By Subhash K. Jha, IANS
Film: "Kaal"; Cast: Ajay
Devgan, Vivek Oberoi, John Abraham, Lara Dutta, Esha Deol, Vishal Singh, Kushal Punjabi; Director: Soham Shah; Sound
Designer: Dwarak Warrier.
Creaky doors are out. Rustles in the jungle are in. Like all capable spook sojourns, "Kaal" takes a bit of time to grow on
you. But once you fall into the fearful rhythm, you are in for a rollicking scare.
One thing is for sure - there has never been a horror film quite like this one. In case you thought shiver givers in
Bollywood were passé, here's a wake-up call.
"Kaal" shows us how it is to be done, without degrading the genre or stepping too hard and fast on those peripheral
scares. The best thing debutant director Soham Shah has done is to take his ingenious plot into the great wild outdoors.
Unlike Ram Gopal Varma's "Jungle", which used bizarre camera movements to stress the predatory mood in the wilderness,
"Kaal" lets you into the secrets of the jungle without getting technically complicated.
There's a directness to the deft and dark terror treatise as Vivek Oberoi, Lara Dutta, John Abraham and Esha Deol, plus a
couple of other wacky friends (Kushal Punjabi and Vishal Singh) and two scowling chauffeurs manoeuvre their cars into the
quaky kingdom - shot in a wildlife sanctuary.
The film starts with an ecologist (John Abraham) expressing concern over the growing extinction of tigers.
The ambience is electric - thanks in no small measure to the incredibly accomplished sound design (Dwarak Warrier). And
the terror stems from within the plot. The film has the bare minimum of window dressing and the adrenaline is kept going from
Shah never falls into the trap of creating superfluous scares. The entry of Ajay's character mid-way signals a unique
journey into the supernatural, not just for the characters but also for the audience.
Performances, though not outstanding, fall into place in the larger scream of things. The girls, Lara and Esha, are
suitably skimpy in their attire and the men get the story pace just right.
Ajay Devgan heads the list of acting honours - partly because of the nature of his role and partly because he acts with
such appealing languor.
Vivek plays his volatile character with a flair for bridled fear. John definitely makes his presence felt - the hair
falling on his face denoting a quaint state of grace in the environment of dizzying fear.
The rest of the cast gets to do little, except grow increasingly wary of the invisible forces that seem to stalk the
Vishal Singh's death on the wobbling wooden bridge is filmed with gory grace, proving the director's strong hold over the
complicated issue of suspenseful storytelling.
There're no superfluous moments, no song breaks and no diversions in this full-on-horror film, and wild animals lend a
powerful backdrop to the bristling plot.
You may not be a horror buff. But you can't deny that "Kaal" believes in what it's telling us. It is truly a film that
provokes one to look over the shoulder for evils lurking in dark shadows.