It is only once in a while that we come across a movie which shakes us up on the inside. Thriller ‘Barot House’ is a chilling combination of a documentary on psychopathic illness, a depiction of a family’s time through tragedy and a portrayal of life in Daman & Diu (a lesser explored location in Indian films).
‘Barot House’ is a Zee5 original movie released on their OTT platform on 6th August, 2019. It stars Amit Sadh (known for his roles in Kai Po Che and Breathe), Manjari Fadnis and child actor Aryan Menghji in lead roles. I seldom watch Hindi thrillers as they often fall short on the bar of suspense. However, this movie left me at a loss for words to describe it. It is a low budget movie, set in and around a house in Daman & Diu, the Barot Family’s Residence. In a line, the movie is about the dynamics of a family where each member is harboring certain complex emotions of insufficiency, of guilt, of desires that will be detrimental to the harmony of the family. All these emotions are pent up inside the family members, until a catastrophic event happens that acts as a catalyst to cause these strong emotions to erupt. That event is the mysterious homicide of the couple’s oldest daughter Shreya’s death.
Zee5 premium is one of the new OTT streaming platforms started only in 2018. Its popularity and viewership in India, although far less than Amazon Prime and Netflix, is slowly growing due to its section of Zee5 Original Movies. For no odd reason, I happened to be going through the trailers of their original series and saw each of them to be very different and sparking curiosity in me. Tragedy befalling a family is not an uncommon theme in Hindi cinema. However, what if the epicenter of the tragedy is from within the family itself? As in, what if the unit ‘family’ in question is the source and the victim of aforesaid tragedy?
The Barot Family comprises Amit Barot (Amit Sadh), his wife Bhavana Barot, their son Malhaar (about 10 years old) (Aryan Menghji) and three daughters younger than him- Shreya, Shruti and Sneha. Amit’s mother and his younger brother Ajay also stay in their ancestral house. The imagery is that of an old constructed villa, which is spacious, grand in a sense but also withering away literally in terms of the building’s sheen and tiles. It is as if the viewer can smell the oldness of the tiles of the house which have seen innumerable quarrels between different family members which even other family members don’t know about. On the night of a Diwali celebration, Shreya goes to play hide and seek and hides in a graveyard next to their house. She is found dead next morning because of someone hitting her on the head with a heavy rock.
From thereon tragedy begins to befall the Barot Family as the movie retrospectively shows pasts of different murder suspects and their prospective motives. The writing and screenplay of the movie was at par with the astounding Ayushman Khurrana- Tabu starrer ‘Andhadhun’ in my opinion.
The first person who falls under the suspect list of the Daman police is the Barot family’s neighbor Anthony. Anthony’s family was given a share of the Barot family’s estate by Amit’s father after failure to repay a loan taken from him. Anthony who is eccentric and emotional, lives with his wife Sophie, his 4 year old son and his dog Jackie. After Anthony’s dog Jacky is killed, he is shown as broken with grief and angry at the Barot family as he feels Malhaar had killed his dog. It is later also revealed that Anthony and Amit’s wife Bhavana were college friends and both their spouses suspected them to be having an affair with each other. Anthony tells the police that he is the one who gave Shreya the idea to hide in the graveyard but left town for a family emergency the every same night.
Amit’s younger brother Ajay is the next suspect to be brutally questioned by the Daman police after they eliminate Anthony as a suspect. Ajay was the last person who spoke to Shreya before she left the house. Trying to get rid of Shreya in order to sneak into a room with his secret girlfriend, Ajay tells Shreya to go hide telling her they are playing Hide-and-Seek. Ajay who has been to jail before for drug peddling is always harboring a resentment against Amit as the family property is in his name. It is shown in a flashback that days before Shreya’s death Ajay is brutally fighting with his mother to divide the property into two halves, to which she refuses saying that Amit built their business from scratch and hence is given the share. There is an ugly brawl between the two brothers which leads the police to suspect whether Ajay could have killed Amit’s daughter for revenge. Finally, the girl who is having a secret affair with Ajay goes to the police to be his alibi.
In the meantime, while Amit’s wife Bavana has started going deranged with grief and refuses to leave the bed over Shreya’s death. Their second daughter Shruti dies suddenly from falling off the staircase. This assures the police’s initial hunch that the killer is someone inside the house itself. The only suspect they are able to think of is Amit. Amit was always doubtful of Shreya, Shruti and Sneha’s paternity. While at the same time he was madly showering attention on Malhaar, making the girls feel neglected. Malhaar too is in love with his father and idolizes and cares for him beyond words describe. The emotional energy in their duo is impeccable.
Even while the police are investigating Amit, Amit stumbles upon the real killer of his children when he sees the killer attempting to kill Sneha, their youngest daughter. Amit is burdened with this knowledge of the real killer. He is not able to apprehend the killer and the knowledge of a killer being loose in the neighbourhood takes his sanity away from him. There is extreme intense emotion as Amit wants to kill the culprit of his daughters but something is stopping him. He knows the culprit. The culprit is also related to Amit with some complex emotional equations. It is only after his neighbor Anthony’s son is also killed and the police come to arrest Amit that he blurts out the real killer’s name to the police. But the story doesn’t end there.
What happens in the last half an hour of the film is disturbing to say the least but is an example of script-writing and acting genius. Without giving away the suspense, one person of the Barot Family ends up in psychiatric care only to drive another member to jail. There is speculation over whether the real culprit was apprehended or not. There is twice reversal by the police of who they think is the real culprit. The anger, desperation and love is shown full blown by Amit Sadh along with the grey emotions of everything in between. No one could have played the role like this. Manjari Fadnis has a smaller role but she doesn’t step out of character even for a millisecond.
It is a thriller exploring what drives one to hate to the extent of committing homicides. It is a tale of extreme emotion and how that extent of emotion takes one to irrational realms of the mind. The film is brilliant but disturbing because it does not resort to supernatural explanations, the events seem very real and probable. It also explores psychological predispositions towards anger. The build up of “hatred” can be quick and often arbitrary. What is the psyche of people who enjoy killing and what justice principle is operating in their own mind is a chilling question that remains in the viewers’ mind. It is a very well made and enacted film, but do not watch it unless you can live with images of brutal murder and psychopathic indifference show in the movie.
Picture Courtesy- Zee5