Pari Review (SPOILERS): The Primal Fear of All Men Which Leads to the Primal Danger for All Women

Well, that was as draining and difficult as expected.  NOT because it was a fake horror movie, but because it was a fake horror movie that was representing real horrors.  If you are planning to watch it, don’t read on, read the no spoilers review instead.  But if you aren’t planning to watch it and want to join in a fascinating discussion, please do!

Whole movie in two paragraphs:

Parambrata Chatterjee is meeting Ritabhari Chakraborty, a nurse, to consider an engagement.  He is shy and nervous, she is kind, on the way home in the car in the rain he tells his parents that he wants to confirm the engagement.  And just as they are talking about it, his father is distracted and hits a woman with the car.  They take her to the hospital and the police identify her as the mysterious old woman who collected dogs and lived in the forest.  They go to her house and find her dogs, and also Anushka, her daughter, chained up in the shed.  Parambrata feels bad and tries to help Anushka as much as he can with the details of the funeral.  Meanwhile, the morgue attendent saw a tattoo on Anushka’s mother’s body and called a mysterious wise professor Rajat Kapoor in Bangladesh who is determined to come to India and find her.  Anushka gets spooked when she sees him and goes running to Parambrata’s apartment in the city.  He lets her stay the night, planning to take her to a women’s shelter the next day.  But the shelter is terrifying, so he lets her stay with him and they start to grow close.

In the second half, the mythology begins to be more and more filled in.  In the 90s, a cult in Bangladesh kidnapped girls and brought them to be impregnated by a demon, their babies would grow to full size and be born within a month.  Rajat tracked down the women and forced them to give birth and then beheaded the babies.  One woman escaped, Anushka’s mother.  Anushka is half-demon, a “Pari”.  She is being watched by the dark women who speak for the demon that was her father.  Her purpose is to have children and spread the demon bloodline farther on the earth.  Every month her poison rises inside of her until it almost kills her, and she has to drain it by killing something, usually a dog.  She can climb up the side of buildings, she is freakishly strong, and (according to Rajat Kapoor) she can’t be trusted.  Rajat tracks down Parambrata and tells him all this, but it is too late, Parambrata had sex with Anushka the night before.  Parambrata starts to notice that Anushka isn’t quite right, and learns that she is already pregnant and showing, and does his own research.  He also loses Ritabhari when she sees him kissing Anushka.  Finally, he chains Anushka up, with her willing participation since he will let her stay if she is chained, but then he turns her over to Rajat who plans to torture her until her own poison kills her.  Parambrata goes back to his parents’ house and they are worried about him, calling Ritabhari to check on him.  He confesses everything to her, and she confesses her own “sin”, she had a serious long term relationship before him, got pregnant, and had to have an abortion at 3 months when her boyfriend abandoned her, and she has never quite gotten over it.  Their conversation makes Parambrata realize he has a responsibility, he has to go back for Anushka.  He finds the men dead in the apartment, Anushka kills Rajat Kapoor and then goes for Ritabhari.  But in a surprise twist, Anushka goes into labor in the middle of the fight and Ritabhari can’t leave her alone.  She helps her give birth to a normal healthy baby, and then Anushka leaves the baby with her and goes back to her forest home.  Parambrata goes to find her there, and she dies in his arms, letting herself die rather than hurt anyone else, and asking him to take care of their son.




There are two reasons that men make-up the idea of supernaturally powerful women.  The first is to excuse the terrible things they do to them, women are dangerous and evil so it is okay.  Misogyny, in other words.  And the second is to explain the reasons that women, normal women, have more power than they are “supposed” to have, to come up with an excuse for them to be powerful. Male Chauvinism.

Image result for pari poster

This film digs into both concepts.  Rajat Kapoor is a misogynist.  He enjoys hurting women.  We see that in the first flashback, to when he was killing the other Paris the first moment they were born.  Perhaps, according to the mythology, the babies needed to be killed.  But their mothers were innocent women kidnapped and forced to carry demon children.  Rajat did not need to keep them huddled together and scared, did not need to force them to give birth in a bloody bathtub with chained men watching.  He uses this mythology as an excuse for his behavior.

