In this weekly column, Reel Retake, we compare the original film and its remake. Beyond highlighting the similarities, differences and measuring them on the success scale, we aim to discover the potential in the storyline that spurred the thought for a newer version and the ways in which a remake could possibly offer a different viewing experience. And if that is the case, analyse the film.
The movie in focus this week is Marathi social horror film Lapachhapi and its Hindi remake Chhorii, starring Nushrratt Bharuccha.
What is Lapachhapi about?
Lapachhapi starts off by introducing us to a heavily pregnant Neha (Pooja Sawant) who is forced to evade the city due to unforeseen circumstances. Fearing for their lives, her debt-ridden husband Tushar (Vikram Gaikwad) decides to run off to a village where they can’t be found for a few days. Their driver Bhaurao leads them to his place in the middle of a sugarcane field. Bhaurao’s wife Tulsabai (Usha Naik) resides in the old home in the village and takes it upon herself to take care of Neha during this time.
Meanwhile, Tushar returns to the city telling Neha he will arrange some money and bring her back with him. Neha is averse of being left alone with a complete stranger but Tulsabai’s maternal instincts makes her comfortable and Tushar leaves for the city. Little does Neha know that not only is the place haunted by supernatural spirits, who are waiting to harm her and the unborn child, but the living are more dangerous than the dead and their intentions are hidden under the pretense of love and care. Now, Neha must put up a fight for the safety of her baby or lose everything battling both the dead and the living.
Wherein lies the potential?
The strongest suit of Lapachhapi is the story. It is a horror film with a message. A socially relevant film that is not only filled with jump scares, but also makes you anxious at each turn. At the center of affairs is a pregnant woman, who is not only vulnerable due to her condition, but also helpless in the face of danger, both real and unknown. Since Neha is bearing a baby, the audiences’ sympathy is with her since the start. So every problem she encounters becomes their fear. Pooja’s performance is very invested and she carries the role with finesse. As she encounters the supernatural, the lines between real and unreal blur and illusions overpower vision, her acting shines through.
In a prominent role is Usha Naik as Tulsabai, whose real intentions get clearer as the story progresses. She changes the look and feel of the film altogether. Her expressions will make you immerse in the storytelling and keep you hooked until the end. Lurking in between the shadows and moonlight, is the scary looking Tulsabai, who will go to any extent for her family’s safety.
Lapachhapi uses some familiar horror movie tropes but they only add to the ambience of terror. There’s novelty in jump scares and the location lends a newer dimension to the terror that unfolds. Imagine getting lost in a maze of tall sugarcane fields as threat keeps lurking from all sides! The movie is creepy as it can be and the vision of the director Vishal Furia comes across in the right manner. The storytelling is not compromised for the message, which is kept for the climax. The movie also presents us with a clash of ideologies between the rural and the urban. It is engaging and anxiety-inducing and a rounded horror experience that is enhanced by the sound effects and cinematography.
Chhorii fails to capture the essence of the original
While Lapachhapi wastes no time in transporting us to the place of horror, i.e. the sugarcane fields, Chhorii wastes time in set up. We are introduced to Sakshi (Nushrratt) working at a children’s NGO where the dialogues become expository and information is spoon fed. The pace is also slowed down and that is partly because of the actor’s performance. Nushrratt fails to capture the vulnerability of a pregnant woman in her expressions as the stakes get higher. This robs us of the mainstay of the film. The interplay of illusions and reality that played out perfectly in the original film, is missing in the remake. Even the rawness of the Marathi film is missing here. This despite the original director remaking it in Hindi. The mood and tension in Chhorii never really builds up the level where we are worrying about Sakhsi’s life and that of the unborn baby. The ambience is right but the acting does not create the desired effect.
Even Mita’s performance as a baby-preying Bhanno Devi is not as good as Usha’s in the original. While Usha managed to hide her intentions in plain sight, Mita doesn’t quite capture the character’s outline and looks more like an overbearing woman trying to get her way in any possible way. Usha’s acting juggled between caring and predatory with no indication whatsoever about the her next move. That sort of edge is missing in Mita.
Vishal has not been able to recreate the similar mood in his own remake. Things progress at a very slow pace. The stakes never rise as they are supposed to so the climax isn’t as impactful. The cinematography and the prosthetics for the ghost are mostly similar to the original and despite a change in location no novelty is offered.
On release, Lapachhapi was a sleeper hit. It was lauded for being fresh and distinct in the genre. Pooja’s performance, which was the driver, was hailed by the viewers and Vishal’s direction and writing were also praised. In Chhorii, the horror feels stale and the performances aren’t convincing enough to pull off the story. Chhorii should serve as an incentive to revisit the original. It is more raw and has an indie spirit that works wonders.