A young woman returns home to mend her relationship with her estranged father, only to find him missing in Gaslight. The creepy but unambitious mystery does just enough to keep viewers hooked until the end.
Meesha (Sara Ali Khan) hasn’t seen her father Ratan Singh Gaikwad since she was a little girl, before the accident that left Meesha unable to walk. Her childhood in the family’s ancestral palace was happy until Ratan had an affair with Rukmani (Chitrangda Singh). Meesha and her mother moved away, but Mom never got over the breakup and killed herself.
Years later, Meesha receives a surprise letter from her father asking her to come home for a visit. When she arrives, she’s greeted by Rukmani — now her father’s wife — who assures the young woman that Ratan is away on a work emergency and will return in a few days. But that night, Meesha sees a man she thinks is her father. She gets in her wheelchair and follows him to a remote part of the palace, only to fall down some stairs when she’s startled by a loud noise.
Though Meesha at first thinks that her father is in the house, a series of frightening incidents convince her that Ratan is actually dead — but no one believes her. Not Rukmani or the family physician Dr. Shekhawat (Shishir Sharma). Only sympathetic, handsome estate manager Kapil (Vikrant Massey) humors Meesha, while warning her to be careful of Rukmani and her allies.
Gaslight is legitimately frightening at times. Besides Meesha’s eerily preserved childhood bedroom, the palace is full of scary artwork. Bold is the homeowner who thinks Goya’s Saturn Devouring His Son is suitable decor for a family abode.
The film could have pushed the spooky factor further by advancing Rukmani’s subplot in the story. At one point, she also begins to see things that aren’t there, which — had it happened in conjunction with Meesha seeing things at night — could have elevated the possibility of a supernatural cause for Ratan’s absence. Instead, Rukmani’s subplot isn’t highlighted until the second half of the film, after Meesha has already articulated her own, non-supernatural theory as to what is happening (a theory many in the audience will likely share by that point in the story).
Gaslight writer-director Pavan Kirpalani proved his ability to craft a chilling story with previous films like Phobia and Bhoot Police (both of which I thoroughly enjoyed). His latest feature leaves enough questions unanswered throughout to entice viewers to see things through, and the cast does a fine job with the material. Rahul Dev is good in a small role as a cop who is a more attentive investigator than he initially appears to be. It would have been nice if the film’s character development had avoided reinforcing traditional class hierarchy, but Gaslight doesn’t aspire to be more than what it is.
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