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DVD Review: Naina

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Previously on Zombos Closet of Horror:

Zombos, IL and Glenor discovered a rather large hole in Zombos' closet. Apparently caused by an equally large mouth with sharp teeth. The exterminator has been summoned. While Zombos and IL polish off their second bottle of a delightfully delicate claret while waiting for the exterminator, serious questions still remain. What took a big bite out of Zombos closet? Will the exterminator arrive before they have to break open the case of Olorosa cream sherry? Can a Bollywood-horror film actually be successful without singing and dancing? And why is Iloz Zoc, Zombos' astute valet, writing this in the third person?

It took a few attempts to get Shripal Morakhia's Naina into the DVD player. After the first bottle of claret, my coordination deteriorated rapidly. I finally loaded the disc, and we were soon watching this intriguing Bollywood-horror remake of The Eye.

With a matter-of-fact tagline that reads, 'Twenty years of darkness, seven days of hell, no one could survive it, SHE DID,' we did not have very high expectations. But the claret made us stronger and more daring. I was also sorely, disappointed that there were no documentaries, commentaries, or any extras on the DVD.

Then there are the cultural differences: How would a Hindi version of The Eye fit in with the melodramatic and religious aspects of Bollywood cinema?

"Bring on the dancing and singing Gopis," hiccuped Zombos. "If I could stand it in Rocky Horror, I can stand it here."

"There were no Gopis in The Rocky Horror Picture Show," I told him.

"Not dressed as such, but the premise is the same."

"Point taken," I conceded. "But there are no Gopis, nor singing or dancing in this film."

"What? Impossible! I thought that was a contractual requirement for every Bollywood film?"

"Apparently horror films are excluded from that requirement." I concluded. I started the film.

Naina

The opening sequence shows the accident that leaves the young Naina blind, intercut with a bloody cesarean-section that reveals a still-born baby girl who suddenly comes back to life as Naina's parents are killed in the accident, and an eclipse of the sun. We are then brought some years later to a point where Naina is ready to undergo a cornea transplant operation.

Urmila Matondkar plays Naina with a bit of melodrama — after all this is a Bollywood film — and her overly grandmotherly grandmother (Kamini Khanna) rarely leaves her side. Yet, the coloration of the film, the cinematography, and, to some extent, the somber, bittersweet piano score are more indicative of a J-Horror-styled film.

Naina speaks briefly to a boy undergoing numerous brain operations, before she undergoes her surgery, but the scene is marred by the use of a really bad bald wig on the boy. At least I am sure it was a bald wig and not a bandage: either way, it confused both of us enough to distraction. Reading the subtitles, one also gets a sense for the poetic dialogue often used in Hindi films. I should add that it is also damned difficult to take notes when reading subtitles. No wonder you don't see many reviews of Hindi horror.

She undergoes the operation, and soon begins to see, through her blurry vision, creepy dark figures leading patients away. She also starts to hear spooky sounds, and has visions of dead people. Strangely enough, just about every dead person she sees is dressed in clean white, neatly pressed clothes. It is comforting to know that there are laundries in the after-life. No sense of fashion, just laundries.

Grandma soon pulls out the eligible bachelor photos for Naina to see, now that she can, and starts working the old marriage magic on her. But Naina is becoming more and more melodramatic as her visions become more unnerving. As Hindi cinema tradition would have it, the psychiatrist grandma brings Naina to for help is handsome, eligible, and infatuated with her loveliness immediately — it's love at first sight for both of them. A somewhat derailing Love Boat romantic montage ensues, and the horror portion of the film is put in the backseat as love is in the air.

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