Every time an Indian film with a very novel premise comes along, we often come to know about some Asian original from which it shamelessly ripped off. I had no idea about its originality when I was watching this film. It was only when I was halfway through my review that my cynicism got the better of me. How can such a pathetically directed film lead to such an interesting turn of events? I googled and learnt that Charulatha is an official remake of a 2007 Thai film titled Alone. Why am I not surprised.
Charulatha is a story of two conjoined sisters who are so close, they'd stay together even if they weren't stuck together by the waist. Love comes their way and a rift in their relationship follows. One of the twin dies and returns to haunt the other for failing to keep a promise. It has a very decent premise but it tries to do something it doesn't have the caliber to carry out properly- which is aspiring to be a horror film. As it painfully spends its time trying to scare us, it is unbearable to sit through. Like many horror films, it heavily relies on loud background music and other sound effects to spook the audience. While even the worst films belonging to the genre manage to successfully scare us at least once in its run time, Charulatha fails miserably. It takes all the quintessential elements of the genre but does nothing new with it. There's one scene where Charu's in a bathtub and gets attacked by the spirit, another where she's alone in a lift, one with her walking around the house looking for her pet dog.. these are the scenes which we have seen many a times already. Forget novelty, it doesn't even succeed at replicating them well.
It's hard to look at horror films the same way after watching this year's mind-bending entertainer The Cabin in the Woods. That film managed to put every single horror film into a context. This makes many of my qualms with Charulatha look insignificant. As if I have answers to all my questions but I am still mad at many of the cliches belonging to this genre. For example, it makes no sense for Charulatha to continue to stay in that tacky house of hers after knowing very well that it is haunted. It is not even as if she is trapped there. She goes about her life but keeps returning to the damned place by the night. There's a fat kid and his fat sister who are the caretakers of the house who add no value to the story. Their attempts at humor fail miserably, further worsening the film's plight. Strangely there aren't any deaths in the film, though I kept hoping something would get to the fat kid.
On one side, there's a psychiatrist trying to help rationalizing even the most unusual events. Then there's a benevolent black magician who goes around catching spirits with Deshi Deshi Basara Basara playing in the background. There's a subplot where he fetches a sacred stem from a tree-top, which makes those Amman serials on Sun TV look as good as Rosemary's Baby. Everything that happens till this point is so atrocious that many people at my screening walked out. But then something happened near the end which put all the events into a context. It even makes you like the film a little bit, yet it doesn't change the fact that I just suffered for most of the runtime.
Them being Siamese twins is itself a mere gimmick. They did not appear to be sharing any vital organs and splitting them apart wouldn't have been fatal in any way. Yet the girls absurdly suffer being stuck together for more than twenty years! Charu's Mom is bed-ridden throughout and has nothing much to do except breathe heavily every time someone comes to visit her. She is visibly bored and happily dozes off at the end of all her scenes. Don't even get me started about the boyfriend.
Charulatha is not worth your money and time. Pick up a DVD of the Thai original instead.