Tag Archives: Dybbuk

Movie Review: Dybbuk (2021)

1 Star (out of 4)

Watch Dybbuk on Amazon Prime

There’s a temptation to look for symbolism or thematic parallels in Dybbuk. Don’t bother.

Writer-director Jay K — who also wrote and directed Ezra, the Malayalam film on which Dybbuk is based — introduces potential themes and subplots that should be relevant but ultimately are not. As I describe the plot, I’ll put an asterisk (*) next to each theme that goes nowhere.

Married couple Sam (Emraan Hashmi) and Mahi (Nikita Dutta) are moving from Mumbai to Mauritius for Sam’s new job. Mahi worries about leaving her support system*, but Sam assures her she’ll be fine. Besides, her parents have never accepted their marriage since she’s Hindu and he’s Christian*.

They arrive at their colonial-era mansion in Mauritius, which comes complete with a suspicious maid* and an attic full of creepy junk*. Sam gets busy at his new job trying to turn Mauritius into a dumping ground for European nuclear waste*. His uncle, Father Gabriel (Denzil Smith), calls to ask how Mahi is coping with the move, especially after her recent miscarriage*.

Mahi shops at an antique store, which looks surprisingly tidy for a place that was the scene of a violent murder of possibly supernatural origins days earlier. She buys an obviously cursed box — part of a collection belonging to a deceased Jewish scholar — takes it home and opens it. Trouble ensues.

The symbolism of opening the box could have paralleled any of the dead-end plot points highlighted above in order to explore a particular theme: commonalities across faiths in times of spiritual crisis; the danger of putting work before personal relationships; how partners respond differently to a miscarriage; the threat of environmental catastrophe; continuing efforts by wealthy countries to exploit their former colonies (perhaps with the mansion being itself a cursed symbol of colonial oppression); etc.

Dybbuk isn’t about any of that. It’s just about a mean ghost. The rules governing how the ghost operates are flexible and dependent upon bits of information dropped into the story without setup. When asked why Sam and Mahi are so unfortunate as to be the ghost’s victims, Father Gabriel says, “There’s no logical explanations for these things.”

If Sam and Mahi were a happy couple, Father Gabriel’s explanation might be fine. But Jay K introduces these points of potential conflict to give the impression that there’s more to the story than just supernatural hijinks, when there isn’t.

For Dybbuk to have any depth or subtext, characters would have to have meaningful conversations with one another about more than just the mechanics of exorcising a ghost. After Mahi becomes pregnant again, she and Sam don’t talk about her feelings or fears given her past miscarriage. If they aren’t going to discuss the specific emotional trauma that comes from miscarriage, why make it a plot point?

Emotional depth isn’t possible in a story where Mahi is hardly a character in her own right. She exists to trigger the supernatural crisis and to give Sam someone to worry about. With a better script (and better direction of the mostly expressionless actors), Dybbuk could have been about something. Shame that it isn’t.

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Streaming Video News: October 29, 2021

I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Amazon Prime with the debut of Emraan Hashmi’s latest horror movie Dybbuk (also available in 4K UHD), a remake of the Malayalam movie Ezra. Other recent Amazon Prime debuts include Erida (Malayalam) and the Tamil movies Cinderella and Kodiyil Oruvan.

Bollywood Hungama reports that Amazon acquired the rights to stream four upcoming movies from Yash Raj Films — Bunty aur Babli 2, Prithviraj, Jayeshbhai Jordaar, and Shamshera — on Prime four weeks after their theatrical release.

I also updated my list of Bollywood movies on Netflix with today’s premier of the Hindi series Call My Agent Bollywood, the Indian version of the French series Call My Agent!.

We’re still waiting for Hulu to post the new Kriti Sanon-Rajkummar Rao Hum Do Hamare Do, which debuted on Disney+ Hotstar in India earlier today. I’m not sure why Hulu insists on delaying its Hotstar premiers until evening in the US, but it is what it is. [Update: Hum Do Hamare Do is now available.]

While updating my list of Bollywood movies on Hulu with some newly added TV series, I timed how long it takes to scroll to the bottom of Hulu’s complete A-Z list of Hotstar content. Because it only loads 15 titles at a time, scrolling all the way to the last title on the list took a full 1 minute and 24 seconds! You can get to the bottom of my Hulu list in 5 seconds. Just sayin’.

Happy Halloween! — Kathy

[Disclaimer: my Amazon links include an affiliate tag, and I may earn a commission on purchases made via those links. Thanks for helping to support this website!]

Streaming Video News: September 24, 2021

I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Netflix with today’s premiere of Season 2 of Kota Factory. On Wednesday, Netflix debuted its Original Kannada docu-series Crime Patrol: Indian Detectives, which has dubbed audio options in English and Hindi. Other additions from earlier in the week include the late-’90s Tamil films Avvai Shanmughi, Jeans, and Minsara Kanavu.

Nineteen Punjabi movies expire from Netflix on October 1. That’s half of Netflix’s current Punjabi-language catalog. For the full list of all of the Indian titles expiring in October, check out the “Expiring Soon” section near the top of my Netflix page.

I also updated my list of Bollywood movies on Amazon Prime with yesterday’s debut of the Tamil film Raame Aandalum Raavane Aandalum.

Today, Amazon announced its festive season lineup of big Indian (and English) titles releasing over the next couple of months. Sardar Udham (Hindi) and Udan Pirappe (Tamil) are set to debut in October, with Jai Bhim (Tamil) coming in November. Release dates for the rest of the titles — including the Malayalam movie Bhramam, Season 2 of One Mic Stand, and Dybbuk, the Hindi remake of the Malayalam film Ezra — have yet to be announced.[Disclaimer: my Amazon links include an affiliate tag, and I may earn a commission on purchases made via those links. Thanks for helping to support this website!]