After Bombay Talkies and Lust Stories, directors Zoya Akhtar, Dibakar Banerjee, Anurag Kashyap, and Karan Johar got together for the third time with Netflix's Ghost Stories. While it does not match the brilliance of their previous anthologies, it is a decent attempt at portraying their take on what makes horror.
The segment that Zoya Akhtar showcases, which is also the first movie in the anthology, focuses on the horrors of abandonment. And while its climax leaves you decidedly confused, Surekha Sikri's exemplary performance is the highlight of the whole anthology.
Surekha Sikri plays the role of Mrs. Malik, an ailing, paralyzed, old patient, abandoned by her son, and at the mercy of full-time care. Jhanvi plays the role of Sameera, the nurse replacing Mrs. Malik's regular nurse.
In every frame that she appears, Surekha Sikri completely hooks your attention. As Mrs. Malik, her clear diction, her grace, despite the physical state she is reduced to, and her sharp insight despite creeping dementia makes her a force that is scary and creepy in equal terms.
Zoya brilliantly sets up a scenario where you constantly expect Mrs. Malik to transform into a creature of horror. However, when her secret is actually revealed, you are left shocked. Because by that time, you are interested in Mrs. Malik's story - her past, her present, and possibly, the future, even if it is full of horrors (real and imaginary).
It is largely the culmination of both, brilliant acting by Surekha Sikri and Zoya's expert direction, that makes her more than just the 'creepy patient'.
The brand of horror that Surekha Sikri delivers is powerful, convincing, and unexpected, all at the same time. Her role is diametrically opposite to her latest National-Award winning role in Badhaai Ho. And yet, she is just as convincing. Clearly, that's a brilliant example of her talent and knowledge of the craft.
For their first attempt at horror, all four directors deliver movies that range from being scary to downright non-sensical. But Surekha Sikri's performance is, without a doubt, scary good.