Chhorii review: The most impactful film in the social horror genre

Whilst most Hindi remakes get lost in translation, writer-director Vishal Furia succeeds in retelling his 2017 Marathi social horror to a pan India audience. Nushrratt Bharuccha finds her true calling in Chhorii [2021]

Rating: 3.5/ 5

By Mayur Lookhar

Not often do we come across two Hindi film releases in a day that are both recreations of two acclaimed Marathi films. We haven’t seen it yet but Salman Khan’s Antim – The Final Truth [2021] is said to be inspired by Marathi film Mulshi Pattern [2018].  Cinema halls are the domain of the super stars while the Over-The-Top platforms have become the happy nesting ground for content -driven films. We logged into Amazon Prime Video’s Chhorii – a Hindi remake of the 2017 social horror Lapachhapi [hide and seek].

Traditional horror tropes are on ventilator as we’ve seen the emergence of social horror feminist dramas in the recent years.  Some have tinged their stories with humour – Amar Kaushik’s Stree [2018] – while some have kept it straight – Pari [2018], Bulbbul [2020], Welcome Home [2020].

Unfortunately, we haven’t seen Lapachhapi [2017] yet but the Marathi film received critical acclaim.  It only helped Pooja Sawant grow her stature in Marathi cinema.

A simple google search suggests that director-writer Vishal Furia hasn’t tinkered with the original plot. What’s changed though is the title – Chhorii [girl]. No this isn’t a simple title. It subtly tells us where the film is based.  The word is often used in states like Haryana, Rajasthan. 

Whilst the location is never really revealed, but we can safely presume the film to be set in Haryana/ Rajasthan – two culturally similar states. Also notorious for their patriarchy, misogyny and women safety issues.

An indebted Hemant [Saurabh Goyal] and his eight-months pregnant wife Sakshi [Nushrratt Bharuccha] are forced to flee their town and take refuge in their driver Kajla’s [Rajesh Jais] humble rural home, located some 300 kms away in a labyrinth-like sugar cane field.  Unfortunately, the duo finds itself in a classic ‘out of frying pan and straight into fire’ situation. The unnatural events threaten not just theirs, but also the life of their unborn. The disturbing visuals reveals some dark, ugly truths.   

Though fairly predictable, but Furia and his co-writer Vishal Kapoor [screenplay, dialogues] deliver a gripping, soul-stirring, well written screenplay. Chhorii [2021] has individual brilliance but the horror here is driven by its atmospherics.  The labyrinth-like sugar cane field has an eerie feeling about it as Sakshi struggles to navigate both the truth and the road to safety.  Chhorii’s [2021] horror lies in its compelling visual appeal.  Anshul Chobey’s cinematography brings that fear element, not just through the supernatural, but also by throwing up some illusionary visuals.   Well edited and not overstretched, [editor] Unnikrishnan P.P deserves credit for being judicious in his use of jump scares.  The creepiness stems more from the visuals, character movements than done-to-death jump scares and other cheap thrills.

The technical aspect is backed by neat performances led by seasoned actress Mita Vashisht who impresses as Bhanno Devi, Kajla’s ubiquitous wife. Vashisht’s aces the Rajasthani/Haryanvi accent and is consistent with her intensity.

Poor Nushrratt Bharuccha has often borne the burnt of Luv Ranjan’s misogynistic films. The lady gets the chance to unveil the true feminist in her as Furia’s Chhorii. Though relieved to take refuge in Bhanno Devi’s house, she doesn’t approve of the sickening patriarchy in the house.

Though largely consistent, but Bharuccha drops the intensity in few scenes. [Vashisht too is partly guilty of that in the climax].  Most beings would shiver at unnatural, suspicious sighting, but our girl has a smile on her face.  There is a reason behind it though. Sakshi teaches at an NGO [Non-Governmental Organization]. She loves kids dearly and is excited to have her own. Maybe, that is why there is no fear when she is first privy to the unnatural presence of three young kids around the sugar field.  Bharuccha though still could have pitched in with a slightly better effort in certain scenes. She nicely exhibits both fear and confidence in the business end.  But the dialogue delivery could have better when Sakshi says, “Is samaj mein ek aurat hi aurat ki dushmann hai” (A woman’s biggest enemy in this society is a woman itself).   Only appropriate that a woman reads the riot act to another woman.  The ultra-feminists would still chide that this line is shoved down a woman’s throat by men.  However, it’s validated in the context of this film.  Though limited but the men here have pivotal part to pay in the story progression. Saurabh Goyal and Rajesh Jais are commendable in their respective acts.

Whilst the haunting here is due to deep-rooted patriarchy, misogyny, but there is a silver lining in the dark tragedy. A civilization can only evolve on the back of its youth.  The back story speaks of social ills, female oppression, but the bright faces of the three little boys wowing to look after the unborn girl child underlines why it is only youth that can change the future.  Yes, there are some ugly truths still haunting us, but Furia’s film stays clear of generalizing any society, race or gender.  

The filmmaker adopts a practical and straight forward approach to his story telling not giving in to populist [humorous] social horror templates – ala Stree [2018]. But neither has he taken a brutal disturbing approach ala Welcome Home [2020].  Hindi cinema thrives on the culture of escapism. Brutal, harsh realities only drive the mass audience away. Chhorii [2021] has no undue violence nor many spine-chilling scenes. It adheres to the new found culture of empathy and humanising the supernatural entity.  There is strong debate that these social horrors have taken the horror out of the genre, but we leave that discussion for another day.

Whilst there is talk of an overkill, but Furia’s Chhorii is perhaps the most impactful film in the social horror genre.  This Chhorii’s story deserves to be heard.

Watch the trailer below.


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