26th Aug2020

Fantasia 2020: ‘Kriya’ Review

by Chris Cummings

Stars: Noble Luke, Navjot Randhawa, Avantika Akerkar, M.D. Asif, Kishan Bahurupiya, Kanak Bhardwaj, Anuradha Majumder, Tapesh Sharma, Narender Sihag | Written and Directed by Sidharth Srinivasan

New Dheli writer and director Sidharth Srinivasan (Soul of Sand) brings us Kriya, a nightmarish Hindi-indie horror with fantastical and magical elements. There’s a surrealist tone at the epicentre of Kriya, one that drives the whole film forth with gusto and a remarkable freshness, making this film something unlike anything I’ve ever really seen before.

The story here isn’t necessarily one that rolls off the tongue in explanation. It’s, in a nutshell, a tale of a guy who meets a girl named Sitara in a nightclub and becomes immediately besotted with her, entranced and transfixed by her, but there’s more to this seductive beauty than our initial meeting would cause us to think. When they head back to Sitara’s place, we, and Neel himself, see’s that her dying father is tied up and gagged, with her family grieving beside him. We’re introduced, if we may not be aware, to the fact that Indian custom tells that only a son can perform the last rites of a parent. Sitara pressures Neel into performing these rites once her father shuffles off this mortal coil. This doesn’t lead to anything simplistic and “A-Okay” for Neel, however, as he encounters the affliction in the form of an ancient curse that enravels Sitara’s family. Oh dear. Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear.

The cinematography, from Lakshman Anand and Karan Thapliyal, is truly something. Vibrant, weird and glossy, the movie looks really nice. The proverbial knees belonging to bees, you could say. It’s this, along with the story and screenplay from Srinivasan, the music from composer Jim Williams, who has done wonderful work in other horror titles such as Raw in 2016, Beast in 2017 and Ben Wheatley’s films, Kill List, A Field in England and Sightseers. He’s a very original composer and his work stands out. It fits perfectly here. I was also impressed with plenty of the cast choices, especially Noble Luke as DJ Neel, and Navjot Randhawa as Sitara. They are both fantastic here, and neither has a great deal of experience in film, according to the sources I looked at afterwards. Impressive.

I was thoroughly captivated by Kriya, it’s unconventional and mystical tone, and the nightmarish prose of its ninety-plus minutes. It’s unique, which really hooked my interest, and the unnerving atmosphere that chugs neatly alongside the narrative made things that much better. I’m not 100% sure I caught every single thing I was supposed to catch here, because there’s a lot going on culturally in Kriya. This is, however, a hallucinatory horror film that ticked a lot of boxes for me, with “something completely different” being one of those boxes.

**** 4/5

Kriya screens as part of this years Fantasia Festival, which takes place Aug 20th – Sept 2nd 2020.


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