Review of Netflix film 'Kaali Khuhi'

'Kaali Khuhi' Review: Strong Premise But Too Many Loose Ends

'Kaali Khuhi' stars Shabana Azmi and Leela Samson.

Movie Reviews
4 min read

Kaali Khuhi

'Kaali Khuhi' Review: Strong Premise But Too Many Loose Ends

The real world may not have enough space for female rage, but cinema certainly does. Films like Anushka Sharma's Pari, Stree, and more recently, Bulbbul, have brilliantly experimented with the genre to create gory, horror tales of women unleashing their anger against patriarchy. Netflix India's latest offering, Kaali Khuhi ('Black Well' in English) which starts streaming on 30 October, is another one on the list.

Starring Shabana Azmi as a mysterious but kind Satya maasi, Riva Arora as 10-year-old Shivangi who has been unfairly burdened with the responsibility of saving a cursed Punjab village, and Satyadeep Misra and Sanjeeda Shaikh as Shivangi's parents, Kaali Khuhi is directed by Terrie Samundra.

The film focusses on the illegal social practice of female infanticide prevalent in certain parts of the country through a supernatural lens.

The Plot

Shabana Azmi as Satya maasi.
Shabana Azmi as Satya maasi.
(Photo Courtesy: Netflix/SARDARSINGHVIRK)

Kaali Khuhi begins in a typically ominous way. After receiving the news of Darshan's (Satyadeep Misra) mother's ill health, Shivangi and her parents travel to their village in Punjab. Darshan's mother is played by Leela Samson.

Upon reaching a small village that she barely remembers visiting as a child, Shivangi finds herself in the middle of multiple conflicts. On one hand, her parents don't seem to be getting along, and on the other, she starts to notice strange, creepy things. A little girl sitting under the bed, an eerie sound from the terrace, a dead rat in the cupboard..

With the help of Satya maasi and another little girl, Chandni (who stays with Satya maasi), Shivangi begins to unearth the mystery bit by bit, only to realise that it's the village's past that has come back to haunt and avenge.

Riva Arora as 10-year-old Shivangi
Riva Arora as 10-year-old Shivangi
(Photo Courtesy: Netflix/SARDARSINGHVIRK)

The Acting

While Shabana Azmi's strong onscreen presence adds depth to the unraveling chaos, the child actors' performances stand out. Arora isn't the most polished child actor out there but she does a phenomenal job of carrying the film on her shoulders. Kaali Khuhi keeps jump-scares to a minimum, and for the most part, it's through Shivangi's fearful innocence that we get a sense of what's happening.

In Chandni, Shivangi finds a confidante as well as anchor her own age. Their friendship is wholesome and in stark contrast to the complicated and orthodox relationships of the adults around them.

'Kaali Khuhi' Review: Strong Premise But Too Many Loose Ends
(Photo Courtesy: Netflix)

'Kaali Khuhi' Is Dipped In Metaphors

The 90-minute film has an ambitious heart. It tries to comment on a very real problem and it does that by giving voice directly to those affected by the patriarchal practice of killing female newborns i.e. adolescent girls.

However, Samundra has layered Kaali Khuhi with abundant metaphors - some important, some unnecessary.

The climax, particularly, is too on the nose and perhaps even a little too dramatic for a film that has very realistic roots. One might even say that, at times, the film tries a little too hard to make its point. The result? A bunch of loose ends that can't be tied together, leaving the viewer with questions even after the film has ended.

Simply put, the plot of Kaali Khuhi isn't as airtight as it should be but the subject matter saves one from being distracted by that.

'Kaali Khuhi' Review: Strong Premise But Too Many Loose Ends
(Photo Courtesy: Netflix/SARDARSINGHVIRK)

The Message

Kaali Khuhi's unique perspective on patriarchy keeps men out of the frame for most part of it. Satyadeep Misra's Darshan is the only male character in the film. His presence is a mere prop meant to highlight the struggles of the women in the film. Unfortunately, Darshan's presence in the film often feels awkward and infuriating, and I'm pretty sure only one of those two is intended.

Kaali Khuhi chooses to focus on the women perpetrators of the system.

Instead of pinning the blame on a particular section of society, Samundra holds the social system accountable. Women are neither praised nor chastised, depending on their actions; they're simply seen as an evolving product of patriarchy.

To Watch or Not to Watch?

In all honesty, Kaali Khuhi is a mildly interesting watch. The 90-minute experience left me feeling more confused than satisfied, but in no way is it disappointing. Female rage is always fascinating and Kaali Khuhi, albeit with its flaws, stays true to its intention. Of course, Shabana Azmi's brief appearance is worth everything but don't expect the film to be about her.

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