Film: Pizza 3D
Direction: Akshay Akkineni
Actors: Akshay Oberoi, Parvathy Omanakuttan, Rajesh Sharma
The thing with the supernatural as a genre in Bollywood is that the bar has been set rather low, and successes have been few and far-between.
Back in 1979, the super-hit Jaani Dushman also had a super star cast. And the last horror film with good actors and a good premise was arguably Ram Gopal Varma's Bhoot (2003), starring Ajay Devgn and Urmila Matondkar. Otherwise, for the most part, this genre has been the bastion of B-grade actors or those past their prime; the aesthetic has ranged from the cheap to the cringe-worthy; and the plots have made you laugh while earnestly trying to scare, or, worse, been brazen vehicles for erotica and cheap thrills.
Fittingly, then, when we come across a horror film that's actually decent (still no star cast; this is indeed a genre that everyone but Emraan Hashmi has forsaken), it isn't an original but a remake. The Hindi, 3D version shares its title and most of its plot points with a 2012 Tamil film that has, incidentally, already been remade in other languages (Bengali and Kannada).
Pizza delivery boy Kunal (Akshay Oberoi) has a wife (Parvathy Omanakuttan) who writes ghost stories for a living, but he doesn't believe in ghosts. On a seemingly routine delivery, he is trapped inside a bungalow, where a sequence of supernatural occurrences unfold.
Yes, it's a predictable enough premise for a horror film. But, provided you haven't seen or read about the original, there are enough surprises in the horror-meets-psychological thriller story to keep things interesting.
More importantly, first-time director Akshay Akkineni manages to pull off something with which most other horror film-makers in Bollywood fumble — he ensures that at no point do production values suffer. And though he uses largely hackneyed set pieces to scare — bloody footprints, the walking dead, scary children, hands from under the bed or behind the door — he executes them well.
There is remarkably good use of light and darkness, the scary bits are short and sharp rather than protracted, and even the 3D (again, surprisingly, not the dim and up-converted variety) is utilised well, especially to enhance depth in a scary, long corridor that frequently pops up.
If you've seen Bejoy Nambiar's thriller Shaitan, you'll see that the treatment here (Nambiar has co-produced Pizza) borrows a fair bit from his style.
Lead actor Oberoi's acting, if not outstanding, is convincing, while Omanakuttan switches from pretty to scary quite effectively. The very underrated Rajesh Sharma delivers yet another fine cameo as the superstitious pizza shop owner.
If you're the sort of horror junkie who feeds on Hollywood and Japanese versions (Japan is to horror what Italy is to pizza), don't expect to see something you haven't seen before. But by Bollywood standards, this film easily outdoes most of what passes for horror.
As pizzas go, this is Peppy Paneer. Far from authentic, but still enjoyable, as long as it's well made.