Getting Haunted in our cinemas is a bit of a surprise. We usually don’t get a lot of films that deviate from familiar patterns. Bollywood, with its unique set of rhythms and customs, doesn’t seem like the easiest fit for the local theaters. It turns out, however, that it isn’t the Bollywood elements that make Haunted so alienating. In fact, the film actually turns down the Bollywood factor and goes for a more Western-style production. The problems, therefore, are far more universal, the film suffering from a shaky script and weak acting.
Rehan (Mahaaksay Chakraboty) has been sent by his realtor father to the town of Koti to prepare a property for its impending sale. The previous caretaker of the manor died under mysterious circumstances. Rehan soon discovers that the house is haunted, two ghosts playing out the same traumatic scene every night. Rehan eventually discovers the sad tale behind the property, and he looks for a way to stop the haunting. After his first attempt fails, he is magically transported back to 1936, where he has a chance to change one girl’s destiny.
At two hours and twenty minutes, Haunted can feel interminable. Part of length comes from the Bollywood formula, which has the film giving time over to romantic scenes set to pop songs. There’s also an odd scene that has the main character dancing. But most of the length is just due to repetition and bad filmmaking. The film plays out a couple of beats over and over, and it stretches out those beats until they lose all meaning. It isn’t enough for a character, for example, to be surprised by a hand bursting from a wall. That character will then move from wall to wall, each of them bearing the same surprise. Obviously, it loses its effect with every repetition.
The production values are fairly high, but the directing just can’t keep up. What ought to be scary becomes weirdly funny, the film constantly laying it on too thick. The film layers horror trickery over the most banal of things. The appearance of a ghost will be accompanied by a zooming camera movement, a textbook example of horror music and a loud scream. The film is constantly hedging its bets, indicating a lack of confidence in the material. The special effects aren’t bad, though it would be folly to call it impressive.
Mahaaksay Chakraboty is terribly unexpressive for a Bollywood star. He keeps to a single, stony expression throughout most of the movie. He seems to be going for heroic gravity, but it just looks like he’s constantly smelling something funny. A couple of scenes show him going a little goofy, and there he exhibits a spark that the film is mostly missing. Twinkle Bajpai shows off a bit more range, but she kind of fumbles her big horror moments.
Haunted isn’t really representative of what Bollywood can bring. This feels closer to Hollywood dreck, the uniqueness of the region only occasionally shining through. For the most part, the film is an enervating trip through some really repetitive horror. In spite of the film’s efforts to combine epic tragedy with horror, it’s likely that audiences will be laughing rather than crying or screaming. The longer the movie goes, the more it reveals itself to be pretty ridiculous.