At least the film veered away from fervid religion as a solution to the paranormal

Pretham A tiring misogynistic horror comedy with a few jumps
Features Film Review Friday, August 12, 2016 - 20:35

“Pretham” is about three blokes and a ghost with three questions. There’s also a one-note mentalist thrown in the mix to make it more of a comedy and less of a horror film.

Denny (Aju Varghese), Shibu (Govind Padmasoorya), and Priyan (Sharafudheen) are friends who buy a beach resort together in the hope of running their own business. But a series of supernatural events upset their apple cart. Who wants to holiday in a haunted resort, after all?

Meanwhile, their life’s mission is to get laid. Well, who am I to judge? Denny and Priyan are mesmerized by a model, Suhannisa (Pearle Maaney), who for some reason attends Zumba classes along with a host of other people at this beach resort.

Is Suhannisa a guest at the hotel? Is she a local? We never know. We just know she attends Zumba classes with alarming regularity despite all the display of lechery. Truly, some women are made of steel. While Denny and Priyan try to get her into bed (the grand idea is to mix an aphrodisiac into her drink, by the way), Shibu’s pastime is to sex-chat with his now married ex-girlfriend in Dubai.

Whenever the men have sex on their minds and attempt watching a video or taking a photograph, bizarre things happen. I was half-sure the ghost was going to proudly announce itself as a member of the Ram Sene but we’re given a highly contrived reason in the latter half for the high moral ground that our ghost occupies.

To help the three friends untangle this mystery, along comes John Don Bosco (Jayasurya), a mentalist with a bald head, Buddha-print clothes, and a vague history. Jayasurya is impactful in the first few scenes but the brooding genius act quickly grows old, especially because the script sags without a strong and convincing motive pulling it together.

The plot and the characters are heavily inspired from “Manichitrathaazhu” and “Drishyam”. There’s also a nod to “Oru CBI Diary Kurippu”. The film repeatedly acknowledges this by making the characters mouth dialogues from the three films and throwing references at the audience, but really, what was the point? It does not rescue the film from becoming the tiring déjà vu experience that it is. In fact, it only reminds the long-suffering audience of how awesome the other three films were and what a ridiculous tribute this is, if that was the intention.

As a horror film, “Pretham” is not without its jumpy moments. Some of the sequences are genuinely creepy. But the thrills die down in the second half and the film’s heart monitor turns into a firm flat-line. A word about the misogyny in the script. Actually, several words.

For how many more decades are we going to have the horny maid character? And for how many more centuries are we going to have rape jokes? In his introductory scene, John Don Bosco is tested by a sceptical Denny who doesn’t really believe in his prowess as a mentalist. “What do you want me to do?” asks John Don Bosco. “Anything you want,” replies Denny. “Shall I rape you?” suggests John Don Bosco. “No, I’m a man!” responds Denny. So funny. Not.

In the latter half of the film, John Don Bosco delivers a speech on the importance of being a sensitive society but I suppose he needs to read my mind to know what exactly I thought of that, given his sense of humour. “Pretham” is exactly like the Prithviraj-starrer “Amar, Akbar, Anthony” in that sense. Lofty ideas mouthed by characters who happily participate in misogyny in the garb of humour. 

What I did like in the film was its irreverence to religion. There’s a guy named Yesu who asks interesting questions like, “Who is the tailor who stitches blouses for goddesses with six hands?” and frequently stumps the (materialistic) Christian priest with his logical doubts. Horror films routinely turn to fervid religion as a solution and it was refreshing to see the story veer away from that.

But then, it veered right into a train and became a wreck.

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