Kaali Khuhi Movie Review: Ghosts of Female Infanticide Come to Strike Fear in Shabana Azmi’s Well-Meaning but Predictable Netflix Film

Sreeju Sudhakaran
·5-min read

Kaali Khuhi Movie Review: In the opening scene of Kaali Khuhi set during a rainy night, an villager, tormented by cries of babies, opens up a sealed black well (the titular kaali khuhi) in his village, only to be dragged down to his death by a hand. Later, another villager sees a young girl in the middle of the road and drops her back in the village, mistaking her to be someone's daughter. In the village, she goes to one particular house and terrifies the old lady living there to unconsciousness, before shutting herself in a small room on the first floor of the same house. Kaali Khuhi Trailer: Sanjeeda Sheikh And Shabana Azmi's Horror Film Will Make You Squirmish.

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That old lady (Leela Samson) happens to be the grandmother of little Shivangi Arora (Riva Arora, sharing such a close semblance to Janhvi Kapoor that she was cast as her younger self in Gunjan Saxena). Shivangi's father Darshan (Satyadeep Mishra) is worried about his mother's health and insists on his family to accompany him to the village, though her mother Priya (Sanjeeda Shaikh) isn't very keen on the idea.

In the village, they are greeted by Darshan's aunt Satya maasi (Shabana Azmi) and are taken to his gloomy house, where the Daadi is lying comatose. Shivangi also finds a friend in Chandni (Rose Rathod), an orphaned girl taken care of by Satya maasi. As she spends more time in the house, Shivangi is spooked by some mysterious happenings taking place there, including the appearances of the young girl. This young girl is a tormented spirit who is determined to torment the family for an old unspoken sin committed to her. A sin that has become the curse of the entire village, shrouded by a foggy greyness that refuses to let go.

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Watch The Trailer of Kaali Khuhi:

Kaali Khuhi, directed by Terrie Samundra based on a screenplay written by her and David Walter Lech, is a horror film with a message. A message the film wasn't very shy in hiding as evident in the trailer itself. Kaali Khuhi deals with female infanticide - of the abhorrent practice of killing female babies right after they are born. It might be very incredulous to think these days that this practice, purely patriarchal in nature, has been perpetuated by women in many places - a tradition that, tragically, continue to persist in certain parts of this country. Why the men's role in this practice is underplayed in the film is never explained. Even the two men who is shown getting punished by the spirit in the film are more of bystanders or helpers, rather than actual perpetrators. OTT Releases Of The Week: Harshvardhan Rane’s Taish on ZEE5, Mandalorian Season 2 on Disney+ Hotstar, Simon Pegg’s Truth Seekers on Amazon Prime and More.

Anyway, using female infanticide as the heart of her story, Terrie Samundra spins a narrative of what happens when villagers face the terror that was borne out of the horrors they committed on innocent lives. With the heart in the right place, what Kaali Khuhi wants to propagate through its premise deserves appreciation. Unfortunately, it is also a horror movie and that's where Kaali Khuhi disappoints.

For one, it is very predictable, and feels like an Aahat episode with better cinematography (the story bears some similarities to another Hindi film, Gauri: The Unborn, which was more of an anti-abortion movie). Kaali Khuhi is successful in creating a very spooky but realistic atmosphere thanks to Sejal Shah's cinematography and Angelica Monica Bhowmick's minimalist set design. The ominous feel is also enhanced by Daniel B George's moody BG score. While the setting is done right, the ghost story is narrated in a way that only delivers more yawns than terrors.

The scares can be smelt away from a mile, and can hardly make you jump, while the ghostly makeup used is merely passable. The use of Indian horror cliches like an eerie old woman who is blind in one eye comes across as lazy tropes. Also, save for Shivangi, none of the other characters are very well-defined. In Shivangi, we see that she is feeling the turmoil of her parents' relationship breaking down. There is also a hint that she might be having ADD, though the movie doesn't delve much on that.

However, the rest of the characters suffer from under-development. I couldn't really figure out what's Darshan's deal, save for the little hints of his misogyny, or the reason for his very erratic behaviour. Sanjeeda Shaikh sparkles in ever scene she is in, but she is rendered moot in the later parts of the movie. Leela Samson is approps eerie in the few scenes she is in, but her arc is cut off short before she can register an impact.

Even Shabana Azmi's Satya maasi gets a raw deal, only mattering much in the third act. There too, it is the actress that shines more than the writing for her character. Like, watch the scene where she thinks she is holding a baby, as she cries her out. A scene that is made more effective by Azmi's versatility rather than how it is depicted.

That said, the third act turns out to better compared to the rest of the film, in its usage of metaphors, of how the new generation has the power to change the ills of this country. Though, Kaali Khuhi also mentions how the village have stopped practising female infanticide for long, making me curious as to what Shivangi was supposed to achieve in the end.

Kaali Khuhi rides mostly on the slender shoulders of the young Riva Arora, who does a fine job of portraying the innocuousness of a child facing an unimaginable terror. Even the other two child actors - Rose Rathod and Hetvi Bhanushali - are perfectly cast.

Yay!

- The Eerie Setting and The Message
- The Performances

Nay!

- Predictable, Cliched Narrative
- Writing is Passable

Final Thoughts

Kaali Khuhi gets the spooky setting, the performances and the messaging right, but falters when it comes to churning out a truly frightening tale. The movie is streaming on Netflix.