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This movie is Prosit Roy’s love affair with the older parts of Calcutta, the bits that make it stand apart from every other city in India. It is strangely enough, also an ode to the nail cutter and umbrellas. Never has the humble implement of hand and foot hygiene received so much spotlight neither, for that matter, has so much water fallen on the city of Calcutta.

I fully expect the sales of nail cutters and umbrellas to go through the roof post people watching the movie.

The devil is invoked. He of the run-of -the-mill horned-head fame and blood thirst, comes (excuse the pun) and impregnates women (poor, low-income…take your pick) whose gestation period lasts for all of one month (the only bright spot in the movie) and then a belly button-less and umbilical cord-less child comes forth into the world. Their goal? To increase the progeny of their father. But all banality aside, the Devil needs his flesh and blood to aid in eventual world domination. The world domination bit isn’t referred to but why be the Devil if you can’t rule over the world, am I right?

That in a nutshell is Pari. The tagline claims that it’s not a fairy tale but fairy tales are replete with angst-ridden, unhappy characters who utter curses as easily as they breathe.

So why is this movie not a write-off? Because the cinematography sets the tone and mood of the entire movie without having to resort to cheap gimmicks of blood and gore to live up the “horror” genre.

The by-lanes of Calcutta, the moss-laden walls, the sooty shutters and a slightly sleepy, lethargic ambience lull you into the story only to be jarred from the calm and into the world of the preternatural. Compared to RGV’s Bhoot and movies of it’s ilk, Pari doesn’t rely on a sudden loud noise which has you clutching your heart in fear.

Anushka Sharma’s vulnerability makes you wish the bad juju doesn’t catch up with her and gulp her down. This movie is Anushka’s vehicle but she has to work at being creepy and you feel sorry for her plight. She can be de-glam but she still has to nail being ferocious.

The rest of the cast is passable with Mansi Multani (Kalapori) and Rajat Kapoor standing out for their respective roles. They are by turns creepy, scary and the chief ingredients needed to bring in a bit of shiveriness to an otherwise droll “horror” movie. Kapoor with his fake eye, stoic and almost amused-countenance is a true reflection on how normal people can become evangelical and take on a mantle of evil themselves under the guise of the greater good.

The role of the crone playing Kaali Pori (Mansi Multani) has been enacted well with her entry coming in sporadically to scare the life out of Anushka. That and her sing song voice while she plays the conduit for the demon is well portrayed.

The male lead-Parambrata and Ritabhari (Piyali) do justice to their roles with the former playing a person with values and morals but still dragging his feet throughout life and becoming proactive when you least expect him to. He seems confused through most of the movie and even his repentance at the end seems to fall flat.

But all this dissection aside- kudos to Anushka for not going the expected path of KJo-type movies alone. She can emote and emote well.

Pari is all about her. But I give it half a thumbs-up because a horror movie shouldn’t just be about pathos…it should be a bit jarring. Pari fails to do that.