The shock value in 'Phoonk' is negligible (Film Review)

Film: 'Phoonk'; Cast: Sudeep, Amrita Khanvilkar, Ahsaas Channa, Ashwini Kalsekar, Kenny Desai, Jyothi Subhash and Zakir Hussain; Director: Ram Gopal Varma; Rating:* and 1/2

Monday, August 25, 2008 | 1:51:45 PM IST (+05:30 GMT)
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Film: 'Phoonk'; Cast: Sudeep, Amrita Khanvilkar, Ahsaas Channa, Ashwini Kalsekar, Kenny Desai, Jyothi Subhash and Zakir Hussain; Director: Ram Gopal Varma; Rating:* and 1/2

It's a vicious world out there. Anything can happen. 'Phoonk' goes into the land of voodoo and black magic. Civilised society may frown at superstition and blind belief. But Ram Gopal Varma's cinema functions according to laws of its own.

A demented couple, played by the talented Ashwini Kalsekar and Kenny Desai, sticks pins into a voodoo doll while the little girl Raksha (Ahsaas Channa) lies writhing in pain in the hospital. Two doctors mull over her medical reports as though they were checking out the list of passengers on board a flight to la-la land.

Welcome to Varma's land of the dread. Anything can happen here. So be warned. As in his best-known spook story 'Bhoot' a majority of the time goes into building a foreboding atmosphere. And Varma is very good at that. His restless cinematographer Savita Singh peers into the most innocuous corners to make every artefact look sinister.

Lemons never seemed more dangerous. Characters pop lemon juice into their sinister mouths or run over the citric fruit with their vehicles with catastrophic consequences.

By the time the chronically-trembling Amma (Jyothi Subhash) of the household convinces her single-expression agnostic son (Sudeep) that the little girl is possessed, we're sort of hooked to the frightfully high-octave trauma terrain where artificial sounds, crows, fruits and paper calendars acquire a sinister life of their own.

'Phoonk' goes into a terrain occupied by little Linda Blair in 'The Exorcist' 30 years ago. The little girl in 'Phoonk' even hits the roof with some help from the devil within.

But ceiling shots apart, the shock value is negligible here. The horror of listening to a little girl speak in a man's voice is minimal. The special effects are not so special. The performances range from the strange to the strained.

Zakir Hussain as a fakir, who is called in at the last moment to save the child from black magic, pulls out all stops.

Shivers don't run up the spine. They ram up. No pun intended.

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