Friday, January 2, 2015

Movie Review: Pizza

When Karthik Subbaraj’s Pizza hit theaters in 2012 a ton of people on twitter urged me to watch it. I had my doubts about its quality seeing as a lot of people had also recommended Singham 2 earlier. The horror geek in me eventually dragged me to the nearest theater, and I wasn’t the least bit disappointed. Pizza was a lean, entertaining, fun horror movie stripped off the commercial trappings of Tamil cinema and free of the frothy star vehicle rubbish. Most importantly, unlike in most cases (link review of Ragini 2), this was a movie made by a bunch of people who truly love and get horror films.

With its tiny budget, original take on the haunted house genre and box office success, it was only a matter of time until Bollywood sniffed an opportunity to cash in. And they did go the whole hog by throwing in 3D. The bad news is, for those who’ve seen the original, Pizza 3D feels like a pointless remake in every single scene. Those who have never heard of Subbaraj’s film, however, might have a good time watching this movie.

The story remains exactly the same – a pizza boy’s home delivery becomes a nightmare when the house turns out to be haunted. Director Akshay Akkineni (son of legendary editor Sreekar Prasad) follows the original film frame by frame. The characters are the same, as are the sets, the camerawork and even the jump scares and the sound. Sure, a faithful remake also needs hard work, and the idea of not fixing what isn’t broken is a fair enough excuse to rehash the original scene by scene, but there’s no escaping the pointlessness of it all. It also leads to a fatal problem - when you know when the jump scares are going to pop up and what they are, it’s difficult to be scared or thrilled by a horror movie.

That leads me to the most important aspect of the film – the ‘horror’ bits. The original was a good film, but the scares in it weren’t exactly path breaking. They were a bunch of clichés. But the film wasn’t just that, and there was a fun meta layer on top of the scares that justified the clichés. Moreover, the small indie style of the film helped add an edge to it. The remake has a bigger budget, and whether you have seen the original or not the scares don’t command that creepy edge – they come across as cheap thrills. The tacky 3D doesn’t help, and the scares get repetitive after a point - this is no classic like REC where you could relish its bump in the night moments in your soiled trousers over and over again.

A small plot hole in the second half has been fixed in the remake but the story itself has been watered down for some reason. In the original the lead couple are in a live in relationship and the dilemma they face is much more pronounced. In this movie the couple is conveniently married. Parvathy Omnakuttan, who plays the pizza boy’s wife is an improvement over the girl in the first movie, but Akshay Oberoi is a massive comedown from Vijay Sethupathi. Oberoi is neither handsome, nor convincing, nor charming, nor heroic, but he tries to be all of that. Sethupathi was great in the original because he was deliberately none of those things – he was just an average pizza boy.  

That said, you can’t take away the fact that the story is a novel spin on a familiar setting, and I guarantee you won’t see the end coming. It’s certainly better than the likes of Vikram Bhatt’s hilarious garbage, but it’s a lesser film than its original counterpart. I recommend you pop in the DVD of the 2012 movie before you head to see this version.

(First published in Firstpost)

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