But Parambrata is a bit of a male chauvinist.  He assumes Anushka is innocent, delicate, perfect.  That is the kind of woman he wants, even his fiancee is a bit too strong and scary for him.  And as soon as Anushka begins to show something besides perfect innocence and reliance on him, begins to show her own independent desires, he runs away, scared, and leaves her to the misogynists.

The savior for women is, and always will be, other women.  Anushka and Ritabhari start as enemies.  They both want the sweet understanding loving Parambrata.  But ultimately, when Anushka is in distress, Ritabhari goes to her.  And Anushka leaves her baby, and her life, for Ritabhari.

Image result for ritabhari chakraborty

(Ritabhari is great casting, a very natural human kind of look to her)

Woven through all of this is pregnancy.  The scariest time for a man, and the most dangerous time for a woman.  This is that supernatural magical power that women really do have.  Only it doesn’t make you stronger, it makes you weaker, more vulnerable in all kinds of ways.  Mostly from abuse by men.

Let’s start with the first chronological pregnancy, Anushka’s mother.  Her ability to procreate is why she was kidnapped and raped.  She was impregnated against her will, and Rajat tried to take her baby against her will too.  She took control, ran off with her child.  But even that wasn’t totally her choice.  That is the “secret” of pregnancy, you have no choice in bonding with the thing growing inside of you.  That is why there is such urgency in getting an abortion, so that you can take control of your body before it takes control of you.

And then there’s Ritabhari.  She was happy with her pregnancy.  Until her boyfriend abandoned her.  The abortion was her choice, and she doesn’t say that she regrets it, but it is a pain that is always there.  Her boyfriend may have felt trapped by the pregnancy, but she is the one who has to pay the price every day for his fears, his abandonment of her left her with no other choices.

And finally, Anushka.  She grew up in the forest, fell in love with the first man who was at all nice to her, had sex with him, and became pregnant.  And in return she was abandoned, tortured, and left to die.  Which, unfortunately, is not that uncommon a happening for a woman who tells her boyfriend she is pregnant.  According to one report, it is the cause of death for 20% of women who die during pregnancy.

And she never should have been pregnant in the first place, she never should have had sex, Parambrata’s sin is not having sex with a demon, but having sex with the human half of Anushka.  She was a scared young woman who never experienced the world.  He should have rejected her advances, known that she was not capable of fully making that decision, known that there was no good solution to this, known that he was just taking advantage of her vulnerability in order to satisfy his own desires, that he only saw her as a nonthreatening available body in his bed not as a real person.

There is a legend (one of many) about a Pari in which a normal man sees her and falls in love with her and her with him and she takes him away to her palace.  Until he misses his other human family and goes back to see his wife and sons.  But breaks his promise and tells his human wife about his Pari wife and therefore is barred forever from his Pari wife and life (link here).

Image result for shakuntala

(Yes, this is also the legend of Shakuntala.  Not surprisingly, stories of married men who get innocent young women pregnant and then go back to their wives are pretty consistent across cultures)

The legend tells this from the man’s perspective.  He was so lucky to have a rich beautiful Pari, he was foolish to give in to weakness and go back and visit his human wife and sons, and he became wise too late, abandoning his human family and wandering waiting for his Pari wife to come back.

But, what about the women?  The Pari who thought he loved her, thought he was true to the life they had built together, tried to understand his need to see his other family but wanted certain things to be true to their bond.  And the human wife who bore his children and put up with him disappearing and just wanted to know where he went.  He is faithless to both women, hurting them much more than they hurt him.

That is where this movie ends.  With the two women in his life, the human one and the Pari, bonding over being women, the ultimate symbol of being a women, birth.  All the foolish anger and fear and violence, that was given to them by men.  When it drops away, there is nothing left to fear, there is no danger, there is just love and life.  Anushka was never the demon, it was the men who feared her who were the real demons.


