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Siraj Syed

Siraj Syed is the India Correspondent for and a member of FIPRESCI, the International Federation of Film Critics. He is a Film Festival Correspondent since 1976, Film-critic since 1969 and a Feature-writer since 1970. 



Lupt, Review: Vengeance, the soul purpose

Lupt, Review: Vengeance, the soul purpose

A wafer thin story-line might have made it easier for the makers to deliver a supernatural ‘horror’ film, but there is little to take home from Lupt, except some good performances, led by an unlikely Javed Jaaferi, who, against the trend, has been cast as a ruthless business tycoon. The film is a revenge tale, like 99% of all horror films, but chooses to delve into the realm of souls rather than ghosts. But aren’t most ghosts disgruntled souls in the first place?

Jaaferi plays Harsh Tandon, a contractor in Lucknow, caught in the vicious world of under-cutting and dog eats dog. He is cold and calculating and does not make much of the death on duty of one of his top engineers, beyond grunting, “Give him his compensation.” He has two children, a daughter, Tanu (Meenakshi Tandon), and a son, Sam (Rishabh Chadhha), both grown up. The childish pranks of the son are the bane of his family, while the daughter, who is the older of the two, is sober and well-behaved. His wife Shalini (Niki Aneja Walia) insists that he does not spend enough time with the family, but he doesn’t care.

After a series of apparitions, the chronic insomniac meets his psychiatrist friend, who advises rest and a holiday. Taking this advice seriously, he agrees to join the other three members of his family and his daughter’s boy-friend (Karan Anand) on their holiday to the hill-station of Nainital. The apparitions continue along the route. They find a car along the way that is stalled, but refuse to help the occupant (Vijay Raaz). The son also cuts some rude jokes at the expense of the sole occupant. Later, their own car breaks down and now the other car catches-up with them. But there is little they can do without the help of a car mechanic, and there are no garages for a long way on either side. The stranger offers them sanctuary in his ‘outhouse’, till something can be organised the next day. With no mobile phone network either, they family has little choice, and take him up on his offer. It is at this outhouse and around it that the real horror unfolds and leads the story back to an accident that occurred two years ago, killing three persons.

Lupt means vanished/invisible/hidden in Hindi. We are watching a soul-searching movie here, not a bhoot/pret/chudail/chandaal tale, and to that extent, Lupt is different. But it follows the same familiar route. Apparitions continue, in fleeting flashes, till you see the figures in long shots, then mid-close shots and then close-ups. The guilty will die, not collectively, but in turns, making the loss really painful to the survivors. Lupt takes painfully long to get to its point, and then has very little to offer by way of a climax. Thus, for the better part of the proceedings, we get to see some good acting, a rarity and a wasteful exercise in any regular horror film.

It is inspired by a true story. One recalls having seen a Kannada film called U-turn on the same premise but with a totally different treatment. Be that as it may, writer director Prabhuraj, who produced films for Ramgopal Varma before making his debut with Lupt, fails to impart to it a sense of suspense and excitement, pivotal to any ghost story. In fact, some of the dialogue turns out unintentionally funny. When asked “Where does the road go (lead to)?”, the stranger in the car says, “Roads do not go anywhere. Where do you want to go?” Also, the refrain, “Sab marengey” (All will die), uttered by the entity in cracked tones, to strike terror among the actors and the audiences, starts sounding like a one-liner joke when repeated very often.

Why did the souls take two years to wreak vengeance? Why did only two of the three victims turn vindictive? How can you drive for more than an hour on a highway and not know that you are where you started? How can there be an outhouse without a house? Why does it take forever for Tandon to realise what is going on? What was the mysterious stranger really up to, till some justification is provided about his actions? Whatever happened to the survivors of the soulful killings? All questions, no answers.

There are few thrills, still less chills, and most of the time it is screen-fills. In between, we get some entirely unexpected histrionics from Jaaved Jaaferi and Niki Aneja Walia. The scene in the car where she threatens to jump out is a case in point. Vijay Raaz is wasted for the umpteenth time. At this rate, a lot of his talent is likely to remain a raaz (secret). Rishina Kandhari and Kierra Soni are the horror-mongers, with oodles of make-up to help them get into character (imagine a ghost/soul without make-up!). Additional scares are provided by a stroller/pram. To make things more bearable with some eye-candy, there is Natasa Stankovic, belting out, ‘Bhoot hoon main’, (I am a ghost)! There’s a ghost of a chance anybody will take her pronouncement seriously.

Clocking 1 hour and 57 minutes, the film is far too long to maintain the horror, especially with its limited dealings of death blows. Lupt may not do much for the career of Prabhuraj, but I do hope Javed Jaaferi’s talent is spotted by those who matter.

Rating: **                         


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About Siraj Syed

Syed Siraj
(Siraj Associates)

Siraj Syed is a film-critic since 1970 and a Former President of the Freelance Film Journalists' Combine of India.

He is the India Correspondent of and a member of FIPRESCI, the international Federation of Film Critics, Munich, Germany

Siraj Syed has contributed over 1,015 articles on cinema, international film festivals, conventions, exhibitions, etc., most recently, at IFFI (Goa), MIFF (Mumbai), MFF/MAMI (Mumbai) and CommunicAsia (Singapore). He often edits film festival daily bulletins.

He is also an actor and a dubbing artiste. Further, he has been teaching media, acting and dubbing at over 30 institutes in India and Singapore, since 1984.

Bandra West, Mumbai


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