Amazon classifies ‘Evil Eye’ as a horror film, but a supernatural drama would be a more accurate description. The film is not scary. There are no jump scares, no creepy monsters, there isn’t even a tinge of eeriness in the air. The film lacks the atmosphere of the genre until the climax, which is gripping but ultimately not enough. Once the expectations are adjusted accordingly though, it becomes much easier to enjoy the ingenuity of the story.
The basics of the plot are quite simple. Usha (Sarita Choudhury) begs her daughter Pallavi (Sunita Mani) to find a nice Indian man to marry before 30. That is the only way to break the curse, she says, otherwise Pallavi will remain unmarried forever. But when Pallavi finally finds the perfect man in Sandeep (Omar Maskati), Usha is unnerved. Why does Sandeep keep reminding her of her horrifying past? Simple answer: reincarnation. Quite obvious, considering it is an Indian story. But while ‘Evil Eye’ takes too long to come to this straightforward conclusion, it touches upon a lot of great ideas along the way.
‘Evil Eye’ explores the prevalent mythology in desi culture but dismisses the superstition. The characters don’t find solutions in horoscopes or lucky charms. In the film’s universe, the supernatural exists separate from ritual and religion. Banking on these tropes may have made the film more appealing to western viewers, but the conscious avoidance these gimmicks is commendable. Writer Madhuri Shekar is exploring these concepts on her own terms, instead of making them more appealing to her potential audience.
Most intriguingly, ‘Evil Eye’ provides an interesting perspective on how Desi women learn to live with their trauma. As Usha’s memories begin resurfacing, she navigates her anxiety like it is a battle she has prepared for all her life. Choudhury portrays Usha’s panic in such a controlled manner, never resorting to the cliché hysteria of a scarred woman. Pallavi has to unknowingly carry the burden of her mother’s past while trying to make a future for herself – a duality most of the diaspora may find relatable. This constant juggle is evident throughout Mani’s performance, as her eyes convey a different story than her dialogue.
Through these details ‘Evil Eye’ achieves what a lot of content aimed at the diaspora has failed to do. The film allows an opportunity to introspect, to learn something new about ourselves. Sadly, the film also makes another point: our trauma is intergenerational, and there is no breaking the cycle. That is, perhaps, where the horror of this story lies.