Vishal Furia’s Chhorii reminded me of Hollywood remakes of Japanese horror movies that became a trend after the box-office success of Gore Verbinski’s The Ring (2002). The remakes had bigger budgets, better production values, look more polished, more CGI, but all this razzmatazz didn’t make them better. Sometimes, with horror, the lesser the budget, the better the movie. The Ring has its fans, sure, but if you have seen the original Ringu from 1998, you know which one’s the real deal.
With Chhorii, the director is reworking his own movie. So, the odds of the original’s vision getting lost are less. At least, that’s what I thought at the beginning.
Watch the trailer for Chhorii here:
Chhorii, streaming on Amazon Prime Video, is the remake of Furia’s own Marathi horror hit Lapachhapi (2017). The story is about a pregnant urbanite, played by Pooja Sawant, trying to save her unborn child from creepy characters, real and supernatural. The film’s rural setting is most interesting: a house in the middle of a labyrinthine sugarcane plantation, a metaphor for the quagmire of regressive Indian traditions which the heroine has to fight. Dangers abound round the clock, making Lapachhapi one of the rare Indian horror films that unfolds in a village during daytime.
Lapachhapi worked because of the performances, especially by Usha Naik, who played a weird old woman with an unhealthy interest in the heroine’s foetus, and Furia’s focused screenplay. Unlike the similarly themed Hindi horror film Kaali Khuhi (2020), Lapachhapi successfully delivered scares and moral science lessons without one aspect overtaking the other.
Chhorii works when Furia is following the beats of Lapachhapi as closely as possible. Chhorii falters when he tries to overcook it.
The remake has a 15-minute prologue, the purpose of which is to introduce the heroine, Sakshi (Nushrratt Bharuccha), as a girlboss, and flesh out the reason she finds herself in a village. These changes don’t really help. Sakshi’s exchanges with her husband Hemant (Saurabh Goyal) are reveal not just about her feminist politics but also the film’s themes quite early. That way, Furia shows his cards prematurely. Adding meat to the gangster-related stuff that compels the couple to run to a village only delays the film’s beginning.
Chhorii is more polished in nearly every department than Lapachhappi, whose simpler filmmaking intensified the scares. The milieu in Chhorii looks more stylised and art-directed. What is missing is the sense of environmental strangeness of the original. Since chunks of the story involve the heroine frequently wondering if what she saw is real, adding extra sound design, background score, make-up, and visual effects to the heebie-jeebies make them clearly stand out as supernatural. So, the viewer is no longer left disoriented.
Bharuccha, the other Luv Ranjan alumnus getting to flex her acting muscles this month, is sufficient in her part. The supporting cast is forgettable. Mita Vashisht, usually a dependable actor, does what she can with her ominous character, but her Haryanvi is too laboured to make her believable. Why couldn’t Furia have Usha Naik, the best actor in Lapachappi, reprise her role?The release of Chhorii has fortuitously coincided with news of women outnumbering men in India for the first time since the first national census of 1876. According to the health ministry’s latest National Family and Health Survey, there are 1,020 women per 1,000 men in India.
How will a significant development like this affect the subgenre of rural horror films addressing female foeticide and female infanticide, that began with Manish Jha’s Matrubhoomi in 2003 and continued with Madhureeta Anand’s Kajarya (2015) and Terrie Samundra’s Kaali Khuhi? In light of this recent news, the empowering update of the heroine, which earlier would be helpless in such films, acquires symbolic significance.
Director: Vishal Furia
Cast: Nushrratt Bharuccha, Mita Vashisht