Movie Review: Shaitan

This article was last updated on April 16, 2022

The lives of the affluent and illustrious have often been chronicled in newspapers and television. The achievements get as much prominence as the heinous crimes they commit. Recall the number of drunken driving cases that led to fatal accidents and causalities or abduction of moneyed kids to make that extra buck. SHAITAN too borrows from real life. It maps out the lives of five youngsters — three of them belonging to the upper crust — and how the ‘uber cool’ youngsters commit felony after felony to smokescreen the dreadful offense they have committed. This motion picture brings to the fore the shaitan that skulks within us. It’s heartening to observe diverse genres being attempted fruitfully week after week and I genuinely feel that a varied variety of movies can co-exist happily in the cinematic milieu. In fact, it’s imperative to be more acquiescent and embrace new genres of cinema. SHAITAN, again, is something the Indian audiences will experience for the first time. It emulates an actuality and the makers have tried to keep it as bona fide as possible, and it is this realism, edginess and awkwardness that stay with the spectator after the curtains fall. The fact that one feels distressed and distraught by the turn of incidents in the film only goes to prove that the writers [Megha Ramaswamy and Bejoy Nambiar] and director [Bejoy Nambiar] have done their jobs proficiently.

SHAITAN narrates the story of five youngsters who are out to have an irresponsibly reckless escapade, but get involved in a botched crime. Also, there’s talk that SHAITAN incorporates the infamous Adnan Patrawala kidnap-and-murder case in its plot, which isn’t true at all. Sure, there’s abduction and also a spate of murders, but it doesn’t borrow from that episode in any way. The film drives home a reality that the youngsters are aggressive, sexual, brutal, edgy and well aware of everything happening around. They like to investigate the darker side and push the envelope till they can be brought in check by power and command. Anurag Kashyap’s films have often been labeled ‘dark’ and though I oppose this jargon, I do harmonize with the fact that his films have a certain constituent of wickedness and iniquity that SHAITAN also encompasses. What really makes SHAITAN stand out from films of its ilk is that it captures the pragmatism or matter-of-factness characteristic most compellingly. The circumstances in life when the inner demons come to the fore and people are forced to react in farthest method [violent, in most cases] have been depicted intelligibly and most eloquently. Also, what makes it all the more interesting is the fact that the film is very well shot — the novel angles and high speed shots make it an exhilarating cinematic experience. SHAITAN is the story of five youngsters set in the urban scape of Mumbai. Amy [Kalki], Dash [Gulshan], KC [Shiv], Zubin [Neil] and Tanya [Kirti] — young, intelligent, good looking and ‘uber cool’. With no hang ups and no boundaries, excitement is what they seek till a moment changes everything. An accident and their actions to cover up lead them through a series of incidents across the roads, streets and bylanes of Mumbai and into the dark side that lurks within all of us.

Inspector Mathur [Rajeev Khandelwal], entrusted with the unenviable task of chasing the youngsters down, exposes the underbelly of the police system and crime while grappling with his inner shaitan. Watching SHAITAN is like experiencing a tasteful David Fincher movie that’s set in our neighborhood and helmed by an Indian film-maker. First-time director Bejoy Nambiar marries form and content magnificently; it’s wielded with technical fastidiousness, while the various pulse-pounding episodes lead to a striking culmination. It’s without doubt an intelligent offering with a poignant insight into the lives of five youngsters. The beauty lies in the fact that Bejoy not only takes into custody the erratic behavior of the youngsters, but also attempts to delve into their psyche. Also, the film explores how the addictive world of drugs and alcohol is corrupting and devastating the youth, although it restricts itself from getting into the sermonizing mode. In fact, it’s a manifestation of what’s happening around us in the current scenario. I am tempted to mention all the sequences that gave me goose bumps, but that would be unfairly giving away too much. However, I wish to state that the sequence that changes the lives of the five youngsters — the car chase and the crash — is spine chilling. Your heart is in your mouth in this particular sequence. Beyond doubt, this is one of the most stimulating and intense films to come out of the Hindi film industry and Bejoy is unquestionably one of the most alluring discoveries of the year. He is far superior to a lot of established film-makers in the business.

I’d like to make a special mention of the spectacular cinematography [Madhie], novel, hard-hitting and forceful dialogues [Abhijeet Deshpande] and marvelous background score [Ranjit Barot]. The chase sequence [Jaaved Ejaaz] towards the second hour specifically is simply remarkable. Ditto for the sound design [Kunal Sharma], which is top notch. On the flip side, the first hour isn’t as persuasive. Perhaps, the motive was to reserve the best for the second hour. Also, the Rajeev Khandelwal track — his marriage is on the rocks — looks like a forced and unnatural add-on in the scheme of things. Without beating around the bush, the narrative could’ve done without the scenes of marital discord. Also, with such hard-hitting, uncompromising and dynamic content, SHAITAN could’ve easily been a songless film, though the soundtrack is wonderful. The beauty of the film is that there are no heroes in the conventional terms. The protagonists are all victims who face the consequences of their decisions and assessments. Also, SHAITAN has an ensemble cast and offers ample scope for each character to perform. Rajeev Khandelwal, playing a cop who’s fighting his inner demons, nails the role, giving a tight, focused performance. Kalki is excellent. She’s sure to wow and shock the audiences with her act. Neil Bhoopalam is first-rate. Especially towards the latter moments of the film. Shiv Pandit gives a good account of himself. Kirti Kulhari is super efficient. Gulshan Deviah is top notch. The peculiar behavior comes across very well in several sequences. Rajat Barmecha appears in an interesting cameo. The supporting cast also delivers fine performances. Pavan Malhotra is first-rate. Rajit Kapur leaves an impression. Nikhil Chinnappa is good. Rukhsar makes her presence felt. Rajkumar Yadav gets it right yet again.

On the whole, SHAITAN is bound to raise eyebrows thanks to its contemporary, thrilling, hard-hitting and forceful content. One of the most ingenious and entertaining thrillers I’ve seen in a long time. Also, it’s one of the most stimulating and intense films to come out of the Hindi film industry. I am sure everyone would be able to connect with SHAITAN. Try not to miss this one!

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