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  Agyaat Once Upon A ForestBuy this film here.
Year: 2009
Director: Ram Gopal Varma
Stars: Nitin Reddy, Nisha Kothari, Rasika Dugal, Gautam Rode, Howard Rosemeyer, Ishtiyak Khan, Ravi Kale, Kali Prasad Mukherjee, Joy Fernandes, Adesh Bhardwaj
Genre: Horror
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: A new team of filmmakers is being assembled for a shoot out in the Sri Lankan jungle, and assistant director Sujal (Nitin Reddy) is the one landed with the task of phoning around to make sure everyone is on board the project and are ready to fly out from India the next day. There is one aspect he is looking forward to and that is working with starlet Aasha (Nisha Kothari), as he thoroughly enjoys her films and indeed has just been watching one of them this afternoon. However, his girlfriend Sameera (Rasika Dugal) is not so impressed and thinks Aasha is only interested in arrogant leading man Sharman (Gautam Rode) - but that will soon be the least of their worries...

Agyaat was a Bollywood horror movie notable, if for anything then for its brevity: you could have watched half a usual Bollywood film in the time it takes for you to watch this. Although it does take a while for any scares to emerge, as there is a lot of padding for even a short effort such as this; dreamt up by producer-director Ram Gopal Varma as the first in a series, it was unlikely to rival the Hollywood shocker franchises, especially as it was apparently inspired by one which never really got off the ground after its initial worldwide success.

That would be The Blair Witch Project, then, as the set up is too similar to be coincidence what with the film crew in the forest, and ending up lost, going round in circles and prey to a mysterious being which stalks them one by one. There is a difference in that there are far more victims here than in its American inspiration, and unlike a slasher movie from the West, here the hapless prey are just as likely to commit suicide in an act of noble self-sacrifice as they are to run for it. You wouldn't get one of Michael Myers' or Jason Vorhees' targets pulling that cop out trick, now would you? Yet it happens not once but twice here.

There are musical numbers, but not many, and one of them appears to be a song about smoking illegal substances, or perhaps something was lost in translation. Really Agyaat was little worse than your standard cash-in remake or sequel that makes up what seems like the bulk of generic horror movies elsewhere, and as a timewaster it wasn't too taxing. Certainly the scenery is nice enough once the cast make their way out of what looks like the same ten square yards of jungle - it could be that one patch of jungle looks very much like another, whether there's a snake or a lone monkey in it or not.

The process of making a movie comes across as so antagonistic here that you may be wondering whether Varma had bad experiences with prima donna stars or unsuitable locations before: the first thing you see in this film is a caption telling us that this is a work of fiction and any similarity is coincidence, so it could be they were having fun, or maybe it's supposed to set you pondering if any real stars are as difficult as Sharman. One aspect that seems wholly fabricated is that once they are all lost in the jungle and being picked off one by one by an invisible (i.e. cheap) adversary, Aasha takes a shine to Sujal and poor old Sameera gets the elbow. But the dubious relationship problems aside, Agyaat was not as bad as its reputation, and if it took too long to warm up then it did provide a goodly amount of mayhem once it did. Shame about the blatant pushing for a sequel at the end, mind you.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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