27 thoughts on “Pari Review (SPOILERS): The Primal Fear of All Men Which Leads to the Primal Danger for All Women

  1. This post reminded me of Ezra and I had to check out your Ezra post. Both seem like a subversion of the mystical pregnancy trope (Link to the video by feminist frequency below. I know I’m entering very dangerous territory by referring to Anita Sarkeesian) “Witch” burning might no longer be prevalent, but any normal biological process specific to female bodies (menstruation, pregnancy, child birth) has to have this mysterious stigma attached to it, isn’t it?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yep, definitely. This movie gets almost cheeky with it, she tells the hero she is in pain and doesn’t want help and it happens “every month” and he just laughs and accepts. Only what she is going through is only superficially similar to cramps and PMS, so it’s also a joke on the hero’s total lack of knowledge of how women work.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. H’mm, I think you’ve worked hard to find some deeper meaning in this film’s story, but it just sounds like a hot mess to me. And yup, I don’t know how anyone can describe this as a romance or love story.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s not a hot mess, although it should be, which is really a tribute to good filmmaking. The flashbacks are integrated in such a way that the complicated story feels like it builds naturally and makes sense as you are watching it. And the various moods are pulled together perfectly, there is the dreamy romance and the moments of violence but they all have an underlying tone that is in common between them, so they feel like they fit together. I was comparing it with Carbon, the Malayalam film I watched on Friday, and it succeeded where Carbon failed. Carbon had an equally complicated story, but it just didn’t handle the flashbacks and story twists as well, and never felt like it had a point to it.

      For the romance, I can see where people would see that, but only if they watched the story differently than I did. A long time is spent on Anushka falling in love with Pranabarta. But, to me, it always came with a tinge of danger, she was letting herself in for heartbreak and he was getting sucked into a dangerous situation. It wasn’t a “romance” so much a slowly building dread as you could feel how everything was going to go terribly wrong in the end. It’s one of the most fascinating parts of the film, arguing that falling in love can be a danger just like anything else.

      On Mon, Mar 12, 2018 at 7:53 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:



  3. Interesting that you felt that Rajat Kapoor and Parambrata were misogynistic. But weren’t the impregnated women also kinda dangerous? Which is why he kept them the way he did? And Parambrata, well he naturally got freaked out after he found about Anushka. He did care for her, not sending her to the shelter, eventually going back to make sure she is ok…though about having sex with Anushka, I agree. He did know that she was not aware of the world. Maybe it was his own insecurities, having been lonely and friendless from his childhood (he says that he used to hide under the bed too). Maybe he could connect with Anushka because he was isolated too, having grown up alone.


    • I think it’s part of what makes the movie so brilliant, that they don’t shy away from the real danger these women presented. But then, the pregnant women at least, weren’t dangerous at all themselves, it was just what they were carrying. But they were seen as just vessels for the danger, both by the people who captured them and impregnated them and by Rajat Kapoor who “rescued” them. There was no effort made to explain what happened or why, no effort to treat them as “human”. And with Anushka, they seemed to land on her self being the best protection against herself. She was trying to keep herself under control, and in the end she let herself die. And she never harmed an innocent. So yes, she was powerful and had the capability for evil within herself, but she fought against it. Unlike Rajat Kapoor who seemed to embrace his human evil and never bothered to fight it, said that he was going to enjoy killing her with no sense of guilt.

      On Mon, Mar 12, 2018 at 9:28 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:



  4. Yep, I couldn’t resist reading it. And, though I will see it someday, I don’t think worth seeing it in the theater–it’s not that close to me, about 30 mins away and not public transport accessible. Thanks for pulling out the themes so well. Intimate relationships with men are dangerous for women, pregnancy is dangerous for women (in terms of health outcomes, partner violence, and medical violence), and motherhood is dangerous for women. Interesting to think of men’s fears of women and supernatural pregnancies as reversals of these very real dangers.


    • I drove 45 minutes to see it, but then I run a blog, so it is a little different 🙂

      Definitely worth watching at some point, hopefully it comes to a streaming site fairly soon. It’s an interesting combination of intimate partner violence (“you love me so much and you are having my child and that is scaring me, so I am going to make it so you don’t exist any more”) and violence by the patriarchal state (“women must be controlled and eliminated if necessary”)

      On Mon, Mar 12, 2018 at 9:52 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:


      Liked by 1 person

    • It is such an interesting choice! And it feels like the kind of role she could only take because she was producing it. That is, I don’t think anyone would have offered her this role, they would look for someone more artsy, less glamorous. But since she is producing it herself, she can take the role that no one else would have pictured her in.

