Neeli directed by debutante Althaf Rahman is a mixed bag. It tries to be a revenge drama and also a horror thriller where the title persona is looked at as a guardian angel. It has this confusion to be whether a pure genre film that explores horror or whether to be a genre mix by being a horror comedy. In the end, the result is a half-baked horror drama that lacks genuine thrill.
So the character played by Mamta, Lakshmi is a single mother who has lost her husband. She and her daughter Tara decides to go back to the ancestral home at Kalliyankattu. And from where her daughter gets kidnapped. The search for her daughter is the main agenda of the film where she gets assistance from a couple of thieves, a photographer and a man who has expertise in paranormal activity research.
There will be more than enough elements in the film that is hard to make sense if you try to apply logic. As horror itself is a genre that defies logic, I will have to accept the creative liberty of the director. The idea here is interesting. Kalliyankattu Neeli is a concept we only refer to as a ghost and Althaf Rahman looks at her as a guardian angel. But that construction demands a treatment which will make us take an effort to identify Neeli as that protecting figure. But here that angle is way too soft. In fact, the movie feels more like a ghost detection story rather than a ghost hunting tale.
Mamtha emotes nicely to be the character but her diction is a problem and that reduces the fluency. Anoop Menon as the ghostbuster was nice and in the introduction scene of his character, his signature coolness works in favor of the film. Zinil Zainuddin was okay in his character. Even though the relevance of the characters they play are questionable, Baburaj and SP Sreekumar manage to entertain the viewers with their bit of comedy. The character played by Rahul Madhav deserves to be hated but making that character sounds like a caricature wasn’t a good idea.
Althaf Rahman isn’t giving much space for improvisation. There are a lot of dialogues in the film that becomes slightly cringe-worthy due to its exact translation from script to screen. And one major missing in the tale was the pure horror feel. After that slightly promising beginning, the film sort of drifts away to too many subplots and the things they reveal towards the end isn’t creating the impact of a twist. I thought they could have added little more subtle layers to the way Neeli intervened in the story. Anoop Menon’s lab and equipments are mostly funny and occasionally interesting. The cinematography was fine but the cuts weren’t crisp. I hated the way they plugged songs into this film.
I would say Neeli had the scope to be an interesting horror film as it was exploring an existing concept’s unexplored aspect. But with flimsy writing that lacks intrigue and tension, this one becomes an underwhelming experience.
Neeli had the scope to be an interesting horror film as it was exploring an existing concept’s unexplored aspect.
Green: Recommended Film
Orange: Okay, Watchable, Experimental Films
Red: Not Recommended