Dobaara: See Your Evil movie review — Huma Qureshi, Saqib Saleem thriller takes forever to take off
(Note: Our rating graphic does not accommodate less than 1 star. The actual rating given to Dobaara by our critic is half a star out of five.)
Let's face it: Bollywood does not do horror and spook stories well. The long intervals between the very few effective supernatural thrillers the industry has produced in the past century — such as Mahal, Madhumati and Bhoot — is a testament to that.
In the same year as Ram Gopal Varma's Bhoot, in 2003, director Prawaal Raman did manage an interesting anthology of short stories titled Darna Mana Hai (Fear Is Not Allowed). The genre has suffered a drought since then.
Raman's new film, Dobaara: See Your Evil, fails to end this dry spell.
Based on the 2014 Hollywood hit Oculus, Dobaara (featuring the original film's director Mike Flanagan as its executive producer) tells the story of a 25-year-old woman called Natasha Merchant (Huma Qureshi) who believes a tragedy that befell her family 11 years earlier was caused by a haunted mirror that possessed her father, the artist Alex Merchant (Adil Hussain).
Natasha and her brother Kabir Alex Merchant (played in adulthood by Saqib Saleem) were children when the police found them in their home in the English countryside, a gun in Kabir's hand while Alex lay dead from a gunshot wound and the body of the mother (Lisa Ray) in another part of the house. Both siblings claimed that Kabir was innocent in the matter.
After a decade of therapy, Kabir emerges in the real world, convinced that the ghostly happenings in their home were a figment of his and Natasha's imagination, and that their parents' deaths were a result of a marriage that had fallen apart because Dad was having an affair. Natasha remains convinced though that themirrordunnit.
Dobaara begins with Kabir's release from a correctional facility. Natasha has spent the decade investigating the mirror and has found that many of its previous owners ended up dead in a gruesome fashion in mysterious circumstances. On Kabir's return, she holds him to a promise he had made to her as a child - a promise to kill the mirror together. First though, she wants to prove to the world that her family was innocent in what happened to them. So, she has set up the mirror in her house with multiple cameras to record what happens when she and Kabir spend time before it.
Oculus, the material on which Dobaara is based, was much busier. This film has virtually nothing happening in the pre-interval portion except talk, talk and more boring talk between the siblings, and post-interval, when matters do speed up, it is too late.
The film runs on multiple tracks in the second half, inter-cutting between Natasha and Kabir's childhood and present, and their differing viewpoints on occurrences within the house in their adulthood. It should have been fascinating and suspenseful, but Dobaara fails to recover from the absolute lack of energy that sets in in the first hour.
Besides, everything seems so pointless when Natasha, who set up all those cameras with such fanfare, does not bother to check the recorded footage at any point - as a result, we do not at any point get to see the difference between what she and Kabir think happened to them and what actually did.
The actors end up being victims of the film's listless writing, direction and editing. Saleem reveals a glimpse or two of his natural talent in a couple of scenes. Hussain — who was so brilliant in his last Bollywood film Mukti Bhawan just weeks back — tries his best to invest himself in the role, but is left struggling in the absence of overall heft. That said, for some reason, his English dialogue delivery sounds occasionally awkward here. It must be said too that the children's accented English inexplicably gives way to perfectly desi speaking styles as grown-ups.
This lack of attention to detail is the least of Dobaara's problems. The lack of ominousness is. The suggestive title, some mumbo jumbo about how everything that happens to us has already happened before and the allusion to a well-known children's fairytale all amount to nothing in the face of such dull storytelling.
Dobaara takes forever to take off, and when it does, it is a non-starter.
And so the drought continues...