Indie Film Review “Khazana (“Treasured”)”



First, the Recap:

Domestic abuse. The phrase brings chills and consternation to any soul that hears it. The implications, the substance, found within those two words rings of evils done upon another person that inspires both fear and anger. Yet, what happens after associated events is the key. Is it a hesitation to seek help for risk of never-ending reprisal? Or is something stirring within that finally pushes to the surface, driving another potential solution?  Young bride Vaidehi (Ulka Simone Mohanty) faces this dilemma each and every day at the hands of her domineering, arrogant husband Amar (Ahmed Lucan), mother-in-law Chand (Shruti Tewari), and sister-in-law Sapna (Sonam Arvind Dhage). Despite a lavish lifestyle, Vaidehi’s existence is nothing but constant verbal abuse.

Initially choosing to seek help through a counselor, Rishi (Bahram Khosraviani), which seems to at least yield some sense of inner peace for her, seeing him as a man who actually listens to and understands her, things only continue to deteriorate. Her knowledge of another woman in Amar’s life, Neelima (Reem Kadem), along with the ongoing neglect and denials from him about his relationship with her, nothing improves, and Vaidehi finds herself truly alone with the exception of the house servant, Dhaman (Laikh Tewari), who is likewise abused verbally by Amar. But, when a visit to a doctor, Arun (Rahul Nath), reveals a potential joy, the ensuing circumstances, including a savage physical attack, occur, it begs the questions–what happens when prey becomes hunter and misery turns to calculated revenge?

Next, my Mind:

Make no mistake, folks, the directorial debut feature film from director/co-writer/co-producer/actor Rahul Nath is anything but timid, deftly combining elements of drama, thriller, and horror genres to create a persuasively intense, emotionally harrowing, and sometimes disturbingly wince-inducing narrative that addresses the sobering realities and potent reactions of a young woman pushed well beyond her limits in the face of unforgiveable physical, psychological, and verbal torment. Additionally, the story then creates even more tension as other betrayals, collusions, and agendas are unearthed along the way, making the visceral finale pack a gut-wrenching punch sure to impact you as a viewer. The execution of these events over the course of the film are done so effectively in a style this reviewer personally assigns specifically to Indian cinema in that while certain elements are showcased quite candidly, others are only hinted at or not lingered upon. This leaves specific moments left to conjecture, even if just initially, which deepens the ramifications of them, at least in my opinion. Well shot all the way through.

Mohanty is a marvel here in her role as Vaidehi, presenting the character as the beautiful, intelligent young woman she is stuck in what at first seems like a simple case of loveless marriage that is then exposed as a scarring abusive situation that places her in an ever-growing state of inner conflict, bordering on madness. Watching the transition of the character from battered victim to black widow is so credible and convincing it’s scary, and Mohanty nails it with serious conviction. Lucan as Amar is likewise delivered so plausibly as the monster he is, easily building up a character we love to hate without much effort needed. His snarling, narcissistic demeanor begs for something to happen to him, and the anticipation of this carries throughout the film, all very much to Lucan’s acting credit. Khosraviani is excellent as the charming on the surface but creepy counselor Rishi, who has his own designs for Vaidehi that paints part of a larger conspiracy unfolding. His caring for her turns false, and Khosraviani carries this off with poise and purpose with the character.

Tewari and Dhage, as Vaidehi’s mother-in-law Chand and sister-in-law Sapna respectively, certainly succeed in portraying the exact type of spoiled, diabolically-minded in-laws you hope you never experience in real life. Imperious and haughty, their verbal attacks against Vaidehi are filled with a vile disdain that again prompts viewers to wish them ill. Again, this is a tribute to the performances given by both actresses. Nath plays about the one character you’d think was truly innocent in it all as Dr. Arun, but even his motivations are beleaguered by outside forces. Finally there is Laikh Tewari’s Dhaman, a subtly quiet but constant presence who plays a serious part in how events ultimately unfold and, in doing so, reveals a rather spooky side to the character. Well-played by the actor, no question. In total, “Khazana” overcomes any production level weaknesses here and there, as being honest, it’s the case with so many independent films that’s unavoidable due to budget constraints, and instead does what indie cinema excels at beyond this–provide excellent, character-based, story-focused entertainment that deserves to stand up, stand out, and be recognized.

As always, this is all for your consideration and comment.  Until next time, thank you for reading!

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