Cast: Aftab Shivdasani, Tia Bajpai and Vidya Malvade
Director Vikram Bhatt made an okay-ish horror film called 1920 in 2008. It managed to earn decent money at the box-office. Maybe someone gave him the bright idea that he should bank on the name and make a franchise. The result is a laugh-a-riot called 1920: Evil Returns. Yes, you are reading it right. The film is so unintentionally funny that we suspect that the producer actually wanted to make a comedy.
The film is supposedly set in some hill station during the ‘20s. Indians live in large villas and dress like British nobility and drive around in closed carriages drawn by gleaming English horses. Or should we say Swedish horses as the film was shot in Sweden. That’s ingenuity for you alright — making pristine Sweden stand in for an Indian hill station. Probably Bhatt and company forgot that there might be old British era houses in places like Dehradun and Mussoorie. But that would be actually taking your subject seriously, right. Perhaps director Bhushan Patel didn’t want that. We’ll never know. So the less said about production and period details, the better.
The story (or the lack of it) revolves around, India’s best poet Jaidev Verma (Aftab Shivdasani) falling in love with a mysterious woman called Smriti (Tia Bajpai), who’s seemingly possessed by an evil spirit. How Jaidev goes out saving his beloved forms the crux of this (non) story.
We would have forgotten and forgiven the lax pace, the hotchpotch screenplay and shoddy editing if Tia Bajpai was scary and/or sexy. That she is neither is the main flaw of the film. We have the mandatory barfing scene and the body contortions galore but sadly they fail to send any chills down our spine. Another way of inducing horror is to bring about a suffocating atmosphere and the director fails to bring that about too.
The lighting is dim with a slight bluish tinge; the houses are huge enough to be haunted. In one huge house there is just the protagonist and two servants. In another, four servants serve two. In between dialogues we understand that this film is in India because there is reference to a Chota Gaon. But the horses and the carriages you see along with the huge mansions with large manicured lawns tell you otherwise. This could be either Ireland or England. For that matter even Switzerland.
There is a permanent frown on all the actors’ faces. To top it all, even a fool will know that he has to avoid walking in a dense jungle in the dead of night all alone. But our heroine does this twice to be scared off her wits.
There is also the customary howl, the standard scary person creeping behind the back of the unsuspecting actor; the usual twisting of faces and mouthing of profanities. And yes, I forgot to mention a cemetery. This in short is 1920 – EVIL RETURNS. Yes, it looks good. But does it scare? In bits and pieces. But it’s not a scare that makes you jump out of your skin, or keeps you on tenterhooks about what to expect next with fear gripping you.
Jaidev Verma (Aftab Shivdasani) is a poet whose poetry has found a permanent residence in the heart of a fan, Smriti (Tia Bajpai). Verma lives with his sister Karuna (Vidya Malvade). It so happens that on October 25, Smriti’s birthday, these two love birds who had never met decide to meet. Unfortunately, Jaidev is told that Smriti fell off the stairs five days ago and died. He is heart-broken.
Two years later, Smriti again sets out to meet Jaidev. Alas! a spirit has kept her captive in the mansion and will not allow her to leave. But her man Friday has got her a taveez or something of the sort to help her reach her destination. As fate and script would have it, she does not reach there in one piece, but Jaidev does find an unconscious girl washed ashore. He takes her home to care for her not knowing who she is. On her part, and for the convenience of the script, Smriti has lost her memory.
From here the story unfolds; why she did not meet him two years ago, whose spirit is holding her captive and why Jaidev is going through this torment. Obviously there has to be a back story. But I won’t spoil it for you in case you are planning to view it.
My only suggestion to Vikram Bhatt is that if he is spending so much money on the production of a film, he should also consider getting a damn good scary story. There is no dearth of writers in India. I’m sure if he looks sincerely beyond what is available to him, he will find one that will scare the wits out of the audience.
Come on, Vikram, you can do it. I’m not asking for an ENTITY, but Indian cinema has evolved to at least give us a fright somewhere close to it.
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