The actor Boloram Das is in full-on creepiness mode in two direct-to-streamer films this week. In Pepper Chicken, Das plays a driver who takes his customer (Dipannita Sharma) on a tour of hell. Ratan Sil Sharma’s movie, which is out on ShemarooMe Box Office, features Das as an initially polite and protective type who reveals his dark side moments after spouting the poetry of Pash. The serviceable thriller squanders its early promise, but coasts along on the performances of the two leads.

In the SonyLIV film Welcome Home, Boloram Das is far more effective and terrifying as a man who promises to perform horrible deeds and goes right ahead. Welcome Home has other strong performances too, especially by its female leads, who movingly bring out the film’s themes of imprisonment and liberation.

The movie has been written by Ankita Narang and skillfully directed and edited by Pushkar Mahabal. The excellent handheld cinematography, by Saee Bhope, creates an unrelenting atmosphere of dread and claustrophobia as two women unwittingly walk into a house of horrors.

Everybody counts, whether during an election or a census. With this noble thought in mind, enumerator Anuja (Kashmira Irani) and her colleague Neha (Swarda Thigale) knock on the door of the only house in a town on their list. The door is opened by the heavily pregnant Prerna (Tina Bhatia). Her child-like manner and the bruises on her body make Anuja suspicious. That and Prerna’s scary-looking mother (Akshita Arora), unspeaking father (Shashi Bhushan) and strange-eyed cook (Boloram Das).

Didn’t you find them odd, Anuja asks Neha. Very, very odd, Neha replies. Yet Anuja, who has a domineering father and fiance and values her small freedoms, is moved by Prerna’s condition. She returns to the house with Neha, and it is a while before they can leave.

Pushkar Mahabal keeps his finger on the wound throughout the 126-minute narrative, producing several wince-making moments. The excellent acting across the board, especially by Kashmira Irani and Swarda Thigale, ensure that the modestly budgeted survival drama yields rich dividends.

The uncluttered narrative deftly brings out the culture of abuse and control that has trapped the house’s residents. The sordid encounter with terrible men and enabling women transforms the new victims too. Anuja, who has been fighting to keep her job, and Neha, who has a bully of a brother, emerge as spirited fighters rather than helpless victims, always attempting to resist what is being done to them. Their liberation is soaked in blood – a sad truth that Welcome Home brings out one nail-biting scene at a time.

Welcome Home (2020).