As the population increases, cities are cramped for space so instead of building horizontally, we build vertically. Ultimately this means that we no longer have bhoot bungalows but have gained paranormal apartments. Previously, ghosts and their comrades would hide and reside in wardrobes and such, but space confinements limit them to television sets apparently or at least that is what newbie Vikram Kumar tells us in his new flick 13B. The movie stars R. Madhavan, Neetu Chandra and Poonam Dhillon in prominent roles. The director and cast promised big screams and a new perspective at television addiction. On a side note, all this talk about bhoots reminds me of Bhootnath…or rather Ram Gopal Varma’s scarier movies (no, not Aag) such as Bhoot and its subsidiaries. Anyhow, coming back to 13B. With the number 13 being reputed with fright, we can only hope for some screams and not be treated to a case of the giggles instead.
The Barjatya’s are a big family filled with uncles and aunts, nieces and nephew, husbands and wives along with noisy children. One day they decide to movie to a high-rise building and are accommodated in the 13B apartment. Manohar (R. Madhavan) often notices odd events in his new surroundings but quickly shrugs them off as he is more concerned about his families’ addiction to a television soap. He eventually succumbs to the popular obsession and watches the soap only to realize that it clearly coincides with his family. Not only are the characters similar but the entire soap runs as a parallel to his life. Manohar takes on the hat as detective as he sets out to determine what the deal is with this mysterious situation.
Kumar has succeeded to entertain however not scare as much. He has fabulously incorporated a daily ritual that most families are familiar with, television soap watching, into his screenplay which makes it relatable and unique. The script is tight and casted correctly which ultimately makes this one a good watch. Until the interval, there are a few freaky moments which eventually hit a complete extreme post the break. He also smartly includes flashbacks in the second half which makes audiences see the link in both segments. There is no actual ghost or spirit in the movie. Rather it is paranormal in the sense that it seems almost absurd that a drama could be so close to real life and in this case, the life of a normal family. What works for the film is the camera usage. It has completely been used to enhance the scare factor in the movie.
The first of the flaws is mainly the ignorance of the remainder of the family that does not see the parallel. In fact, it is so obvious that a child would have picked it up. Was a song really necessary? I think not. It just adds time to the movie, which already could have been shortened. The movie drags on towards the climax and the movie should have been trimmed at the editing table.
R. Madhavan takes the crown in 13B. He has always, in my opinion, been a credible actor and it is sad that he is only seen in a few Hindi films. The is heaps of untapped talent in this actor. If only Bollywood filmmakers would realize this and utilize him frequently and correctly. Neetu Chandra is turning out to be quite a handy actress. Her performance as the wife who thinks her husband is a bit nutty in points is humorous and understandable. Poonam Dhillion is apt along with the remainder of the cast.
No real loud screams. Nor did I cover my eyes and wait for the scare to be over. However, I was entertained. Honestly, Indian directors still have to master the art of true horror films. While Kumar shows some definite talent as a storyteller, the movie entertains but does not scare as much as horror lovers would like to be horrified. The casting is definitely unique as is the screenplay which is a breath of fresh air from the usual gissa-pitta stories.
Enjoyable and entertaining are the two best words to describe 13B. Serials will never be the same after 13B. While I wouldn’t give it 13 out of 5, and yes that is possible, I would give it an easy B grade. No serial killer or kisser here but a serial of the television kind which haunts. Enjoy!