Director Pawan Kirpalani shot to instant fame with 2011's horror date movie Ragini MMS. DARR @ THE MALL is his second horrific outing and presented & produced by Multi Screen Media Motion Pictures and Contiloe Entertainment. There are one or two people only in the film industry who do justice to horror genre, otherwise, this genre has not quite caught up to the fullest in India. Most horror films made in Bollywood are just not petrifying enough to make the viewers horror-struck, leaving aside some exceptions. There is evidently a lot of scope for this genre as Hollywood horror films that release in India do huge business. The fact that this film is based on a mall which is haunted by evil spirits is state-of-the-art. This is Jimmy Sheirgill's first horror movie, A Flat (2010) being a suspense-thriller.
After the mysterious death of security chief Rajendra Solanki, Vishnu (Jimmy Sheirgill), who has a past that haunts him, walks into the haunted Amity Mall, whom the deceased had recommend as per the wish of the ghost on a phone call, following which he was burnt to death in his car. The owner Alok Manchanda (Arif Zakaria) along with his friend Khan (Asif Basra), ask Vishnu to become the security in-charge. In order to rubbish the ghostly rumours and to get a free publicity for the mall, Mr. Manchanda announces a party with his marketing chief cum girlfriend Tisha (Nivedita Bhattacharya) and the board of directors. They, together with Manchanda’s daughter Ahana (Nushrat Bharucha) and her junky friends got trapped inside the mall as the spirit makes them undergo a horrifying experience that ends in death, ultimately leading to Vishnu's past. The owners were refused by a nun (Shraddha Kaul) to demolish her home and build the mall in question. She was leading a calm life with her 22 children. As a result, they all were burnt alive. But one child, Arjun, escaped somehow. Arjun becomes Vishnu, with the passage of time. But Vishnu remembers nothing. One of the spirits of the burnt children made Vishnu remember his past, by narrating the complete story. When the spirits of the nun & the children took their revenge by killing everyone associated, they leave the mall.
The plot seems a wee bit like Vikram Bhatt's Horror Story (2013) and Shawn Arranha's Hide & Seek (2010), that featured a batch of young people stuck in a haunted hotel and mall, respectively. The story/screenplay (Agrim Joshi & Pawan Kirpalani) keeps the viewers on edge of their seats, forging the tension and mystery with competence. But for a horror movie to work, the ongoings must be eerie enough to scare the pants off the viewers. The movie falls flat in providing ample fear. The dialogues (Vinod Rawat & Agrim Joshi) are plain ordinary in respect of a horror flick. Badly painted child ghosts mar the fear quotient, in totality. The Production design (Dhananjay Kumar Yadav) is a bad concoction of telly series Aahat, CID and Bhoot Aaya with olde worlde outfits (Malavika Kashikar). Some of the scenes are heavily inspired from Insidious (2010), The Conjuring (2013), Horror Story, Hide & Seek and The Shinning (1980). Scenes remain silent and still; not for long though, but long enough to make the viewers impatient, leave aside scaring the living daylights out. Horror movies shouldn't be more than 90 minutes of their runtime. But clocking in at 124 minutes precisely, the pace and editing (Pooja Ladha Surti) leave the viewers dog-tired. Shankar Mahadevan, Ehsaan Noorani, and Loy Mendonsa's music along with Amitabh Bhattacharya's lyrics are plain ordinary. Ganesh Hegde's choreography of "Pinacolada" song is lazy. The cinematography (Gargey Trivedi) too, is quite clumsy. The film has all the mandatory checklists of a horror movie in place. Eerie childhood tunes playing (background score: Ranjit Barot), sudden opening-closing of doors, handprints of the ghost, scatterd stains of blood, lights flickering, ghost calling names from inside the human & in a jiffy the human is completely blanked out and a brief love making scene as well. But all these contribute to *nil* in terms of *visual fright*. Imagine the ghost whistling and using a blindfold to catch her prey. Scary mannequins, spooky looking air-conditioning ducts and even an ice skating rink are shown to capitalize on the horror quotient. The spirit of the nun is something like the Black Bride from Insidious. Some of the scenes are left unexplained. Why did the miscreant owners burn the children with the nun? They should have burnt the nun only. How come Vishnu didn't remember anything clearly from his childhood? To forget such a drastic situation is dealt in a casual manner. What a goofy direction after the much frightening Ragini MMS! One wonders about the basis of Censor Board certification, after watching this film. This flick should have done with a U/A certificate, instead of an Adults Only certificate. Even the glimpses of the ghost are limited.
Thankfully the plot doesn't turn the flick into a laughathon, alike every single bland horror movies incessantly churning out of Bollywood. Although the movie is a revenge drama, in true sense, and manages to tug a few heartstrings ultimately, it's so damn nasty, provided the horror genre. The penult and the ultimate 20 minutes of the movie are innovative and the only abiding scenes.
Casting By Prashant Singh is apt. Jimmy Sheirgill is a delight to watch. He stands out, teetotally. He plays his part with gusto. Nushrat Bharucha, Arif Zakaria, Asif Basra, Nivedita Bhattacharya, Geet Sharma, Vikram Raj Bhardwaj and Shraddha Kaul lend able support. They are supremely confident, avowedly. Neeraj Sood make the viewers grin.
On the whole, the movie gets underway with promises galore but falls flat due to its execution and *nil* fear factor. The viewers won't feel any "darr @ the HALL." Bummer!view less