Around the World in 31 Days: India


Official movie poster. Source: IMDb

It was a circuitous streaming road that finally led me to Pizza for my India pick. At first I clicked on a movie called Hiss because I thought I needed a killer cobra goddess in my life. I probably still do, but in the first five minutes the movie’s bad-looking production values and dubious acting turned me off. Since India is a country with a storied and exceptional film industry, I knew I could do better.

I then started Pizza, but decision freeze caused me to jump elsewhere – 706, Lupt, Mythily Veendum Varunnu, Savita Damodar Paranjpe, 706 – until I finally decided to return and commit to Pizza due to its charming conceit. And I am glad that I did.

In this perusing I learned (at least, through the filters of Netflix, so it may be distorted) that 1) possessed wife stories seem to be popular in Indian horror cinema, and; 2) many of these films are either remade from a Tamil-language version or they exist in two different language versions.

Pizza (2014)
Director: Akshay Akkineni
Writers: Akshay Akkineni, Karthik Subbaraj
Notable Cast: Akshay Oberoi, Parvathy Omanakuttan, Arunoday Singh, Dipannita Sharma, Rajesh Sharma
Plot: A Pizza delivery boy’s mundane life takes a horrifying turn when he is sent to make a delivery to the home of a family who have a dark secret. Will he be able to overcome the evil that lurks in the shadows and live to tell his tale? (source: IMDb)

Commentary: Pizza was an absolute delight. I typically lose patience with horror comedies but this one handled both elements deftly, and one did not intrude on the other – until the end. That’s all I will say about that, because there is a major twist at the end, a tonal shift that was dangerously close to annoying me, but sue me, I loved it.

The reason Pizza works so well is its leads, Kumal (played by Akshay Oberoi) and Nikita (played by Parvathy Omanakuttan). They are young, very attractive, and struggling to make ends meet. Kumal is a pizza delivery boy. Their relationship is sweet and their mutual love for each other shows.

But get this: Nikita is an aspiring horror writer. She watches horror movies all the time, to Kumal’s consternation (the opening scene of the film depicts him in a nightmare, subsequently waking up next to her), and their apartment is decorated with classic western horror movie posters.

And yet he complains. Dude! your wife is cute, fun, and watches horror movies nonstop. Quit complaining!

The movie’s plot meanders and takes many twists. Among its elements: a corrupt boss in trouble with gangsters (the owner of the pizza restaurant where Kumal works,) Nikita’s pregnancy and the ensuing spat it generates (Kumal, buddy, that is not the way to react when your wife breaks the news, no matter how worried you are about money.) Most importantly: 1) the boss’s wife, who is possessed by a spirit named Anjali, and; 2) the haunted, abandoned house where Kumal makes a fateful delivery.

The meat of the film’s horror takes place in this house, where Kumal finds himself trapped and put through a series of surreal, disorienting nightmarish events. There are effective jump scares and fun, ghostly special effects. The scenes are well staged, and even though there’s a slight dash of the slapstick associated with movies like The Evil Dead, there is also enough creep and dread to make you take it seriously.

Again, I will keep the twist a mystery, but my biggest hope is that future sequels will feature Nikita as the hero of the story, instead of the motivation for Kumal’s actions. She’s just too good a character.

What We’re Afraid Of: To my western, American eyes there was economic anxiety. The horror, comedy and drama of the film were driven by the worries of young expectant parents with few prospects for upward mobility. I also saw this as a film about the anxieties of fatherhood – fathers who desire children, especially as large families are the cultural norm, and men who fear the impending responsibility for a new life.

Pizza is a strong recommend, particularly for those who enjoy levity and can do without chasing the extremes of gore and violence in horror movies.

Chillerpop takes your questions and comments here on this blog, on his Facebook page, and on Twitter (@ChillerPop).

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