For almost three decades, the Ramsays used skulls-n-skeletons to scare the living daylights out of you. But post BHOOT, supernatural thrillers, errie and spooky themes and scary movies have only evolved this side of the Atlantic.
13B, directed by Vikram Kumar, belongs to the same family as THE RING and PULSE. No, it’s not a copy of these two films, but there’s an uncanny resemblance: A home appliance is used by the spirits to convey their message.
To give the credit where it’s due, 13B involves you in the proceedings and most importantly, scares you as well. But the director, who also happens to be the writer of the film, ought to know an unwritten rule for movies of this genre. Cut it short. 13B is stretched, sorry over-stretched by at least 25-30 minutes and you just can’t help but exclaim, ‘Enough! Come to the point please.’
The problem is, 13B takes its own sweet time to come to the point. Besides, you can’t help notice the blemishes in the screenplay. What eventually comes across is a film that had the stamina to win the marathon, but which runs out of breath and starts huffing and puffing midway.
Manohar [R. Madhavan], an upwardly mobile middle class Indian, moves into a new apartment — 13B on the 13th floor — with his family. From the first day in their new home, the women are hooked to a new TV show ‘Sab Khairiyat’. The show is about a family eerily similar to their family, who have also just moved into a new house.
As the TV show unfolds, the incidents that happen in the show start happening to Manohar and his family. Initially, a number of happy events take place and a lot of good things happen, both in the show and with Manohar’s family. Then things take a turn for the worse and shocking incidents start happening in the TV show.
Will the same happen to Manohar and his family? Will Manohar be able to solve the mystery in time before it consumes him and his entire family?
Now let’s look at the plusses: P.C. Sreeram’s exceptional camerawork, the brilliant sound design and of course, an energetic background score that enhances the mood. Add to it a few individualistic sequences, which merit ample praise. The sequences with the septuagenarian neighbour and his dog are exceptional, especially the sequence when the dog refuses to enter the flat.
But the screenplay goes back foot at regular intervals. In fact, the writer builds up the story really well, it reaches its crescendo and then… it blows it up. The viewer is curious to get to the bottom of the mystery and when you do reach there, you aren’t too convinced with what actually unravels.
If the television set had to spill the beans towards the end to the culprit, why didn’t it do so to the main protagonist earlier? Also, a photo album is unearthed from the play area of the garden, but how come it wasn’t unearthed when the mansion gave way to a high-rise apartment? Even the track involving Deepak Dobriyal had the potential to be a great ‘twist in the tale’, but the limitations in the writing show up during this chapter as well.
Director Vikram Kumar has executed the material well, but he should’ve limited the running time of the film to 1.30 hours or maximum 1.45 hours, definitely not 2.28 hours [yes, that's the running time of this film]. Dialogues are, surprisingly, pedestrian. How could the director okay them in the first place? Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy’s music is more of an intrusion. Ideally, it should’ve been a songless film.
Madhavan does a commendable job. This is amongst his better works. Neetu Chandra is alright. Amongst supporting actors, Deepak Dobriyal’s body language and performance leaves an impression. Poonam Dhillon gets no scope. Sachin Khedekar is wasted. Dhrtiman Chatterjee, the neighbour, is first-rate.
On the whole, 13B is interesting in parts, not in entirety. Also, as mentioned earlier, films of this genre, the world over, have a shorter duration [1.30 hours or 1.45 hours] and the approx. 2.28 hours’ running time would test the patience of the viewer. At the box-office, with cricket matches on one hand and examinations on the other proving major oppositions, this scary movie would prove to be a scary proposition for its investors.