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Rejoice, all you Bollywood horror film fans.

Our sinister and gory films seems to have moved past those haunted havelis (mansions) and white sari-clad evil spirits with long, unkempt hair lurking in mist-filled graveyards.

Director Prawaal Raman rolls out a neat paranormal thriller without resorting to those done-to-morbid-death cliched thrills and unnecessary gore. So what if it’s an official adaptation of the Hollywood hit Oculus? At least, the director didn’t butcher it and make it unpalatable. Even if there are no burnt, charred bodies falling out of closets, the Merchant family is one disturbed, dysfunctional lot.

Saqib Saleem plays Kabir Alex Merchant, a troubled young man who was convicted of shooting his abusive father (Adil Hussain) as a small boy. He serves his time at a corrections facility and is ready after a decade of extensive therapy to come to terms with his heinous act.

But his sister, Natasha Merchant, played by Huma Qureshi, hasn’t let the past go. Qureshi is convinced that an antique mirror housed an evil force which compelled her brother and father to commit unspeakable acts of violence.

She’s dogged in her approach and persuades her reluctant, therapy-happy brother to re-visit their troubled childhoods.

The first half of the film, set in a grey London, lays the foundation of what happened in their pasts and what triggered a happy family to become fragmented after their mercurial sculptor-dad brings home an ancient ornate mirror.

There aren’t many thrills in the first half and that’s a shame. You may find yourself fidgeting in your seats and may often be distracted by Qureshi’s salon-perfect hair. How does a person, who is engrossed in proving to the world that evil forces are at work, have the time to look so well-turned out may be an eternal mystery.

But that shouldn’t stop you from appreciating her flashes of brilliance displayed in the film. The scene in which she is convinced that the evil forces in the mirror have forced her to murder a person touches a raw nerve. Nobody believes her and there are moments when you question her sanity and that’s pretty smart strategy as far as keeping viewers hooked goes.

Saleem is relatively raw. His performance as a sibling who’s trying to grapple with the enormity of his family tragedy and is desperately seeking closure is restrained and fails to evoke empathy.

As far as performances go, it’s Hussain who stands tall. The scenes in which he loses his marbles and goes after his hapless wife (a wooden Lisa Ray) is a knockout. His transformation from a doting dad to a violent parent is disturbing. The younger versions of Natasha and Kabir, acted by Rysa Saujani and Abhishek Singh, do what’s expected of them.

While there were no evil spirits in white chiffon saris, the character of the seductive spirit clad in cleavage-baring gowns, Ana — a foreigner who speaks accented Hindi — is grating. Watching her speak flawed Hindi is distracting and some of her lines that are designed to throw Alex Merchant off the edge and commit violent acts are downright cheesy.

As far as chemistry that you expect from real-life siblings Huma and Saqib go, there’s not much to be seen on the screen. But the second half, which is filled with some smart thrills and scary moments, redeems the film.

Watch this if you are in the mood for a creepy film whose intention is to startle you, but not designed for gross shock value.


The details

Film: Dobaara: See Your Evil

Language: Hindi

Time: 125 minutes

Director: Prawaal Raman

Rating: PG15

Cast: Huma Qureshi, Saqib Saleem, Adil Hussain and Lisa Ray.

GN Rating: 2.5 out of 5