1920 plus one

Daniyal Zahid finds '1921' tops '1920' on some fronts - but not by a lot

1920 plus one
Horror has never been Bollywood’s strongest genre. But 2008’s 1920 remains one of the movies often cited as the benchmark for anyone vying to give a shot at it – at least following the turn of the century.

The 1920 franchise then came up with 1920: The Evil Returnsand 1920: London and while both of them had their moments, they were a significant plunge from the original 1920.

1921 had the ingredients to top 1920. The storyline is more complex, and woven together with better – and more frequent – twists. But the final product falls short on many other fronts.

Ayush (Karan Kundra) is the caretaker of a mansion in 1927, England. He was asked to move from Bombay after his father’s boss Wadia (Vikram Bhatt) spots his musical talents and asks him to take care of his house, and study music at York, which the magnate would sponsor.

Meanwhile, Rose (Zareen Khan) is half-British half-Indian with the ability to see ghosts. And when Ayush starts seeing the supernatural at the mansion, he looks to Rose for help, who agrees to play the role of the exorcist.

Both Ayush and Rose have secrets from a dark past, which they confess to each other in letters that take the audience to a flashback. After pouring open their pasts in front of each other, the two realise that their encounters with paranormal activities are intertwined, and hence so are the solutions.

They look to answer the questions that the coming together of their stories have posed.

In terms of the script and especially the surprises that it offers you, 1921 is easily the best that the franchise has had to offer. Some might argue that it has been made too complicated, but if you are paying attention, it wouldn’t take too much of an effort to keep track of what exactly is going on.

Another win for 1921,which is a strength of the franchise – at least in the Bollywood context – is the cinematography. The aura, using early 20th century England as the backdrop, is created well. The overall atmosphere is well suited to play out the tale.

Similarly, while the film drops in a sufficient number of clues – which you might realise in hindsight – the twists are definitely intriguing and do not strike you outrageously out of the blue.

Even so, what regularly threatens to derail all of this is the substandard acting on display.
Vikram Bhatt unfortunately has wasted a decent storyline for a horror/thriller by making glaring errors elsewhere

The 1920 franchise doesn’t exactly flaunt a particularly phenomenal array of acting talent – except for Sharman Joshi in 1920: London – but 1921 might just have put together the worst of the lot.

Considering the strength of the role that Zareen Khan had as the exorcist, her casting doesn’t make sense. Perhaps the romantic angle might have pushed her inclusion, especially with the sheer volume of the music that was incorporated – but turning 1921 into a ‘horror musical’ itself was a distraction from the film itself, which would have been a lot crisper had the monotonous songs been done away with.

But Zareen looks like a veteran in front of Karan Kundra, who is completely out of sorts in the film. His acting range is obviously limited and that takes the focus away from the storyline, which with a better cast and a tighter screenplay could’ve been a triumph.

Vikram Bhatt unfortunately has wasted a decent storyline for a horror/thriller by making glaring errors elsewhere.

However, if you’re a fan of the franchise, you’ll definitely enjoy 1921. On many fronts it tops 1920, but on others it falls equally flat as the other two.

But considering that none of the films in the 1920 series are interrelated, one can watch 1921 even if they haven’t seen any of the others.

This, of course, isn’t to say you should. Especially if you’re a horror buff that has been let down by Bollywood for ages. For you it’ll just be 1920 plus one.