I always get excited before a horror flick. You always walk in not knowing what to expect, which is always a good thing. Sadly, though, that genre hasn’t really mixed too well with Bollywood in the recent past. We’re promised the biggest thrill of our lives way too many times only to come out disappointed. Directors rely too much on cheap thrills rather than actually providing something new. Still, I always walk in with an open mind hoping for something fresh. Does 1920 provide that or is just another fish in the sea? Keep reading to find out.
The story of the movie revolves around a haveli (mansion) in Palanpur which the owner wants to destroy in order to build a hotel. The only problem is that the haveli has its own little plan. An evil spirit lurks in it and anyone who comes to demolish it is dealt with mercilessly. After having had two architects lose their lives, Arjun (played by Rajneesh Duggal) is next in line to give it a go. Blissfully unaware of the haveli’s history, he takes his wife Lisa (played by Adah Sharma) along with him to the dreaded castle. This sets the movie up nicely.
After the first night itself, Lisa suspects that something is not right about the place. She tries to tell her husband but like every horror movie, he pretty much ignores what she says. As the days go on, Lisa is pretty much convinced that something is indeed wrong as weird things continue to happen. A couple of days later the couple has to go to Delhi for some work, but due to some safety concerns Arjun decides to go alone and not put Lisa’s life in danger. Smart thinking, since she’s pretty much convinced that the place he has left her in is haunted. So much for being safe. Even though the priest (played by Raj Zutshi) that Lisa had confided in has told her that he has blessed the place and there is nothing to worry about, it still seems a bit too early for her to be staying all alone. Anyway, ignoring that, this is when the movie really turns itself around. After being pretty much of a thriller for the first half, it dives right into the horror genre as the spirit in the haveli decides to enter Lisa’s body and take control of her. You can probably guess the rest of the story from here. Arjun comes back to find that his wife is possessed and does whatever he can to save her.
That’s the base of the story and I won’t dwell on it further so that I don’t ruin the movie for anyone who plans on watching it. That actually brings me to my first point. Since this is a genre which relies so heavily on the element of surprise, I don’t quite understand why Vikram Bhatt did what he did in the first half of the movie. Before every scary incident we were shown a shot of the haveli at night, almost warning us to expect something. If the same scenes were shown without the “warning”, or if they just took place in the daytime when we weren’t expecting anything, they could have had much more of an impact. Also, one thing I could not understand was that if the house was indeed haunted and whoever lived in it does get killed, then why didn’t the owner simply give the couple a place to stay elsewhere? Can you not design the hotel if you stayed outside? Is it mandatory for the owner to put the architect’s life in danger? It just doesn’t make sense. I know this isn’t that big of a deal, but I really do wish we were given a reason as to why people have to stay in there instead of just throwing them in like guinea pigs and hoping they won’t die.
There are some things that work for the movie. The setting, albeit a little cheesy (a huge castle in the middle of nowhere!), works well with the tone of the film. Adah Sharma gives a fantastic performance. It’s not easy making your debut in a horror movie but she does it like a pro. She does a great job at looking genuinely scared which tends to rub on you as well. Thanks to some really neat make-up, the possessed phase of her in the movie also ends up looking genuinely frightening. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about Rajneesh Duggal. He’s basically expressionless in this film and when he does try to bring out some emotions, it ends up looking forced. The rest of the cast also fails to perform. Adah Sharma aside, the overall acting in the movie, almost seems mechanical. There’s no real chemistry between the cast and that’s a real disappointment.
Overall, this movie was a real roller coaster ride. Just when you thought it was headed towards the right track it would take a turn. It’s almost as if Vikram Bhatt was trying to fit in too many things at once. He does do a decent job in telling the audience why the spirit wants to take control of Lisa’s body, but the whole flashback sequence involved in the explanation is WAY too long. The fact that he decides to fit a song in there doesn’t help matters either. In fact, the length of the song is how long the flashback should have actually been. The sad part is that what I am saying could easily have been achieved. For some reason I cannot fathom why Vikram Bhatt decided to go on forever with the back-story, and it really does spoil the whole flow of the film. Just as you think you’re about to reach the end, you have to sit and watch a mini-movie. Another part of the movie that could have easily been scrapped would be the whole science versus religion segment. It didn’t really add anything to the movie. In fact, it’s just another horror movie clich