REVIEW: That both Neha and Anuja are rustic and refined, dressed in loose salwars with pleated dupattas covering their breasts, greasy hair pulled back in a tight ponytail, and no makeup has been established in their respective introductory scenes. Life in a staunch patriarchal home must have hardened them and turned these two young women into docile individuals. We say this when that aspect of their characters surfaces when they swing without protest, sob through their teeth and receive verbal beatings from the male members of their respective families for wanting to hold on to their jobs or return late from work. One day, the duo are sent to a long list of hamlets as census enumerators. On the way home, at a crucial junction, Neha reconfirms with Anuja if she still wants to go to that one house in a distant town. The latter responds positively. Arriving at the somewhat deplorable building, the two exchange quick whispers that this family of four is “very, very weird” and slip away. But a person’s initial demons are hard to overcome, and bruises on infant Prerna (Tina Bhatia) reopen old wounds. After much cajoling, Neha gives in to Anuja’s demand: They will return for a thorough inspection and rescue a very pregnant Prerna, who is also clearly battling mental health issues. That family is sociopathy personified and the house, a house of terrors.
Director Pushkar Mahabal’s ‘Welcome Home’ has an air of eerie silence hanging over its story (written by Ankita Narang), juxtaposed with the heinous and senseless crimes ruthlessly carried out by patriarch Paanch Saal Ka Maun Vrat -ee Ghanshyam (Shashi Bhushan) with his crazy cook, Bhola (Boloram Das). Ironically, Ghanshyam is a loyal devotee of the Almighty and is often seen absorbed in chanting deep prayers in the hallway, while in a room adjacent to the temple are two innocent and defenseless humans praying for their lives; such is the intensity of his narcissistic God complex. .
Mahabal has portrayed Bhola as the creepiest of all and embodies the spirit of a nympho, asking from time to time, “yeh ladkiyan jhoot bolti hain, main jaun unke paas, bhaiya? Main jaun? Main jaun? … ”He is a deranged character deprived of sex; The writer Narang has shown no indulgence and has done his best to develop this role and unleash the megalomaniac tendencies in it. Bholoram Das internalizes the characteristic traits of a man with whom you would not want to be in the same room for a split second. Shashi Bhushan works in tandem with Das, and together they give viewers a glimpse into the twisted world of pseudo machismo and toxic masculinity.
Tina Bhatia embodies the demeanor and mindset of a deeply edified Stockholm victim and fearful of domestic violence and female infanticide. Like Prerna, Bhatia is caught in the clutches of her own mind and there she remains. The performance is one that surely evokes pity. Akshita Arora is the scheming and controlling mother of the aforementioned barbarian creatures, and she lacks empathy … just what her character demands of her!
Leading the group of these amazing artists are Kashmira Irani and Swarda Thigle. The actresses display immense variety in their roles as beaten survivors fighting many battles, both in that house of hell and in life in general – head on! In several vital scenes, the duo, who share brotherly chemistry like most of the abused ones, show emotions through their expressions: the trembling of the eyebrows, the trembling of the lips, the breakups and the resurrection of their strongest selves. Pushkar Mahabal’s directing (and tight editing as well) and Ankita Narang’s narrative, shocking as it is, would not have struck the right chord had it not been for their incredible cast. In addition, the news of it. In a world where black and white photographs are posted on social media to stop violence against women, ‘Welcome Home’ serves as a bitter reflection of the society we live in and we cannot emphasize the present time enough of the subject in question.
Saee Bhope does a brilliant job behind the camera and adds to the fear and drama in ‘Welcome Home’ with her well thought out shots. Creepy gets creepier, all thanks to the sinister music of Meghdeep Bose. Rightly, this crime thriller does not have songs or lengthy speeches about the problems it sets out to summarize.
Even for a movie with a modest budget, it is criminal for Irani’s face to be smeared with so much suntan lotion that it reduced her to a haggard version of her usual handsome personality. Makeup artists Nitin Jha and Galib Sheikh should have known by now that cultural appropriation is old-fashioned and frowned upon. Also, the blood is too much to process at times. Two scenes in particular stand out for their graphic detail. We will leave it at that.
When the credits rolled in, we realized that ‘Welcome Home’ is based on a true story. If the movie could terrify us that much, we can’t even begin to imagine the plight of the survivors when it actually happened.
But, all said, ‘Welcome home’ gives hope: hope that every time a naive-looking girl is nudged by a leach, she’ll fight back. I hope that every time a wife, mother, or daughter is assaulted or murdered, women will defend themselves and seek justice.