The new Gaslight, directed by Pavan Kirpalani, reminds you of the 1944 Gaslight. In both movies, a woman goes on the verge of losing her sanity after experiencing mysterious occurrences. If Paula is disturbed by the noises from the attic, Meesha (Sara Ali Khan) comes across a dark figure at night whom she believes to be her father, Ratan (Shataf Figar). But how's that possible when the patriarch is away on a business trip? Rukmini (Chitrangda Singh), Ratan's wife, and Dr. Shekhawat (Shishir Sharma) are convinced that Meesha is hallucinating. Meesha, on the other hand, thinks that his father has been murdered, and his spirit is calling out to her. Alternatively, if there is no ghost, then Rukimini is attempting to manipulate Meesha so that the latter could look mentally unstable. This would give Rukmini complete control over the royal property. So, what's exactly happening?
Gaslight, at first, is absolutely intriguing. Kirpalani definitely knows where to place his characters and how to arrange his frames. Meesha's first encounter with the "spirit" sends chills down your spine. The slow movement of the camera along the dark hallways, merely lit by a lantern, summons spooky vibes. The "Boo!" moments are perfectly timed, so we jump in our seats when a balloon bursts or a hand tears through a screen. This is the Kirpalani we saw in Phobia - a filmmaker who unabashedly follows clichés but enlivens his film with expert filmmaking techniques and choices. I was totally hooked for the first half an hour or so, as the suspense in Gaslight is palpable. You feel as if you are there with Meesha, walking in the corridors of a palace.
The movie loses its grip on you as it progresses, but Kirpalani holds your attention through his filmmaking. Here is someone who charges every moment with passion. One of my favorite scenes in the film is the one where Meesha, Rukmini, Kapil (Vikrant Massey), the estate manager, and Rana Jai Singh (Akshay Oberoi), Meesha's cousin, stand together at a party. After some chitter-chatter, the characters silently look at each other. No words are spoken, but you sense a great conflict between them. The camera looks down on Meesha in a tight closeup when she talks to SP Ashok (Rahul Dev), rendering her helpless and powerless. No one is ready to believe in her sightings of a ghost, and with a title like "Gaslight," it's easy to see where the story is headed.
There are two twists in the film, and both of them are pretty unsurprising. The buildup is always solid. It's the pay-off that is underwhelming. Things can look too stagy now and then, like that scene where blood is splattered over a white whatchamacallit. And I wish the second twist had been more finely executed. But I mostly enjoyed watching Gaslight. I chuckled when Rana said, "Look at my million-dollar face," gleefully. Oberoi brings some levity into the film. Khan is surprisingly convincing as a woman on the verge of a mental breakdown. When her face explodes with uneasiness, she looks like a child throwing tantrums. Singh gives a subdued performance and, at times, challenges our opinion regarding her character. Massey changes shape and color as per the plot's requirement and makes every development credible.
It rains when Meesha arrives in Morbi. It rains again during the climax when everything is finally revealed. Water has a significant presence in Gaslight. It holds three dead bodies. However, it's not the only element repeated in the film. A cuff link, the rich-poor topic, a remark from someone about being a thief, a gun that backfires at one point, all these things come together satisfyingly and quite enjoyably. Kirpalani remains a clever showman, a director capable of producing neat tricks. The horror in Gaslight germinates from the gloom (both literal and figurative), which in turn has various sources like separation, deception, rebuke, and guilt. If this story had been more surprising, Gaslight would have burned with brilliance and macabre bliss.
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