404: A psychological thriller that is thin on substance

Producer: Nameeta Nair.
Director: Prawaal Raman.
Cast: Nishikant Kamat, Imaad Shah, Satish Kaushik, Tisca Chopra.

MUMBAI: A motivating force behind making supernatural, horror or paranormal thrillers would seem to be budget constraints. Also, known stars are not available to new makers and these help as a knock at the doors of recognition.

404 is one such film with mostly new actors and newer or not so established names sharing technical credits behind the camera.

Rajvvir Arora, a new student at a reputed medical college, does not think there are ghosts or spirits of the dead. The college boasts of a world renowned visiting professor, Nishikant Kamat, who has papers to his name on subject of psychology and has authored many books.

Rajvvir is allotted a room in the college hostel with three other freshers. As the boys are subjected to ragging by their seniors, Rajvvir refuses to comply with their dictates. Soon the ragging reaches their room and Rajvvir decides that his roommates are being harassed because of him and request for Room 404 which has been locked since last three years because an earlier student, a victim of ragging, had committed suicide in this room by hanging himself from the fan and his spirit still occupies that room making it impossible for anyone else to use it.

The professor firmly believes that spirits are only a product of one’s imagination as one sees what one wants to see and believe. He encourages and lauds Rajvvir on his decision. Rajvvir’s problems don’t end with change of room as his tormentors devise a new way to rag him. They psyche him into believing that the spirit of the past student really occupies the room. To the professor’s dismay, Rajvvir soon starts believing it to be true and runs scared till he finally claims to have befriended the spirit and is often seen conversing with it. While the professor is all set to prove to the world that there are no spirits or ghosts, the boy makes him have second thoughts.

404 is a vague title and gives nothing away which may not prove to be a very bright idea. What ails this film is that it is too much theory and too little substance; so much so it comes across as an educational film at times. Also, it looks like the institution has no other faculty except psychology as the film shuttles between ragging and psychology professor Tisca Chopra and her husband Nishikant Kamat. And, for a genius who is on verge of disproving ghost theory, he is himself a victim of ghost of his mother haunting him!

The story is thin and pace of the film is slow with only the climax being its singular bright spot but that too is expected long before it happens. In these events, there is not much the director can do to control except play with the camera. Background score is effective.

Stretching economy to its limits, the film has few characters and no distractions. Debutant Rajvvir Arora gets into the groove soon enough and does well. Imaad Shah is impressive. Nishikant Kamat is okay while Satish Kaushik is his seasoned self. Looking pleasant, Tisca Chopra lends some glamour to this dry film.

Pyaar Ka Punchnama: A well-directed youth-centric film

Producers:Abhishek Pathak.
Director: Luv Ranjan.
Cast: Kartikeya Tiwari, Rayo Bhakhirta, Divyendu Sharma, Sonalli Sehgal, Nushrat Bharucha, Ishita Sharma.

Pyaar  Ka Punchnama caters to the young generation. It is about youngsters, their office life, lonely life and a resultant desperation to seek a partner, love; it goes further on how such relationships happen, how they are taken for granted and how partners manipulate. In these relationships, emotions and loyalty have little or no place.

Kartikeya Tiwari, Rayo Bhakhirta and Divyendu Sharma are three roomies who, besides sharing the house they live in, also share each other‘s joys and sorrows. Each of them holding a regular job, their life is otherwise fun.

However, all three are looking for their first love and the film is all about what follows when they find it. Kartikeya has found a petite and pretty girl, Nushrat Bharucha, and as their love blossoms he decides to move out of the house he shares with other two to live-in with her. All is rosy initially till the bickering starts; the girl starts making rules for him and dictates his life.

Rayo meets Sonali Sehgal who, even while wanting the relationship to work, can‘t shirk her ex boy friend, her liaison of five years and demands her space.

The third one, Divyendu falls for a new girl in his office who already has a boy friend back home in Hyderabad but lets Divyendu believe that he has hopes of winning her over and keeps using him.

The equations between these six do reflect men-women relationship in stress times where everyone is working to balance various fronts of life. The problem with the script is that its gets bogged down with repeated situations and arguments which don‘t always conform to logic; while guys are all very reasonable, girls seems to have no perspective of that. The film offers no relief in form of humour or music either, despite as many as four composers contributing their mite.

Direction is good despite a loose script with an eye for details. Photography is pleasant with urban upmarket locations captured well. Dialogue is relevant.

Performance by all three - Kartikeya, Rayo and Divyendu - is convincing and their bonding looks natural. Except for some appeal by Nushrat, other two are ordinary.

Being a youth centric film, Pyaar Ka Punchnama could have done better on word of mouth which, alas, is not expected any more.

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