Posham Pa movie review: Zee5 film about serial killer sisters plods under the weight of its ambition
Posham Pa is a relentlessly vicious film that showcases the warped relationship between its protagonists, but fails to investigate it.
castMahie Gill, Sayani Gupta, Ragini Khanna, Shivani Raghuvanshi, Imaad Shah
National Award-winning director Suman Mukhopadhyay undertook a herculean task when decided to base his latest movie, Posham Pa, on a pair of convicted notorious serial killers Seema Gavit and Renuka Shinde, who went on a rampage across Maharashtra, kidnapping children for their pick-pocketing ring, and then mercilessly murdering them. While all the ingredients for a gripping crime thriller are pumped into Posham Pa in generous doses, the film itself is outweighed by a plodding, confused story that does not really know what it wants to be — a slasher, a social satire or a docu-drama.
Mukhopadhyay's film meticulously creates an ornate image of a dysfunctional family — a mother who justifies her taking to acts of crime as a means of sustenance, a daughter accommodating violence as a part of her existence, and another haunted by the umpteen cold-blooded acts of brutality. He infuses the dysfunctionality with the archetypal Indian societal axiom — what happens behind closed doors should remain within the four walls. Then there are two documentarians — Nikhat Ismael (Shivani Raghuvanshi) and Gundeep Singh (Imaad Shah) — making a film on women on death row, who visit Aurangabad's Madhyavarti Jail to meet with Regha Sathe (Sayani Gupta), the older of the two sisters on death sentence.
Make no mistake, Posham Pa is a brutally violent film, with oodles of blood and gore painting the screens at every frame. But where the film essentially dogs is in its perspective. Hence, when the sisters are quizzed about their lives, and what propelled them towards a life of crime, Regha gets flashes of her mother Prajakta Deshpande (Mahie Gill) warning her against divulging their "family secrets."
During the series of interviews with Regha and her younger sibling Shikha Deshpande (Ragini Khanna), Nikhat and Gundeep become representatives of the two spectrums of human conscience. While Gundeep is the skeptical one, Nikhat wholeheartedly believes that Shikha and Regha are products of mal-nurture, and do not deserve death penalty. Via Nikhat, the nature versus nurture debate is hammered home to almost a point of exhaustion, but the entire exercise seems futile by the end of the film. But the filmmaker chooses not to explore either of the characters. They are eventually reduced to motifs, who serve as mere cogs in the Posham Pa wheel.
The narrative gallops back and forth through time — an effective tool to sustain the suspense. The film begins at the present, with Regha recounting how her (now-dead) mother, a chronic drug addict, lures men to her humble abode, has sex with them, loots them of all their belongings while they are asleep, and then batters their skulls to pulp before mutilating their bodies, and disposing them off in a nearby pond. All this take place while Regha gorges on a plate of rice in the adjacent room. A speck of blood sprays onto the rice plate, and Regha apathetically picks the blood-coated rice grains up, and keeps them on the side.
Oscillating between the past and present, Posham Pa is a relentlessly vicious film. As the sisters narrate pivotal instances of their life to Nikhat and Gundeep (and by extension, the viewers), you realise that at no point is Mukhopadhyay trying to minimise Prajakta's monstrosity. Along with her daughters, she kills cats, infant beggars asking her for food, men, women and everyone she could lay her hands on, without shuddering even once. But she is not a cold, calculating murderess. Murder is a part of her being — like breathing. She kills when she is hungry, angry, jealous, and happy.
Apart from the inner workings of Prajakta's mind, Mukhopadhyay also devotes enough time to showcase the warped relationship between the mother and daughter duo. The problem here is, Mukhopadhyay only showcases, but never investigates. Perhaps in a bid to sustain the intrigue, but the filmmaker's deliberate attempt at skirting the whys and 'hows of Regha and Shikha's actions becomes frustrating after a point. You are told that the mother routinely abuses the elder daughter, but the younger child somehow always escapes her wrath. Although you deduce the reason behind the mother's differential treatment towards her two daughters (a la seemingly-important plot twist) by the end, the twist in the tale seems so hokey that you can see it coming from miles away.
Clocking in at a little over an hour, Posham Pa concurrently feels like a drag as well as an incomplete story. The pace slackens in the second half of the movie. It seems as if the filmmaker has wrung out every drop of the carbon-core horror expected in a movie about a serial killer, and her kin. What works in the favour of Posham Pa is Mahie Gill's terrific acting chops. Gill, who has not had enough opportunities to flex her acting muscles beyond playing the quintessential seductress, invests Prajakta with humaneness and unpredictability that you almost empathise with her at certain junctures in the film. However, if only the same treatment was meted out to the other two protagonists, essayed by Sayani and Ragini. While their physicality and mannerism vary vastly, they are essentially prototypes that act as a foil to the volatile Pragya.
The cinematography is luscious, with a profusion of black, red and blue throughout the expanse of Posham Pa. Cinematographer Damini Kaushik's camera manufactures a lived-in world whose alleys seem as menacing at night as they seem regular in the broad daylight. But most of the grotesque murders evade the invasive lens of the camera. The sound team, comprising of Jameel Ahmed Kewal, Jeetu Patil, and Prabhjot Singh Sowat, masterfully create a sound canvas that evokes the most unnerving images in viewers' minds.
Posham Pa is a missed opportunity. With a premise as interesting as this, Posham Pa could have been a path-breaking web movie of a kind. Most serial killer dramas are centred on one sociopathic protagonist. Had Posham Pa too focused only on Pragya, it would possibly have been a more impactful tale. But as they say, three is a crowd. With multiple sketchily written characters, Posham Pa is bogged down by the weight of its own ambition.
Posham Pa is currently streaming on ZEE5.
Watch the trailer here.
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