      On Mon, Mar 12, 2018 at 3:19 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:



  5. Here are my thoughts after seeing this movie with a couple of friends on Wed night.

    Really well made, well paced, unfolds naturally, great cinematography, set design, art direction, and makeup, costuming is very basic but services the story. Moving naturalistic acting by Anushka and everyone. No gratuitous gore or fright, every scary moment services the story. Sometimes the gore is off camera even. They really use sound – both score and sound effects – more than anything to build tension and heighten fear. And they did a fantastic job of making it feel like you were in the character shoes experiencing their fear and tension vicariously, instead of you experiencing personal fear (by contrast, most b grade horror movies use the characters and scenes as plot devices to bring you thrills and chills, like a roller coaster or a haunted house would).

    Unfortunately the climax is extremely poorly handled and leaves you laughing unintentionally. I had the same eye roll WTF moment as I did with ADHM. In this case it’s a flaw in the director’s choices in how to tell this segment of the story, not a flaw in the story itself. There was enough foreshadowing (RB leaving the operating theater with a panic attack, her later abortion reveal) to help the audience accept that she would help Anushka give birth. But the sudden tonal shift – the build up of tense music switching instantly to hallmark-jingle-worthy feel-good music, the brightening from almost grayscale to full on color, it was just too much, too quick, and unbelievable. Really, more than 1 of us in the audience either chuckled or burst out laughing. Maybe if the mood shift in music and coloring had been more subtle – perhaps switching to either slo mo, or quick cuts, or ethereal dreamscape filter and music, would have conveyed more successfully how this woman’s primal urge to help a child live when she could not save her own would so completely override her primal fear of the woman giving birth such that RB could be there for Anushka with such full confidence and commitment. Really, with some thought and creativity (and maybe seeing how other tv shows and movies have handled similar transitions), this could have been a moving moment instead of a WTH one.

    Then just like with ADHM, I couldn’t focus on the rest of the movie, because the sudden shock of this childbirth guffaw kept me stuck in that moment. You feel mad at and betrayed by the director in moments like this, adv then it’s hard to focus on the movie. But I didn’t want one bad choice to ruin the movie for me, so I had to force myself to focus on the final scene. And that’s such a shame, because I’m sure many of the audience was checked out when the final scene occurred. The final scene was a thing of beauty, esp Anushka’s sensitive performance. She didn’t just let herself die, she had to fight her primal urges to release the poison by biting into PB’s neck, which was do tempting because he was right there holding her so tightly. It was a moment of pure love from both sides – him knowing he might die in that moment but holding her nonetheless, her knowing that she was killing herself to save him, and using every bit of resolve she had to keep from biting him. True that she never killed innocent people, but in your dying moments your survival instinct is to save yourself, and Anushka’s acting showed herself fighting that urge in the final moments, and dying with resolve yet bittersweet melancholy.

    This movie is worth seeing! I really felt strongly about supporting a well made movie in an alternative genre by buying a ticket in a theater for it, and supporting Anushka’s efforts that way as well. Without our support, no one will make a second attempt at this genre, especially not a high quality effort like this one. We had a full house, it’s too bad because it’s probably left the theaters now, whereas it would have gained some traction due to word of mouth had it stayed.

    If you see this movie at home, the immersive experience is key, so don’t watch it on your phone or while doing chores. Instead, watch it on your largest flat screen or projection possible, your best home theater surround sound, lights off, no distracting noises, no tasks to interrupt your viewing, and have your SO or bff by your side watching with you. My friends and I discussed the movie for 15 min after, would have been more except it was nearly midnight on a weeknight and everyone had a half hour drive home.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You are right about the immersive experience. I am so glad I saw it in theaters. There is so much plot to it, and yet it unfolds in this slow reflective way, you have to let it draw you in to be able to fully appreciate it, you can’t come in only for the “good parts” and have the same experience.

