The climax of Khamoshiyan sees a grown man chasing a butterfly. The butterfly then gets caught in the blades of a whirring pedestal fan and transforms into two CGI animals that are meant to be wolves, but look like Pomeranians that dyed their white fur with henna. These then mutate into a jeans-wearing zombie with a nose ring.
It’s difficult to imagine that this at any stage — as an idea in writer Vikram Bhatt’s head, as words on a printed page or as drawings in a visual effects program — seemed like a good idea, but here’s the real horror of Khamoshiyan: not only did this film get made, but Fox Star Studios bought the film from Vishesh Films in the hopes of making a little bit of money as it gets ready for its first big release of the year, Bombay Velvet.
To give the film it’s due, there is a fair degree of suspense in Khamoshiyan. For the better part of its 122 minutes’ duration, we’re left wondering who is the biggest idiot of them all. Is it Kabir (Ali Fazal), who walks into a deserted hotel and stays in it, even though it’s managed by an unblinking woman and is obviously haunted? Or could it be Mira (Sapna Pubbi), who trusts a random stranger despite him creepily knowing entirely too much about her past, lets him take her to his massive, empty home and marries him? Or maybe it’s Jaidev (Gurmeet Choudhary) with his fetish for butterflies in jars, who thinks growing a beard will turn him into a suave hero when all it does is make him look like a chipmunk that idolises Fawad Khan? Most likely, it’s the audience of teenaged boys who buy tickets for Khamoshiyan hoping to see an adult film and have to wait for a good hour before anything even remotely carnal presents itself on screen.
Someone needs to ask Bhatt about his holiday experiences because for the second time in a year, he’s written a story in which a woman hotelier ends up being the victim of a horror story. Last year, we saw Bipasha Basu take on a distant cousin of a dinosaur in Creature 3D while trying to run a hotel in the hills. In Khamoshiyan, we have Mira doing a terrible job of running Lakeside Manor, in the outskirts of Srinagar. She doesn’t have a single guest and from how dark everything is, she hasn’t paid her electricity bills in a while. Into this gloom and doom setting comes Kabir, an author who is nursing a heartbreak and hoping to write his second book since his first one is being chucked in roadside dustbins. Considering he begins his new novel with the fragment, “This is a story about…”, we may gather that he is not the next Haruki Murakami although he does get up in the morning and go for long walks (Murakami begins his day with a run).
Since Mira is wafting around Lakeside Manor doing household chores in entirely impractical clothing — what kind of an idiot climbs a ladder while wearing an evening gown? The sort that hitches a ride with strangers in BMWs on a highway that is definitely not anywhere in India but pretends to be Kashmir — Kabir falls in love with her. But Mira is married to Jaidev, who she says is paralysed and lives on the first floor. Jaidev will not let her leave the house so she picks up skills like embalming and being able to turn her husky, high-pitched voice into a gravelly baritone. It turns out Jaidev is the one who owns Lakeside Manor, which leads us to believe that Khamoshiyan is really a story of how to get rid of squatters off one’s property.
To add to the suspense, there are people decapitating chickens and drinking their blood in the middle of the night, and a creepy dude who hangs around a crematorium and can mumble gibberish that draws evil spirits out of their lair.
Even if you have an extremely active imagination and are lily-livered, it’s difficult to feel any fear while watching Khamoshiyan. Everything is absurdly fake. You could make a butterfly out of wrapping paper that would look more real. If you squirted tomato ketchup on yourself, it would be more convincing than the fake blood used in Khamoshiyan. There’s one blighted sequence in which Jaidev ties up a bra-clad Mira and for a second it looks like director Karan Darra is going to attempt an Indian Fifty Shades of Grey. But despite the pink-looking A-rated censor certificate, all you get is some heavy breathing from skimpily-clad actors.
If there is one way in which Khamoshiyan outdoes itself, it’s in how hilarious it is. It’s not easy to come up with a story and film worse than Creature 3D, but Khamoshiyan manages this. If you’re planning to watch this film because it’s A-rated, don’t bother. On the other hand if you’re drunk, walk in after interval and Khamoshiyan may be of the trippier, comic experiences you’ve had.