Tuesday, May 21, 2024

‘Gaslight’ movie review: Sara Ali Khan’s spook-fest is an insipid whodunit

Sara Ali Khan in the trailer for ‘Gaslight’

Sara Ali Khan in the trailer for ‘Gaslight’

A murder mystery that invests more in mood than matter,  Gaslight sparks interest with its setting and sharp twists but eventually turns out to be a rather insipid whodunit.

Director Pavan Kirpalani, who, over the years, has found a way into the dark recesses of the human mind, once again generates a sense of dread and foreboding. Here he has joined hands with the makers of films like  Raaz and  Naqaab to create a palatial intrigue that is superficially pegged on mental health.

Gaslight (Hindi)

Director: Pavan Kripalani

Cast: Sara Ali Khan, Vikrant Massey, Chitrangda Singh, Akshay Oberoi, Rahul Dev

Runtime: 111 minutes

Storyline: A young woman played by Sara Ali Khan returns to her family’s royal estate, only to find that her father is missing

Meesha (Sara Ali Khan) returns to her royal estate after 15 years only to find that her father Ratan Singh Gaikwad is missing. A series of events make the wheel-chair bound Meesha feel that her stepmother Rukmini (Chitrangda Singh) is hiding the truth and is manipulating her into thinking that she is mentally unstable with the help of her admirers that include Meesha’s distant cousin Rana Jai Singh (Akshay Oberoi) and a police officer Ashok Tanwar (Rahul Dev).

As she decides to dig out the root of her fear, Meesha finds help in the form of her father’s manager Kapil (Vikrant Massey) but soon discovers that there is more to the mystery than her father’s pet dog Commander could smell or the stepwell in the house could hold.

It starts as a well-crafted thriller but as we scratch our way through cobwebs, we find it is the same old  Bhool Bhulaiyya of infidelity, greed, and betrayal that has been packaged as an ode to George Cuckor’s  Gaslight (1944).

A sombre background score and a glowering set and light design conjure up at least half a dozen scares but the writing fails to lend substance to the spook fest. The characters feel hollow and it is hard to believe that nobody has seen Meesha for the last 15 years. The writers remain focussed on providing some clinical twists after every few minutes that start feeling inconsequential because hardly anything is riding on them. The discussion on the royal privileges and the commoner’s position in the royal household hardly gets any traction.

The overtly serious treatment of the subject feels unnecessary. There is one pulpy metaphor that Rana Jai Singh parties at a restaurant called The Silver Spoon. That’s all the fun that one had!

The pretentious earnestness can be felt in the performances as well. The actors perhaps have been told that the mystery demands a lack of expression. Sara has great face value but lacks malleability when it comes to conveying some deep-seated emotions. In a role that demands her to be confident and vulnerable at the same time, she conveys only a single note. Chitrangda Singh can hide a hundred secrets behind those talkative eyes but here she has not been challenged enough by the writers. It is left to the talented Vikrant Massey, as the manager of the missing Raja, to keep the audience engaged till the big reveal arrives. Akshay Oberoi is suitably wicked but has not been allowed to flex his muscle and Rahul Dev remains a thankless red herring.

Gaslight doesn’t break any new ground but is not a bad option if you want to indulge in some level-one mind games.

Gaslight is currently streaming on Disney+Hotstar

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