'Chhorii' review: Girls gone dead

'Chhorii' is certainly no 'Rosemary’s Baby'. It uses all the expected cliches of horror in expected ways and ends up boring the audience than frightening them

A still from the film
A still from the film

Namrata Joshi

Vishal Furia’s Chhorii based on his own Marathi film, Lapachhapi, wants to treat its audience with kid gloves, leaving nothing to their imagination and intelligence, spelling out its raison d’etre right at the very first scene. A heavily pregnant woman, kids wanting to play with her yet-to-be-born daughter and a knife on her belly and only a fool wouldn’t realise the real ghastly zone of female foeticide that this horror film is going to lead us to. But good intent is not the battle won. More on the film’s handling of the issue later. First there’s the utter lack of creativity and conviction to contend with.

A pregnant Sakshi (Nushrratt Bharuccha), who works with a kids’ NGO and her husband Hemant (Saurabh Goyal) decide to move to a village with five homes and maze-like tall sugarcane fields. All to escape the wrath of a guy whose loan Hemant has not been able to pay. Too lame a reason to arrive from a scary situation into the scarier hinterland—read Haryana—setting that the film wants to locate itself in. Couldn’t the couple have thought of better ways to wriggle out of the problem? There are many whys that follow and remain unanswered. Like, why this habit of Hemant of constantly leaving Sakshi alone—in the field or in the house itself. Well yes, horror cinema tropes are all about such defiance of logic, but they need to have a strong enough pull to take you in their stride. Its bad news if the audience doesn’t buy into and starts questioning the very basic plot points. I certainly did.

The expectant mother and the cult and tantric element notwithstanding, Chhorii is certainly no Rosemary’s Baby. It uses all the expected cliches of horror in expected ways and ends up boring the audience than frightening them. It’s irritating in its self-awareness than being scary in its intent. In the middle there is a wee bit of a tingling scene involving a lullaby on a transistor, a charred woman and three mysterious kids creating a racket, but it soon turns into an overused device that loses the modicum of eeriness it had to begin with.

From the odd shapes of the assorted pregnant tummies to the practiced accents, the characters as well as the actors playing them remain mere shadows than pulsating human beings, including a veteran like Mita Vashisht playing the hardnosed matriarch whose insistence that women of the household eat after men might irritate Sakshi to begin with but they eventually do manage to form a bond or something like that.

Above everything else it is Chhorii’s warped understanding of feminism that riles the most. No Bulbul, Stree or Pari here. Instead, Furia’s supposedly pro-women film is hung on the twisted patriarchal logic—“ek aurat hi ek aurat ki sabse badi dushman hoti hai (a woman is the biggest enemy of another woman)”. An excuse which is often used by men to shrug off responsibility for crimes against women that they ultimately have had a hand in. Another dialogue talks about a mother lurking in every girl. Not necessarily. It may not be the driving force for many women. Motherhood is not the be-all and end-all of life. Period.

In the guise of social consciousness Chhorii ends up pandering to regressiveness and, perhaps, doesn’t even realise it, in its pretence to a good cause. The only good thing that works is the soulful Swanand Kirkire-Ram Sampath song “O ri chiraiyya” that plays at the end. Originally used in the Aamir Khan series Satyamev Jayate, it manages to convey the monstrosity of foeticide and infanticide in a more haunting way than the two-hour long horror film itself.

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