      The last sequence worked for me, but I think that might have been because my theater was almost empty, so I was as immersed as possible. But you are right, the transition could have been handled better. What I would have really liked was more focus on birth as its own horror, whether or not you are having a demon baby. We got that a little bit, the flashback showing the women being terrified of having their labor induced and the horror of giving birth, and RB’s contrasting horror of the sterile hospital room and the emotionless operation. But I would have liked for the final scene to be a mixture of horror and caring, to show that birth really is terrifying.

      On Sat, Mar 17, 2018 at 10:03 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:



      • And to add to your thought, that mixture off horror and caring would have better serviced the story because neither Anushka nor RB knew what she was giving birth to – what it would look like or act like, whether it would just spring out and bite or kill RB, nothing. So it would make sense for this scene – the direction, portrayal, cinematography, music, editing, and RBs acting – to be a jumble of those emotions and tensions.


        • And then the end of it would have been the same relief as a regular birth, but more so, just like the labor was more terrifying. To have survived the experience and gotten a normal happy healthy baby, that’s when you would want the happy music. Or, at least a change in the lighting so we could feel the release and joy in contrast to the horror before.

          On Sat, Mar 17, 2018 at 12:46 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:


          Liked by 1 person

          • That’s exactly it. You are so smart. It’s not that the tonal shift was erroneous, it’s just that it was premature.

            You see this is why movie makers should screen the final edit with this blog before releasing their films 😉

            Liked by 1 person

          • 🙂 i liked it. noticed that the majority of reviews are talking abt it as though it was a love story.. and i totally don’t think that was the point at all. plus it was quite beautifully shot..


  6. I just watched this film last night and boy oh boy did I totally love this!!! Remind me to never take my boyfriend’s reviews for dense and deep films seriously!

    First things first, I really loved the Bengali setting for this film. The cultural context of this is that Bengalis apparently have a reputation for being the most inclined to indulge in black magic and tantric arts. This probably comes from the legends around the Kamakhya devi temple. Now the setting is important because this isn’t supposed to be a metaphor for anything if you’re looking at it from the POV of it being based on “real” popularly known legends. And these legends are as real for the people in these parts as say Jack the Ripper (rather than Count Dracula). Sure you could make a Jack the Ripper movie that is a metaphor for the condition of women but it could also just be a horror film about a terrifying “real” legend.

    I don’t know if you’ve visited India during peak monsoons but the film totally captured the essence of it. You could almost feel the cool stickiness through the screen and I mean the cool stickiness of mid-August when it’s rained so much that you need a fan running on full speed to keep the stickiness to a manageable level but you also need a heavier sheet or even a blanket to cover up when you sleep because you will feel the coolness. There’s no dust in the air and that somehow quiets everything down. Literally, it is quieter during peak monsoons.

    I think the film was “lost” on people because they used legends that aren’t universally known across non-Muslim India. Imagine the same film with a “chudail” or a “dayan”. Although Ek Thi Dayan also had the same premise and a similar setting (and it remains one of my favorite Indian horror films), it too was “lost” on people because dayan legends vary so much from region to region. That said, the Muslim legends and the concept of jinn-jinnat are pretty consistent across India and that I feel is a strength for this film.

    Onto the truly bizarre bit. When I was a kid, around 7-8 and I had barely learnt to read, I remember small town newspapers brought into our house by visitors that had taken the bus into town and a whole lot of these were full of “reports” of demons and spirits that had sex with women. That made me immediately believe the premise of this film. We still do have superstitions like unmarried girls are not supposed to use itras because they attract jinns.

    When I grew up, I thought the “reports” were about rape and molestation and incest that traumatized women into thinking it were the jinns that did it. But then I saw a jinn or a demon by my bed when I was wide awake at night in a room well lit by the light of the streetlight myself and me and my mom continued to feel a presence in that house over the next 14 years (plus two more direct physical attacks when I was in college and home alone) and I thought maybe there is more to this.

    So, as a believer that such things very much exist, this film makes total sense. With that belief in place, the notion that there are people that have sold their soul to the shaitan to breed children of jinns makes sense and it also makes sense that some of these sprites aren’t always evil.

