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Darna Zaroori Hai

Amitabh Bachchan, Riteish Deshmukh, Arjun Rampal, Bipasha Basu, Makarand Deshpande, Anil Kapoor, Mallika Sherawat, Suniel Shetty, Riteish Deshmukh, Randeep Hooda, Manoj Pahwa, Rajpal Yadav

india Updated: Apr 29, 2006 18:20 IST

A demented insurance sales agent (Rajpal Yadav) barges into a couple's afternoon love-making and creates horrific havoc, a wannabe actress (Mallika Sherawat) hitches a ride with a hot shot director who wants to switch from family films to the horror genre, a professor (Amitabh Bachchan) looks into the mirror to see an eerie stranger...

Ram Gopal Varma's film is every bit as scary as you want it to be. There are chunks when you fall off your seat. Fortunately, the scare-snare is laid out with loads of tongue-in-cheek Hitchcockian humour...For example, the fat man in Sajid Khan's story watches Darna Manaa Hai in an empty theatre....

Ram Gopal's scare fest could've been far more frightening if it had not tried to pack in so many stories into one scoop of eye-scream. Devil knows there're elements of genuine horror in the presentation. Apparent ghosts turn out to be human beings, while apparent human beings turn into ghouls before the final fadeout of each short story. The sense of ongoing ambiguity is the narrative's main asset.

The pick of the lot is the Mallika Sherawat-Anil Kapoor story (directed by Jiji Philips who directed Anil in the whodunit My Wife's Murder some time ago). Anil is a hotshot director called Karan Kapoorwho picks up a sexy hitch-hiker (Mallika). The girl plays mind games with Anil all the way to Khandala. This segment is funny and scary. And also rather tragic.

Two of the stories end with their protagonists, Manoj Pahwa and Anil Kapoor, dying of heart failure after being scared by pseudo-ghosts. Just goes to show, shiver at your own risk.

Humour in fact runs through all the stories. Whether it's the furiously tongue-in-cheek prelude directed by Sajid Khan where a fat man (Manoj Pahwa) gorges his way through a screening of Ram Gopal Varma's Darna Manaa Hai, then is scared out of his life in a graveyard.

Even the Bipasha-Arjun episode (the two look so well-matched together) has its moments of mirth. But the ghoulish element - the raison d'etre for these stories - get way out of hand with kids dropping dead as an old woman sits them down to tell them stories. Kids getting bumped off isn't fun. Horror films are at the end of the day (or night) meant to assuage your fear of the unknown.

What the film's seven directors do is to bring a kind of compulsive cohesiveness to the tale of the unknown. Lamentably the segment directed by Ram Gopal Varma featuring the mighty Bachchan falls short... and hardest. Though Riteish Deshmukh stands up admirably well to the formidable competition.

Many of the other actors surprise you by their presence... Bipasha's smouldering sensuality, Randeep Hooda's startling intensity (as a man possessed), Rajpal Yadav's manic portrayal of working-class dementia, and of course Mr Bachchan as a man who imagines he's being stalked by an invisible entity.

At the end of the scare fest you're looking at a film with a profusion of talent. But not enough proof of the talent's productivity.

First Published: Apr 29, 2006 18:20 IST