Ekta Kapoor has earned the title of a prolific producer, attempting films on varied subjects in a relatively short span — biopic [THE DIRTY PICTURE], gangsters [SHOOTOUT AT LOKHANDWALA and ONCE UPON A TIME IN MUMBAAI], horror [RAGINI MMS], laughathons [KYAA KOOL HAIN HUM and KYAA SUPER KOOL HAIN HUM], realistic [LOVE SEX AUR DHOKHA]… the enterprising producer now adds yet another genre to her remarkable repertoire: Supernatural thriller. A genre that's intimidating as well as thrilling.
Do ghosts/spirits exist? What about black magic? Is it a myth? Does it really work? Last year, films like RAAZ 3 [a fading actress indulges in black magic to settle scores with an upcoming actress], TALAASH [the spirit of a dead woman kills the perpetrators of the crime] and more recently, AATMA [the fight between a woman and her dead husband over their child] took the spectator into the world of aatmas and spirits. EK THI DAAYAN may come across as yet another fare that talks of ghosts/witches, occult and the likes, but it is, perhaps, the first Hindi movie that presents witchcraft most realistically. Also, it's one of the most eerie experiences to unfold on the Bollywood screen.
Our country is pierced with superstitions, fallacies and erroneous beliefs. We have heard tales of witches. Myths such as daayans can be good looking, their feet are turned inwards, their power lies in the plait [choti], so on and so forth end up making the spectator believe in stories surrounding evil, paranormal, supernatural and mystical powers. EK THI DAAYAN makes you react to the rituals/practices that have existed since time immemorial, but, I'd like to elucidate, it does not glorify the practice. Intense and scary, EK THI DAAYAN is positioned in today's times and the folklore of a witch, integrated smartly in the screenplay, makes it a fascinating cinematic experience.
Bobo [Emraan Hashmi] is India's leading magician. But unknown to even his girlfriend Tamara [Huma Qureshi], Bobo's life is falling apart. His constant hallucinations leave him with no option but to seek psychiatric help. Going through hypnosis, a terrifying story about his childhood surfaces involving a sinister power called 'Daayan', who has not only destroyed his family, but also promised to return to haunt Bobo.
Bobo chooses to ignore it and move on with his life. Just when his career and love life is at full throttle, enters the irresistible Lisa Dutt [Kalki Koechlin]. Bobo is convinced that she is the daayan. But is she, really? Or is he just losing his mind?
There is something out there that is inexplicable, that is beyond the realm of human comprehension that EK THI DAAYAN taps grippingly. First-time director Kannan Iyer steps forward to offer something radically different in this genre and for those who believe in daayans — even those who don't — will take to the plot instantly because Kannan's storytelling is lucid and graspable. The flashback portions in the first hour are noteworthy, with Emraan revisiting his childhood. At the same time, Kannan ensures that there's a love story running parallel to the main story, besides integrating the mandatory songs in the narrative, thus steering clear of being labeled 'dark and dry' in the process.
Thankfully, EK THI DAAYAN is not the standard horror fare and the storyteller does a volte face in the concluding reels. The suspense — when it unravels — is sure to hit you like a ton of bricks. However, the film tends to get a bit predictable at this point and the pacing too slows down soon after the interval, but the scare quotient and the twist towards the final stages more than compensate for the shortcomings.
Living up to the reputation of coming up with a qualitative musical score, Vishal Bhardwaj delivers a soundtrack that's seeped in melody. 'Yaaram' is the most endearing track [and hugely popular too], while 'Kaali Kaali' and 'Totey Ud Gaye' are catchy compositions as well. In keeping with the mood of the film, the DoP [Saurabh Goswami] keeps the frames dark, but he ought to know that the [dark] tone can prove to be an eyesore at times. The visual effects [Prana Studios] are top notch. Background score [Clinton Cerejo] deserves special mention. It adds to the spooky ambience.
Emraan Hashmi nails his character. He carries the film on his broad shoulders, bringing plenty of soul to his character. This is amongst his finest works, undoubtedly! EK THI DAAYAN marks Konkona Sen Sharma's tryst with the horror genre and given her acting experience, she delivers a terrific performance yet again. After portraying the part of a small-town girl in her first two films, Huma Qureshi exudes coolness and confidence in this new avatar. Kalki Koechlin looks perfect for her part, but her character tends to get a bit confusing towards the final moments.
Pavan Malhotra is first-rate yet again. Rajatava Dutta [as Emraan's doctor] is remarkable. Bhavesh Balchandani, the child artist, is alright, but it is another child artist, Vishesh Tiwari [portraying the young Emraan], who delivers a super performance. The child artist portraying Vishesh's sister is simply adorable.
On the whole, EK THI DAAYAN is an imaginative and appealing supernatural thriller. The film is placed in a relatable world, with myths about witches expertly intertwined in its absorbing screenplay, something which a spectator can effortlessly identify with. Exceptionally novel and attention-grabbing, it's a first of its kind. Watch it for the sheer novelty it puts on display in its genre!