Dybbuk review: The Emraan Hashmi- Nikita Dutta starrer fails to evoke any emotion, including fear
As I sit in front of my laptop, trying to put together my thoughts and share with the readers how I felt after watching the newest Bollywood horror film on the block, Dybbuk, there’s only one question that’s in my head- was there a necessity for this remake? This is a question that crops up way too often these days, especially after directors of the original take it upon themselves to direct the same film, with the same content in another language. Now I know, beginning a review with comparison isn’t fair, but how do I put aside this entire chain of thoughts that questions why a set of producers decided to put their money on the very same content that is already available. This becomes relevant since we are in the time of OTT boom. It’s relevant because I had watched Ezra just a few days back so that I could see what new Jay K (director and writer of both Ezra and Dybbuk) had to offer in the Hindi remake. The initial plan was to put it later into the review as to why one needs to watch Dybbuk even if they might have watched Ezra, which by the way is available with Hindi dub too. However, the reason why the review begins with it turns out to a copy of the original with new faces, same dialogues (not even kidding, the dub had the same dialogues!) and shorter runtime and lesser characters.
Apologies here to our dearest readers who haven’t watched Ezra. Let’s begin from the beginning, shall we? So, the story starts with the death of the last Jew in Mauritius. While people go there to pay homage, a man sneaks in to search for antiques and artifacts and get a hold of a Dybbuk box (a box that has a spirit trapped inside it). Basically the stuff that one should stay away from, but since it’s a horror film, that’s the most interesting stuff that attracts everyone. So curiosity here killed a man already, though the spirit wasn’t out (eh, did I give a spoiler?). As can be predicted, it ends up in Sam (Emraan Hashmi) and Mahi’s (Nikita Dutta) house. They are a couple who have recently moved in to Mauritius. Curiosity is the key in horror film, and that leads Mahi to release the Dybbuk from the box. Now what? Well, that’s pretty much the story and for that you’ll have to watch the film my friend.
Emraan Hashmi makes his return to horror with Dybbuk and well, he’s a master of the craft. It is difficult to act in horror because one has to emote without anything really around them. Having Emraan makes it effortless. For him, this looks like a cakewalk. Nikita has to match him here, and that’s a bar set pretty high. While she is earnest, her looks give away a bit, especially in a scene with most cliché horror stuff (read bhootiya reflection on the mirror, stuff appearing). She is charming and good. However, Emraan and Nikita’s chemistry is thanda. A lot had to be built on their love, but those aren’t just as convincing. Another major character is that of Manav Kaul who plays the Rabbi. Honestly, I was just glad it wasn’t Ashutosh Rana doing the character. Manav’s talent is underplayed here, and as an actor of immense mettle, he has little new to offer to it. Again, why I was so disappointed is partly because the characters are made to repeat what we saw in Ezra, and it looked like Manav was given the cue to just copy Sujith Shankar who played the Rabbi in the Malayalam film instead of giving the character any individual touches. Heck, even his entry scene is copied, and we see Kaul juggling the foosballs with some effort. Why not give him an intro that would have suited him?
A super important aspect in horror movies is the background score and in Dybbuk, it gets unintentionally funny at times. If music is supposed to get you into the zone, Dybbuk’s background score would snap you out of even the little bit vibe that a jumpscare would create. I also hated the shots where the camera would just go everywhere. No, it did not work man!
Like I had said before, Dybbuk is a scene by scene copy of Ezra and coming back to those who have watched the original, this one had nothing new to offer. It cut down many characters and many conversations, but in the process it lost the little bit of emotional touch that the original had. Some parts should have been explore more- like Abraham Ezra’s back story, more of the Jewish culture, the beauty of Mauritius.
Trust me when I say this, I have been trying hard to find the good parts in the film, and that definitely shouldn’t have been the case. But overall, the film fails to make that connect with the audience where they would want to invest into the story. Horror films require a lot of believing, a lot of willing suspension of disbelief and that was hard to do here. It was a very cut chop straightforward film, with scenes coming as a montage. It did not even try to build a connect with the audience and that in turn did not help me surrender to the film completely.
To sum up, my mom came midway into the film and joined me to watch it. Basically she was feeling left out as screams came from my room. When the climax happened, she burst out laughing. I accused her of being mean, and distracting me from being objective towards it and her rebuttal was- ‘but who would believe in this anyway, a grown ass person shrieking like that’. Well, I can’t disagree totally! Watch it if you have made up your mind to watch Dybbuk, or else it can easily be skipped, especially if you have watched Ezra. If I have to watch Emraan in a horror film, I would rather go back to one of the Raaz.