Gulabo Rani just streamed on YouTube and Sci-Fi horror just made a mark on the Pakistani short film scene. Find out what the film has in store and whether it is, aftre all, as spine chilling as the teasers promised!
Gulabo Rani gives off eerie feels right at the outset as a near-deserted hostel, dilapidated, torn down buildings with an equally dilapidated inmate take over the screen. The story is not new. Hostel horror stories are countless and reside in every university dorm – the short film was, therefore, playing on the oft-repeated narrative that many college students have heard at one moment or another.
Set inside a vintage feel set, a university campus that seemed as old as the spirits that inhabit the tale, the story surrounds the events in a hostel laced with a haunted past. New comer Akhter lands himself a room in the hostel wing that is entirely abandoned and notorious for paranormal activity. What follows is an encounter with bullying, the dark forces and more.
Usama Javaid Haider as Akhtar pulls you in with a seemingly unimpressive persona – he is meant to be teased, bullied and mocked which he is by a gang of threesome who come together to make up the university ragging team. Khushhal Khan Khattak made a guest appearance and it is no surprise that although his brief moment onscreen certainly spoke volumes for his talent, we wish he had a greater role because his mere presence seems to lift an ordinary scene to beyond the ordinary.
It is hard to direct a sci fi film on a limited budget. Keeping mind that the makers were out there for the experience, the sepia-toned frames, blue flash lighting and some scenes designed to creep out the calm in you were well exhibited, In particular (without trying too give too many spoilers), Akhter disappearing into the wall added enigma, mystery and originality to the techniques employed to add the surprise and horror/sci fi element.
The film could have pulled a punch if the screen play picked up the pace a bit as the first 20 odd minutes were spent in contemplating ‘what’s up’ and is there really much to be scared about in this decrepit building and our male protagonist as well. A short film can lose viewers very soon, and perhaps the pull factor in the first 5 minutes could have been more gripping, perhaps a terrorizing scene here, a sound there, a glimpse that literally shook us off the sofa – anything that would have jogged the viewer’s sensibility, made us reach for the pillow or simply, curl up, expecting the fright of a lifetime!
That moment didn’t really pass.
However, there was enough to keep one going if one relied on the story to unfurl at a gradual pace which it did.
What could have been better
The film had a very clear divide between the first 2/3rd and the final part. The first part seemed to move towards a logical sequence, the events confounded but kept one invested in the narrative. However, the wrap up in the final 10 minutes seemed a tad confusing. One walked away from the film wishing the ending could have been tied up differently, there was hope in a climax that never really happened.
We were left with questions, was Akhtar mentally compromised, did he, in fact, turn into a haunted spirit for life, was he tormented by para normal sightings, sound and visions?
Here’s what worked
Gulabo Rani is the first of its kind in an industry that might throw off some haunted narratives, but not with the special effects and sci fi mixed in. Plus the macabre story setting, the ghost like demeanour of Akhtar himself, and the attempt to pull us into a ghost-like narrative is, in itself a courageous take on uncharted territory.
There is always a first in every genre in our industry. Many young film makers must have dreamt to take on this genre but were dissuaded by the statistics, it doesn’t work, or has never been done before. The fact that someone tried to do it, and on a small budget and won an award, that too, an international award for the effort, is reason enough to take the film as a learning ground and hope that more and better work in this genre will be attempted.
The next film will venture into more creative story telling as well a grander scale to work with.
Watch if you’re a sci-fi buff, an emerging film maker or, a student whose abandoned hostel horror stories have lived with you well past your college and university era.
Usman Mukhtar’s latest venture ‘Gulabo Rani’ taps into the horror genre. He along with Meiraj Haq has produced the short film under the banner of their production house ‘Eastern Terrestrial Studios.’ The trailer got us intrigued. Seeing the dark frames, new faces, and a very fitting location, we had a few questions in mind so we reached out to Usman Mukhtar to get the inside scoop! Scroll down to know what he revealed to us about his upcoming short film.
Read more about the film here.
Gulabo Rani has a run time of 30-35 minutes and is set to release by the end of June or early July. The cast includes Usama Javaid Haider, Meiraj Haq, Daniyal Khaqan Afzal, Omer Abdullah Khan, Natasha Humera Ejaz, and a special appearance by Khushhal Khan Khattak.
Special Credits To…
DOP – Furqan Gul, 1st Assistant Director – Pasha, 2nd Assistant Director – Afreen Alvi, Art Director – Tanveer Nawaz Khan, Costume & Stylist – Malaika Riasat, Sfx Artist – Rija Kashif Sheikh, Makeup assistant – Farheen Awais, Gaffer – Latif Rehmat, Sound – Ansar Somroo, Equipment – Bling studios, Light Team – Popa lights, Camera Team – Leyenda Films, Vfx Supervisor Azfar Jafri.
Special thanks to ChannelTek, Salmaan Shaukat, Bling Studios and Yasir Jaswal.
The spot boys included Bilal Khan, Shano Ahmed, Usman Zaheer, Rehan Yousaf, and M. Mustafa.
The movie was edited by Nadir Shahzad Khan.
Shout out to the Music Director MRKLE and Sound Designer Stardek.
The line production is done by Downtown Films.