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Dobaara Review: This Huma Qureshi & Saqib Saleem Horror Film Is A Let-Down

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In a recent Netflix episode, American-Indian comedian Hasan Minhaj compares a reasonable discussion with his father to an M Night Shyamalan film. Intense build-up that pulls you in, only to end with you thinking, 

“Really? That’s it?”

That’s the Dobaara-watching experience. A horror film with all the right visual effects, sounds, and a workable story.

Everything except the horror. 

*****

Natasha Merchant (Huma Qureshi) and her brother Kabeer (Saqib Saleem) are probably the unluckiest Indian children in the United Kingdom. Their family is messed up because the evil spirit of an 18th century witch is trapped in a mirror in their house.

Kabeer is locked up in a correctional facility for allegedly killing his own father, and eventually released after years of rotting there. He wants nothing to do with the house where his parents died, nor does he ever want to see that evil mirror again. 

However, an adamant Natasha constantly reminds Kabeer of a promise he made, and the siblings embark on a psychologically damaging trip that involves invoking the spirit and killing her. 

At this point, any experienced horror film watcher knows that messing with the evil spirit results in terrible consequences. Plus, who takes a former asylum inmate into a journey of spirit-invoking experiments?

But Dobaara defies safety precautions and logic. Siblings try to capture the spirit, the film switches between flashback and present times; and it drags. 

The whole time, despite creepy sound effects and an eerie-looking set-up, the supposed horror scenes never come. The silence (when there’s silence) is too long, and for the most part, too predictable. Sudden movements don’t have us jumping. 

Then just when it looks like it could finally get scary, the movie ends. And one is left thinking,

“Really? That’s it?”

*****

It’s a terrific idea to have real life siblings play reel life siblings. But not when one of them is far ahead in terms of acting and dialogue delivery. Huma Qureshi as the elder sister is protective, persistent, and draws sympathy as someone who was deeply affected by this chilling tragedy. 

Saqib is excellent at emoting a plank of wood.

He plays his character, a wounded individual with years of recovery in therapy, as someone who is difficult to read. It makes sense that he’s reserved, skeptical, and moody. But on screen, when the two are together, there’s only one sibling worth watching. 

It’s also a delight to watch a suave Adil Hussain go from ‘Father of the Year’ to Jack Nicholson from The Shining, where instead of yelling “Here’s Johnny!”, he sings “Fee Fi Fo Fum!”. 

Seduced by the spirit (who, by the way, looks like a Victoria’s Secret model), Adil’s Alex Merchant turns into a violent, lascivious man, displaying extremely erratic behaviour each time his wife (Lisa Ray) tries to talk to him. And just like Nicholson, Alex goes on a rampage to bludgeon his family.

*****

The evil spirit (named Madalina in interviews, but never called that in the film), is objectified from the time she’s introduced to the audience. The camera focuses on her breasts, her hips, her butt, and her entire body. Why is this sleazy sequence oddly reminiscent of Ram Gopal Varma’s directing?

Oh, that’s right. Director Prawaal Raman was an AD to RGV.

The pretty Madalina is supposed to be exuding cold vibes, but looks mostly bored and rigid. She joins the list of all the good-looking ghosts in Indian cinema who are a far cry from the goo-faced ones of the The Ring. 

It does, however, beat the white saree clad ones we’re all too familiar with.

*****

Dobaara is the Hindi remake of the 2013 psychological thriller Oculus, following the same theme, storyline, and characters, with a few additions. The film had a good run at the box-office given that it was short film with lesser-known actors. It definitely had scenes that made you jump.

But let’s not unfairly compare Dobaara to the original. After all, where else would you hear a Caucasian English man who understands Hindi pretty well, and English actors speaking English with an Indian accent?  

*****

The Dobaara review is a Silverscreen original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the movie. Silverscreen.in and its writers do not have any commercial relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.

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