"It's a matter of life and death for me to watch it!" he informs his police officer friend - sweat pouring over his forehead, his eyes bugged out, his boyish charm appropriately kerfuffled.
The serial has everyone in Madhavan's apartment (the titular 13B) transfixed. No one - it seems - can stop watching it. Disaster after disaster befalls the kutumb in 13B. At one point Madhavan leaves his wife behind in critical condition and speeds through the streets of Mumbai just so he can make it to watch another episode. Yet he won't turn the darned thing off! In fact, I'm pretty sure he doesn't even hold his job down just so he can watch the serial.
Somewhere in the background you can hear Ekta Kapoor telling her minions - YEH SERIAL KI SCRIPT MUJHE KISSI BHI KEEMAT PE CHAHIYE!
Unfortunately the serial (called Sab Khariyat in the movie - but also known as 'Mother Lode' over at Balaji Telefilms) is an entirely concocted one. You see the serial is only broadcast in Madhavan's apartment. Turning the TV off is not an option - the remote doesn't work while its on. Why, one guy even has the brainwave of unplugging the TV. Nope, the serial still plays.
How can this happen, you might ask? Use your imagination! Bhoot-pret, baby!
However, telling you more will only result in spoilers that will ruin your enjoyment of this awesome guilty pleasure. Instead, I'd like to offer phaltu Drift advice to horror filmmakers (and I'm strictly talking about the genre here, not the resulting movie)
Rooting the movie in reality. Sure this whole 'lost souls' concept requires a leap of faith - kind of like superheroes. But more so in a movie that requires an audience to swallow a high concept - you have to ground everything else in as much reality as possible. Events around the high concept have to make sense.
So for example: if the neighbors of a house are nosy enough that they'd collect around the house when a new TV was being installed, they can't all become invisible when someone drags a dead body into same house. Vikram Kumar made the characters in his movie act in sensible ways, but he created such unrealistic situations that it entirely de-glossed his movie.
No expository dialog please! This has been the bane of Indian filmmakers for generations now. Its a result of assuming your audiences are dumb. Because filmmakers are afraid their audiences won't get their pecheeda plots - they offer is a scene in which a character will painstakingly paraphrase everything you've been watching and then will help you read between the lines as well. This construct almost always kills the pace of the movie.
In 13B, the grating expository scene has a bhoot talking directly to her offender via the TV. This is nuts in this day and age - the audience that doesn't get it in your movie won't be there to watch it. So why waste time and insult the rest of those who show up?
More of that great set design - but enough with the dhund! Let me put it this way: lighting a house in a spooky way - B+. Setting a smoke machine loose all over it just because you can - C.
Continue to overdo the crazy camera angles! I love this aspect of a horror movie. Often I analyze the camera angles and speculate where the surprise will come from in a shot. This time pass allows me to survive the scariest scenes. In one scene in which a bhayanak possibility is revealed, the camera starts jagging back and forth - do doubt mimicking the motion of a serial killer sawing his victim's head off.
The motivation has to match the crime. Remember Rock On!! and how a matter of fisticuffs resulted in life-long friends breaking up and ignoring each other for years? Even though it might have been known to have happened, it just doesn't look good on film. If something terrible has happened in a film, the reasons for it to have happened better be terrible. You can't have someone drive a car off a cliff just because they didn't like the color of its upholstery. Not that it happens in 13B, I'm just saying.
Also don't miss:
- The trailer of 13B
- 13B's promo video - Madhavan prances around with red corneas and sings 'Oh Sexy Mama - won't you do the Sa Re Ga Ma" (Baba Sehgal, Anushka Manchanda, Loy Mendosa)
- Vikram K. Kumar talks about the movie and how he filmed it in both Tamil and Hindi