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1920 Review

Can watch again
Good for kids
Good for dates
Wait to rent it
Tic. Toc.

That's one of the best dialogues this writer has heard in a long time.

Another being, "Testestestestestestestestestestestestestestestestestestestestest."

It's never easy to watch a movie and enjoy it in Ramakrishna, unless watching a movie in Ramakrishna is itself your idea of enjoyment. If you did not understand that sentence, there's some localization you need, but that's not the point of this paragraph. It's how 1920 bludgeons the riotous and cacophonic crowd in the old neighbourhood theatre into submission. Towards the end, the crowd claps. The. Ramakrishna. Crowd. Actually. Claps.

As a horror flick, 1920 stares at the rest of the amorphous bunch from way up there. Vikram Bhatt's faith in his capability to scare is so strong, there's not one recognizable face in the entire film. And how he redeems himself. In the midst of that raucous din in the theatre where the highly expressive old city crowd (you know, don't you) on a weekend evening high is spoiling a nice horror flick for everyone else, 1920 works its way up your spine with such brute force, that at the end of a shuddering climax as the credits roll and the audiences are starting to head out the aisles, as a lone youngster finally breaks the hush with a tentatively assertive "Phaad diya baap!" and breaks into an awkward grin desperately seeking endorsement, joining in is almost cathartic for the dazed crowd.

1920 is the tale of a young couple Arjun (Rajneesh Duggal) and Lisa (Adah Sharma), who land up at an ancient but magnificent mansion, which Arjun, an architect, has to get broken down and reconstructed into a hotel. However, from the day they land in the desolate leviathan of an edifice, Lisa starts feeling uneasy. And hearing things. And feeling things. And, soon, seeing things. And by the time Arjun discovers her gleefully relishing the raw intestines and the fresh blood of a cat she's just killed, it's too late.

Or maybe it's not too late yet. The Devil gives them 4 days to entertain Him with a fight. Only, it's the year 1920, there are no planes, no cars and no Google, and 4 days is awfully short.

You know, it's scary sitting here and typing, since it involves thinking all of that all over again.

In the horror genre, 1920 will easily be the film to better for filmmakers for a long time. The movie scares you, in a theatre with 400 others, and this writer doesn't really scare too easy. Debutante Adah Sharma delivers a performance, as a loving wife, as a possessed woman, and as the Devil with a pant-wetting sense of humour, that should rank up there in sheer density of power. She's so good, she can retire now - she's at the peak of her career.

It's easy to say 1920 is inspired by The Exorcist - it is, in scenes such as the drawer opening and closing by itself, and the levitation above the bed - but if you put your mind to it, how does it matter? If you've even seen The Exorcist, you'll realize it's not as much about the theme as the dialogues and the execution (when asked why, if He is the Devil, He can't untie the knots binding Him, The Devil replies, "Now that would be too vulgar a display of power."). And that is where 1920 does it for you - in dialogues and execution. Sure, the Devil in 1920 doesn't really match up to that in The Exorcist in sheer IQ, but that's really no sin - He's still much smarter than everyone you hate, and with the chutzpah of raw power fully intact. And yes, He can make small talk.

1920 appears to lose it on political correctness towards the end - we'll stay out of it here, just as we are staying out of pointing out logical fallacies (and looking for logical fallacies in a horror film?). For, 1920 was made to thrill. And you can't dispute it does.

Hopefully, the paisa vasool is over in the theatre for you. For, we humans also come with a concept feature called dreams. And the fear of the dark.
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1920 (hindi) reviews
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  • Cast
    Rajneesh Duggal, Adah Sharma, Anjoli Alagh
    1 user says this is wrong.
  • Director
    Vikram Bhatt
    1 user says this is wrong.
  • Theatres
    Not screening currently in any theatres in Hyderabad.
Can watch again - No
Good for kids - No
Good for dates - Yes
Wait to rent it - No
diehard-5 on 25th Oct 2008, 11:49pm | Permalink
For Dropsy:

1. "....movies should be judged by the time at which they were made..."

I don't think every movie should strictly be evaluated with reference to the times in which it was made, though certain movies might have looked better only in the times they were made, if it's principal thematic appeal is largely based on the social or cultural phenomenon of that particular era, the movie attempts to identify itself with. Barring few exceptions, many great movies,in fact, manage to stand the test of time because they all usually touch upon certain fundamental themes of human nature or ever recurrent facets of reality that are relevant any time. For ex, Kurosawa's 'Rashomon' or Scorcese's 'Taxi Driver'. Moreover, I am not sure,there weren't critics and the general audience who found 'The Exorcist' to be overrated even at the time it was released. In fact, the ability to withstand the test of time can be called one of the major yardsticks for calling a movie, of any genre, 'great'.

2. "...evil dead, considered one of the most scary movies of all times for long, wouldn't perhaps scare many kids today..."

I personally find Evil Dead to be much more scarier than 'The Exorcist' even to this day and I think the same about Donner's Omen. Unlike 'The Exorcist', both 'Evil Dead' and 'Omen' reflect better, the spirit of an horror flick.

3. "....many amitabh bachchan movies that were huge hits would appear too loud and melodramatic today...."

I think many contemporary Hindi movies are as loud and melodramatic as Bachchan movies were or just as crappy. In fact, many movies are much worse. Just like good movies, many bad movies too are not time-sensitive. They are 'bad' in any era though some of them are/were huge hits. On the otherhand, movies like Nihalani's 'Ardhsatya' look stunningly thoughtful even to this day, though it wasn't as huge a hit as some of it's contemporary Bachchan flicks.

4. ".....thus, exorcist was a movie that made a huge impact at its time, and might not appear as great to many who are watching it 30 years later, after watching much more technically superior movies...."

I never understand how as sloppily executed movie as 'The Exorcist' could have made a huge impact in any time(the only reason, I could think of is, Friedkin managed to sustain a dark, ominous mood half way through the movie. After that, the movie simply falls apart). On top of that, I believe 'Exorcist' wasn't a hit solely because of its 'special effects'(in fact, no horror film can be) given the fact that the audience couldn't have been bamboozled by visual effects alone, having already watched the likes of 'The Mckenna's Gold', that not only predates 'The Exorcist' but technically far brilliant, or, if you insist on speaking of the same genre, 'Frankenstein', released way back in 1931. Thus, 'The Exorcist' is simply a bad movie, not just because of its technical obsolescence or impertinence, but also because of it's thematic superficiality and poor narrative, which, usually, are symptomatic of bad movie-making anywhere, anytime.
dropsy on 19th Oct 2008, 5:37pm | Permalink
@diehard-5: movies should be judged by the time at which they were made. evil dead, considered one of the most scary movies of all times for long, wouldn't perhaps scare many kids today. many amitabh bachchan movies that were huge hits would appear too loud and melodramatic today. thus, exorcist was a movie that made a huge impact at its time, and might not appear as great to many who are watching it 30 years later, after watching much more technically superior movies, and many that have been based on it and have at times improved upon it.

Pros: performances, effects
Cons: none
diehard-5 on 19th Oct 2008, 5:04pm | Permalink
Exorcist, my dear, is a highly overrated film. It's in no way a benchmark for the horror movies though it's theme is subsequently copied in a million horror flicks. And contrary to what you say in the review, 'The Exorcist' has no IQ though it sustains the mood up to a certain fact, most of the scenes in exorcist are childish to the extent that they are actually laughable......
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