1921 movie review: Vikram Bhatt adds every horror trope to this ghastly film, but none of them work

The storyline of 1921 gets more and more twisted as we go along the 2 hours 24 minutes running time.

Udita Jhunjhunwala January 12, 2018 16:52:02 IST

1.5/5

1921 opens in 1927: Ayush is a celebrated piano maestro who is reluctant to come on stage. As he drowns his sorrows in alcohol, a single tear staining the make up on his face, the scene flashes back to 1921.

Ayush is a piano prodigy. Spotting his talent, his mentor Wadia (Vikram Bhatt) sponsors the young man’s studies in England with one caveat – that Ayush also take on the role of caretaker of Wadia’s stately home in York.

1921 movie review Vikram Bhatt adds every horror trope to this ghastly film but none of them work

Zarine Khan in 1921.

York circa 1921 is a gloomy, foggy place with barely any sunlight and lots of Indians dropping dead. The aspiring pianist Ayush (Karan Kundra), who travels from India to York to study music, discovers this in the most horrifying way. Part-time student, part-time caretaker of a vast mansion, who makes an additional living by conducting private piano recitals in the house, his finely balanced life is shattered by the presence of malevolent spirits.

It’s rather convenient that another student in the same town is a medium that communicates with the spirit world. Ayush seeks out Rose (Zareen Khan) and implores her to help him rid his house of this paranormal activity.

Rose is a fan of Ayush’s music, and readily agrees to help a man she has long adored from afar. During the course of their paranormal partnership, and between solving the mystery of the vagrant spirits, love blossoms between them. But as their intimacy increases, so does the malevolence of the hovering spirits.

The scares, with a dependence on smoke machines, sound effects and shadowy figures, that build the atmosphere and frights in the first hour are frittered away later. Writer-director Vikram Bhatt adds in every horror film trope and genre trick into a story that in the end has no top or bottom – much like some of its decapitated zombie characters. There are disquieted spirits, a reference to the Mongolian plague and a vengeance plot line.

Given that this is a template Bhatt film, there are quite a few songs, which are indistinguishable from one another. Their song picturisation is also bland.

Some effort to play piano might have gone so way in convincing us that Kundra might be a musician, leave alone portraying a maestro. Since that kind of attention to detail seems superfluous to Bhatt, there’s no point expecting Victorian era period correctness in the costumes and production design either. The storyline gets more and more twisted as we go along the 2 hours 24 minutes running time.

Khan and Kundra put on their most sincere faces and you genuinely believe they want to get out of this situation alive. But it’s hard for the audience to keep a straight face as Bhatt’s screenplay bumps along from ghostly to ghastly.

A fellow audience member described it best: It’s like an onion—you cry as you peel it and you can keep peeling it and keep crying, but you can also stop at any time.

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