For anyone who’s grown up watching the “Home Alone” series, a movie about a child being left alone at home would bring back memories of funny moments, emotional scenes and a happy ending.
But in Vinod Kapri’s “Pihu”, a two-year-old girl wakes up the day after her birthday party to find her lifeless mother in bed and the entire house empty, and you know immediately that this isn’t going to involve a boisterous family reunion in the end.
Instead, the film’s entire 92 minutes focuses on Pihu, (Myra Vishwakarma) the precocious toddler who has to contend with every parent’s worst nightmare - burning irons, open electrical sockets and glass shards on the floor.
Kapri uses every horror situation that a parent could imagine to manufacture the chills, as his young protagonist wanders around the house searching for food and milk, shuts herself in the refrigerator, turns on the stove and burns food in a microwave.
Her father, away on a business trip, calls several times but doesn’t realise that something is wrong. A neighbour spots her clambering on the balcony railing to retrieve a doll and calls the building’s security, but no one turns up to rescue Pihu.
Even when the house overflows with water, there is a short circuit and electrical appliances explode, none of the neighbours notice anything amiss.
This is a film that depends entirely on the adults in the film not acting their age, and the child in the frame acting like a grown-up. This is more than you can ask, especially of a two-year-old. And that is where the manipulative, gimmicky aspect of the film is laid bare.
On the pretext of making an “edgy” film, Kapri is willing to go to any lengths to scare the audience, including a child popping sleeping pills and pouring floor cleaner into a bottle, mistaking it for milk. It feels sadistic and unnecessary.
Still, even if you are not a parent, you are likely to squirm in your seat several times. If you are the parent of a toddler, your mind is likely to go back to every single time your child was left alone, even if for a minute.
Myra Vishwakarma is adorable, but it is unsettling to think that she had to enact all these horrifying scenes. That a child should have to go through such traumatic scenarios for the sake of a few scares seem wrong.