In Nirvana Inn, streaming on the OTT platform Cinemapreneur, Vijay Jayapal explores the genre of psychological horror and probes into the mind of a character who is tormented by the appearance of individuals in his present life that constantly reminds him of a major wrongdoing from his past. Through the character battling his inner demons, the director relies more on tension and dread than the typical cheap jump scares as he creates a world around his protagonist where reality itself is suspected. However, the film neither ignites a feeling of visceral fear nor keeps one on the edge of his/her seat with the cerebral anticipation that something awful is about to happen.
Nirvana Inn tells the story of Jogiraj Chakraborthy aka Jogi (Adil Hussain), a former boatman, who used to ferry tourists in Majuli, one of the largest river islands in Assam. Due to an unfortunate event, he leaves his native state and now works as a caretaker in a resort up in the mountains. While trying to settle in the new environment, the troubled protagonist comes across quirky characters and bizarre situations that make him realize that it is not easy to wash off the misdoing of past sins.
The film begins with a beautifully designed picturesque wide shot where we are introduced to the protagonist in the very first scene. Initially, no exchange of dialogues takes place between the characters in the first few scenes. But then we come across the first ‘shocking’ scene of the film where Jogi hears a deafening animalist guttural sound emitting from the room right above his from an undisclosed source. He listens with a look of fearful disturbance on his face and musters the courage to step out from his bed and recheck the latch of his door. This sets the dark and mysterious tone of the film and immediately raises our expectations of a chilling and thrilling ride from the film. But as the narrative plays out, our hopes get deflated as the unfortunate and mysterious events that unfold one after the other are insipidly constructed. This even though the filmmaker gamely tries to create situations where it challenges our attention to decipher what is real. Finally, it ends up as a vague attempt that tries to transcend the combined codes of the horror & thriller genres with lazy and irrational flourishes. It doesn’t help that the resolution that Jayapal provides to his troubled and guilt-wrecked protagonist is so simple and pat that it feels unnecessary to stretch the film to its ultimate tedious running time of 102 minutes.
That said, there are some scenes that do stand out in the film. One of them is the creative incorporation of the folk dance form of Bhaona, a traditional dance form with mythic stories prevalent in Assam. While Jogi was in his village in Assam, he used to be a performer of this particular dance form. So, the appearance of a mysterious man, at regular intervals in the film wearing a demon-like mask worn during the performance, seems more like a demon from his past who is following him. Secondly, Mohini (Rajshri Deshpande) is a young lady whom Jogi had saved from being abducted and whose appointment in the resort as an employee miffs him. He feels threatened by her insidious presence but at the same time her beauty is so alluring that he imagines himself engaged with her in a traditional dance dressed up as Lord Krishna. It is a beautifully choreographed scene happening in the isolation of the night, performed barefooted on sandy soil.
The immaculate casting helps lift the film a notch. Adil Hussain’s effective performance is meticulously structured in its emotional progression. His guilt-ridden expression is so natural that it immediately strikes a chord with the viewer. He utters the Hindi dialogues with an Assamese accent that brings such naturalism that one is compelled to empathize. Rajshri Deshpande’s provides an aura of suspense to the film while Sandhya Mridul as the free-spirited Leela is very good.
The technical finesse is another face saver. The camera work of the film helps in creating the tense atmosphere and mood both within the exterior and the interior scape of the film while the sound design effectively creates a brooding state of heightened tension. The background score aptly expresses the turmoil in the psyche of the character mostly though there are times it appears to be far too obtrusive. The editing of the film deftly brings out a rhythmic pattern that enhances the stress and anxiety of the protagonist. But ultimately, the burden of a muddled script weighs so heavy on Nirvana Inn that all the excellence from its crew members cannot save the film from drowning. Which brings us yet again to Alfred Hitchcock’s famous quote, “To make a great film you need three things – the script, the script, and the script.”
Hindi, Horror, Drama, Color