawda writes from Milwaukee.