Fantasia Review – Kriya, a hynoptic nightmare odyssey

Neel (Noble Luke), a DJ, meets Sitara (Navjot Randhawa)in a nightclub. Their eyes lock as the pulsing, throbbing beat of the music rises. She’s enigmatic, he’s completely entranced. Following her to her home on the promise of sex, his night immediately goes to hell. Sitara’s father is laying dying in the middle of the room as his wife Tara Devi (Avantika Averkar), friend Panditji ( a quietly sinister Sudhanva Deshpande) and younger daughter Sara (Kanak Bhardwaj) sit vigil. The trio are unfriendly, their rituals odd. Sara urges Neel to flee at every opportunity. Sitara wants Neel to carry out the Hindu burial rituals for her father as he had no male heir.  Neel just wants to leave this nightmare house of death but becomes increasingly concerned for the safety of the women in the household. As he gets caught up in the rituals he is haunted by visions of a demonic man drowned in blood…

Pulsating, urgent & utterly hypnotic Kriya is a spellbinding debut from New Delhi writer/director Sidharth Srinivasan. Kriya is a biting commentary on the ritual degradation of women in India. His female protagonists are beautifully realised & desperately struggling to free themselves from the endless cycle of patriarchal violence where male progeny are valued above all.

Crucially Kriya is also a savagely funny black comedy. There is something very bleak about Neel effectively sleepwalking into his fate purely because he wants to get laid. The score by Jim Williams (who is also scoring Brandon Cronenberg’s lastest Possessor) is sensational, frequently discordant & thrillingly urgent it adds so much to the dreamlike nature of the film.

Not much actually happens in Kriya but you can’t take your eyes off the screen as the rituals unfold.

Bold, clever filmmaking at its best.

3/5 stars