Direction: Shiv Mohaa
Cast: Ashwin Kakumanu, Shivada, Chakravarthy, Ravi Raghavendhar
Zero, starring Ashwin Kakumanu and Sshivada Nair, is an engaging horror-fantasy that can leave you guessing all the way through. The premise is easy enough to understand: the wife of a recently married couple begins to have inexplicable changes in her behavior to the point of becoming crazy. The cause behind this seems hard to ascertain, and although initially one could trace it out to her loony mother, that still doesn’t explain the sudden moody outbursts. Perhaps, is there something more to this? Something a bit more ominous. By trying to answer this, Zero explores territories that are strange, twisted and outlandish to the human mind.
Bala’s (Ashwin) professional life is connected to working for a social cause. He marries Priya (Sshivvada), who is an orphan. Her deceased mom has had an history of mental instability, to the point of her husband abandoning her. Parentless and all by herself, Priya too is heading towards the same path - a path where science probably doesn’t have an explanation. Despite reservations from Bala’s dad, he nonetheless goes through with the marriage and the duo begin life anew.
Director Shiv Mohaa had other plans though. Instead of letting the film play out as a psychological horror-thriller, he weaves in a biblical narrative that have consequences which even the gods would not have foreseen. The storyline is rather vague in the first half and something is always amiss. This is further reinforced by events such as Solomon(Chakravarthy) professing to speak to his deceased wife Andrea when in reality, he’d have required a checkup at a mental asylum. Priya too hears noises. Sees things that aren’t there. Sleepwalks. Her desolation is clearly visible, and she has the air of carrying the sins of multiple lifetimes. What happens to the couple and why she behaves the way she does forms the reminder of the film.
The direction and the camerawork have played a large part is creating this ambience. The setup reveals the characters at their most uncertain, keeping us on the edge in turn. Additionally, Ashwin and Sshivada have backed this up with solid performances. They have starkly different roles, as one is sober and in touch with reality and the other often is consumed by a fiery disposition. And this works surprisingly well.
The age-old problem of predictability begins to set in as the second half commences though. Although the supernatural element allows for such sharp twists as the director had made, it also takes the edge of the horror and terror that was felt in the 1st half. The realities of making such a film is also hard to maintain: the script takes off exponentially in the supernatural realm, whereas the resources required to recreate that is just too high.
In the end, Zero is a thrilling ride into the unknown. A discrepancy between what’s on paper and the final output renders the make-believe aspect a little less convincing. Still, it is a new experience for the audience....