Naina did not receive a wide theatrical release in May, but the film has made its way to DVD. For those of you who are still curious about this film (and you should be), it is a mix of ´The Sixth Sense´ and the Korean hit ´The Eye´. Don´t let that turn you off though, because the story is original, it´s just the paranormal ideas that bare resemblance to the aforementioned films.
The year is 1986. In England a young girl, on a trip with her parents, is involved in an accident that leaves her orphaned and blind. At the same time in Bhuj, Gujarat a lady gives birth to a still born fetus during a lunar eclipse. By some miracle the baby opens its eyes and lives. How these two events are linked comes about 20 years later. Naina (Urmila Matondkar) is no longer the little blind orphan, she is getting a cornea transplant to regain her vision. However her new eyes hold a terrible secret and have a difficult past, making this transplant a journey into hell for our Heroine. When Naina begins to see the future and a multitude of dead bodies, she has two choices. Either sit there and go crazy or try to find out what her eyes are trying to tell her.
First time director Shripal Morakhia (who also co-wrote the screenplay with Sagar Pandey) makes a decent first show with Naina. Anyone who wants to compare it with ´The Eye´ is best advised not to do so. Naina is not as polished or psychologically creepy like its original. Half of the pleasure of watching ´The Eye´ is the gore and especially its cinematography. In Naina, Shripal has initial difficulties with some of the sequences after Urmila´s sight returns. Her ´ghostly encounters´ are interesting but they get tiresome after a while. Morakhia just wants to scare the audience or gross them out (the autopsy scene is quite gruesome by Bollywood standards) and it´s apparent.
The first half of the film isn´t as fluid, some of the sequences either jar or seem out of place. However, once we get closer to the interval Morakhia gets a hold of the story and post interval it´s an edge of your seat ride. Morakhia and Pandey´s screenplay is too haphazard in the first half, however the whole back story in Gujarat (where a majority of the second half takes place) is excellently written and will hold your interest. While the screenplay leaves a few holes, as a final product Naina is very entertaining especially the second time around. Cinematography by C.K. Muraleedhauran and Jonathon Bloom is not a patch on the original but serves its purpose here.
Muneesh Sappel´s art direction deserves mention, especially the Gujarat sequences. Sound (Parikshit Lalwani), Visual Effects (Biju D.) and Background score (Salim Sulaiman) all work with each other and offer a creepy atmosphere to the film. Since Naina is a slow thriller/horror, effects, sound and background score play a big part, and the job is well done.
Urmila Matondkar is maturing as an artiste and is leaving her ´oomph gal´ image behind for a more serious actress image. Naina is another feather in her cap, however it´s not her best performance. She is excellent in the quiet scenes, however in a few (not all) of her more high tension scenes, she borders on hamming. This is nothing like her understated take in ´Ek Hasina Thi´ but it´s still a joy watching her on screen. I couldn´t envision a more effective Naina than Urmila Matondkar (who is Bollywood´s reigning scream queen). Shweta Konnur as Khemi turns in a very effective performance. She is one of the highlights in the film. Amardeep Jha as her mother makes a small role impactful. Kamini Khanna as Naina´s grandmother is way too over-the-top and annoying. Anuj Sawhney as Naina´s doctor is passable, he doesn´t have enough charisma or screen presence to be the hero. Dinesh Lamba as the villager is so good he´s scary in some of the scenes. Sulbha Arya is adequate.
On the whole Naina is worth the watch. When compared with other Bollywood horror´s in it head and shoulders above the rest! The film offers new scares and themes in the horror genre for Bollywood. Urmila Matondkar´s performance is the main reason to watch the film, and first time director Shripal Morakhia makes a great debut. With a little fine tuning he may be a name to watch out for. A word about the climax however; it´s a little eerie how this climax shares a lot of similarities with the July 7th bombings in London. It´s almost enough to make you wonder if the film would have even had a proper release if it were shifted two months back. Luckily it made its release two months before those attacks but the similarities are still haunting.