There is a purpose that spooky old palaces serve— as locations for suspense or horror thrillers. Pavan Kirpalani’s Gaslight (on Disney+Hotstar) tries to be both with mixed results. The other minor advantage of shooting at heritage sites is the architecture, furniture and art to admire, while characters foolishly go traipsing into cavernous passageways in the dark, or inexplicably go for midnight swims,
Wheelchair-bound Meesha (Sara Ali Khan) arrives at her father’s estate in Morbi after 15 years, on receiving a letter from him. What she did for that period is not explained; all the background offered is that she is a social media ‘ghost.’ When she reaches her childhood home, she is told her father is away on a business trip, which sounds suspicious. Her stepmother Rukmani (Chitrangda Singh) tries to make her feel welcome, but Meesha remains sulky and rude. On her nightly forays in the palace, she claims to have seen her father (Shataf Ahed Figar), but the encounters end with a scare. The family doctor Shekhawat (Shishir Sharma) is summoned to treat and talk sense into her.
There is a deferential estate manager Kapil (Vikrant Massey) around, a snooty cousin Rana (Akshay Oberoi) and a terrifying blind medium (Manjiri Pupala)—enough to drive her nuts, which Meesha suspects is the intention. The local cop Ashok (Rahul Dev) is reluctant to even file a missing person’s complaint. Meesha is convinced her father is dead, and turns to Kapil for help—since he seems to be the only one without a reason to harm her.
Then amidst the sex, lies, home movies and treachery, more bad things happen, the body count piles up and it looks like all of this is a conspiracy to grab the property—who by, that is the question. Kirpalani, whose preferred genre seems to be horror (Bhoot Police, Phobia, Darr@The Mall) gets the basics right—dark visuals (Ragul Herian Dharuman gets to play with shadows in the ghostly palace), jump scares, eerie music, lightning that appears when, and for as long as the scene requires. In an otherwise lazy script, he even introduces a twist at the end, which is actually hinted at in the opening sequence.
The actors do their jobs competently enough—there is not enough of a challenge for them. Made for OTT, the film does not have to bother with songs or comic relief, so it sticks to the business at hand, and though it leaves much to be desired on the horror scale, the suspense is decently built up.
Directed by Pavan Kirpalani
Cast: Sara Ali Khan, Chitrangda Singh, Vikrant Massey, Akshay Oberoi, Rahul Dev and others