Pavan Kirpalani’s neo-Gothic thriller Gaslight is set in a mansion so large that only a handful of characters are ever seen. No staff of maids, gardeners and security guards mill about the capacious abode (wherever they are, they are well-hidden). All we have is the aristocratic owner’s second wife Rukmini (Chitrangda Singh), the estate manager Kapil (Vikrant Massey) and a couple of retainers.

It is to this hulking house that Misha (Sara Ali Khan) returns after a 15-year absence. Confined to a wheelchair after an accident, Misha’s lack of mobility is less frustrating for her than the mysterious absence of her father Ratan (Shataf Ahmed Figar).

Is Ratan away on business, as Rukmini insists, or is he dead, as Misha fears? In true Gothic fashion, Misha has nightly sightings of Ratan, a piano plays itself and a medium predicts a dire turn of events. Misha’s fraught relationship with her step-mother is contrasted by the warm vibes that between Misha and Kapil.

Akshay Oberoi, Sara Ali Khan, Chitrangda Singh and Vikrant Massey in Gaslight. Courtesy Tips Films/12th Street Entertainment/Disney+ Hotstar.

Written by Kirpalani and Neha Veena Sharma, Gaslight is out on Disney+ Hotstar. The cast includes Shishir Sharma as the kindly family doctor, Akshay Oberoi as Misha’s entitled cousin, and Rahul Dev as Morbi’s underemployed Superintendent of Police.

Tight editing by Chandan Arora and a desaturated colour palette by cinematographer Ragul Herian Dharuman provide the window dressing for a film that does not have as many tricks up its sleeve as promised. But the creepy atmospherics are on point (Kirpalani directed the accomplished horror film Phobia), as are the principal actors, all of whom display the requisite caution and reserve essential in a suspense drama.

Gaslight creates a trail of bread crumbs that is easy enough to follow for anybody paying close attention. When the truth is revealed, a host of questions arise, never to be answered. One of them has to do with the size of the estate itself, which might have made the dark deed at the heart of the narrative easy enough to conceal. The title proves oddly apt: who is being gaslit never in doubt.

Gaslight (2023).

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