Saturday, April 20, 2013

Ek Thi Daayan 

Witch Witch Hota Hai 

Horror movies, like those murderous spookfests on TV, are very fond of picking up the worst superstitions and blowing them up to scary levels. Ek Thi Daayan has probably been made to cash in on the Twilight-led vampire trend in Hollywood. Instead of routine bhoots, the daayan and pishaach, the undead rustic equivalents of vampires, can be turned into a lucrative horror franchise, since they come with their own myths—the backward feet, powerful braids and shape-shifting abilities.

Dig a bit and all the unpleasant clichés about powerful women come out—they are evil, they beguile men and feed on children. That’s why in many parts of rural India, women are killed as daayans, more so if they are old, alone and own property. One doesn’t expect the regular Hindi filmmaker to get in layers of meaning and social commentary, but with a story by Mukul Sharma and Vishal Bhardwaj as co-producer, one could expect an unconventional thriller.

Kannan Iyer’s Ek Thi Daayan works well as a horror film, recycling all the local beliefs plus some from Hollywood (the devil’s number is 666); if gloomy atmospherics and some jump-out-of-seat moments are what you are looking for this one delivers. But heck, anyone can do this kind of horror. A film that spooks and provokes is rare.

Bobo The Baffler (Emraan Hashmi) is a stage magician, whose tricks start going wrong because he gets disturbing flashes connected to his past.  He contacts a psychiatrist-hypnotist Dr Palit (Rajatava Dutta), who had treated him as a child, and in flashback tells the story of the reptilian Diana (Konkona Sen Sharma), who has bewitched and married Bobo’s father (Pavan Malhotra). Bobo had his mind full of the supernatural from a forbidden book he was reading, and telling his sister Misha chilling tales. Then, there’s the building lift that is out of order, but can take a passenger on a trip to “hell.”  Bobo’s complaints of the stepmom being a “daayan” are dismissed as an overactive imagination. 

Now grown up Bobo and his girlfriend Tamra (Huma Qureshi) are planning marriage and adoption of an orphan. Then Lisa (Kalki Koechlin) turns up, claiming to be a fan, and wants to buy Bobo’s ominous old house. The first half has nowhere to go, really, so the second ties itself up with red herrings and a truly laughable climax.

Wonder what Emraan Hashmi saw in this wishy-washy part; the one who claws into the role like a, errr, witch from the netherworld, is Konkona Sen Sharma. Huma Qureshi and Kalki Koechlin pass muster. Impressive production design, good cinematography and decent music (though the Tote ud gaye number caused some unintended hilarity among the audience) make Ek Thi Daayan appealing to some, but it could have done more with the material at hand.


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