    Rajat Kapoor’s character reminded me of Kansa from the Krishna mythology.

    I didn’t get the male chauvinist or misogynist bit from Arnab. Rather, I felt that he was the male equivalent of Rukhsana. He was an awkward, painfully shy kid that grew up friendless, hiding under the bed when visitors came over. He barely spoke and he had almost no friends, even when living alone in Calcutta (notice that he doesn’t have the go-to BFF, no drinking buddy and no flatmate for that huge flat), he had no girlfriends and he could barely get a word in edgewise during his meeting with his future fiancée.

    His meeting with Rukhsana, especially her escape from the chains brings about his own escape from his chains of shyness, introversion and being told what to do by his parents.
    His dark secret, that he’s got this girl in his flat, is a parallel to the dark secret that his fiancée had been keeping. He is, not for a second, shown to have had a problem with her ex, that it was more serious than she let on, that she had gotten pregnant, that she had terminated the pregnancy at a fairly advanced stage. Not once. I think that is important because even while “missing” that obviously sexist and patriarchal trait, he is shown to be very much his own man, very assertive, very decisive, very emotional and rather violent in his own way.

    He is shown as a “real” guy, a real person who gets shocked by a sudden kiss, who develops feelings for a women that lives in his house and who gets scared of a freaking demon in his house. We see them being parallels again when she is back in chains and getting hurt and he is back in his childhood home, locked in his bedroom and basically back in his own chains. We can clearly see that she doesn’t need a man to free her, she can do that for herself. And the same for him.

    He is the one making the independent decisions to be with the fiancée whose story would no doubt end the match and end the girl’s reputation and also the decision to go rescue the demon and to go rescue his fiancée from the demon and then to go looking for the demon again and then to keep the demon and his baby.

    I guess the peri legend says that the sprite can be either good or bad and when Arnab asks if he isn’t a demon himself for leaving Rukhsana like he did, he is making the decision to be either a good person or a bad person. The same way that perhaps Rukhsana does when she births a human baby instead of a demon baby.

    I thought Rajat’s fake eye was a great symbol for him only seeing half the reality and acting only upon that. Also, I felt his character was a bit underdeveloped and underused in the film especially in the middle when the story becomes almost exclusively about Arnab and Rukhsana.


    • See, this is why you should always believe my recommendations over everyone else’s!

      I like your Jack the Ripper analogy, partly because there have been SO MANY film adaptations of it that deal with gender issues and misogyny. Similar to the Jinn stories, Jack is about violence towards women, in a way that leaves so many open questions and interpretations that it can be fictionalized without really being fictionalized. That is, it’s not changing the “real” story. because there are so many unknowns about the real story, you can invent what you need to to fill in those gaps. In this film, it is merely a matter of accepting that Jinns are real and can impregnate women, and from there they spun out what they wanted to fill in the rest of the story they wanted to tell.

      I like your idea of the hero and heroine being parallels, and I would add that it is another gender statement. Both men and women have the capability of good or bad within them, there is no line of virtue that cuts across genders. Everyone has the capability of making a choice in how they want to live their lives.

      On Mon, May 28, 2018 at 11:54 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:



    • “First things first, I really loved the Bengali setting for this film. The cultural context of this is that Bengalis apparently have a reputation for being the most inclined to indulge in black magic and tantric arts.”

      It’s set in Bengal because it’s written by two Bengali men, and directed by one of them. It’s what they’re familiar with. We do have a tradition of supernatural horror and the grotesque in our literature. Do you think we’re all sitting around here practising black magic all day? Stop othering us like this. While you lot were busy spreading our “reputation”, the real dark arts grew right in your backyard. Have fun with that.


      • Read what I wrote again. And then once more. Did I say every Bengali as a matter of fact indulges in it all the time? Also, just so we’re clear, I meant that thanks to the tradition of supernatural horror in Bengali literature, Bengalis have a reputation for indulging in dark arts. I didn’t write that literature and I didn’t earn Bengalis that reputation. Lol.

        Also, all of India has pockets famed for it.


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