Shaitaan Review: Wicked Without Warning

Shaitaan‘s wickedness may be its calling card but relies on age-old formulas to do the trick, observes Sukanya Verma.

A despot seeking complete control by hypnotising blind followers into accepting his every command like puppets, how devilish is that?

Some of the best horror films disguise an allegory for social critique, but Shaitaan brushes off any such potential in the favour of a good scare. Except the exercise comes off as more cruel than creepy when things get diabolically out of hand.

While the anarchic attitude of Vikas Bahl’s Hindi remake of Krishnadev Yagnik’s Gujarati supernatural thriller, Vash is captivatingly extreme, there’s not enough momentum to sustain its destructive motivations.

Things start out on a fascinating note when an occultist casually disrupts a rosy family picture setting the stage for Shaitaan‘s home invasion horror.

Oblivious to the hell that awaits their weekend getaway, Kabir and Jyoti (Ajay Devgn, Jyothika) accompanied by their teenaged daughter Janhvi (Janki Bodiwala) and tween son Dhruv (Anngad Raaj) take off to their holiday home not too far from their Dehradun residence.

Enroute, an affable Vanraj (R Madhavan) makes their acquaintance giving no indication of the havoc he’s about to wreak into their lives a little while later.

It’s not long before Vanraj makes his sinister intentions clear and turns Janhvi into his stooge, vashikaran, if you please.

Creepy background score escalates the ordeal as a family is forced to witness their daughter’s humiliation or be subjected to her involuntary onslaught.

There’s a poignant irony in a person’s actions contradicting their will.

But Shaitaan‘s erratic characterisation is single-mindedly occupied in conjuring an atmosphere of danger and dread, which cannot decide whether it wants to empathise with Janhvi or project her as a voodoo victim.

Once the ball of nasty treatment gets rolling, tedious scenes of prolonged torture and popping eyeballs wear you down with their overkill.

Shaitaan‘s wickedness may be its calling card but relies on age-old formulas to do the trick.

Classic tropes like a large house in the middle of nowhere, incessant thunder and rain, cops showing up to inquire if there’s any trouble are ticked off.

In the consequent mumbo jumbo, designed to startle and spook in equal measure, what comes through is eerie hysteria rooted in hamming and hammering sounds.

It’s what transpires prior to this ballistic scenario that’s stranger to the reasonable mind.

Bewildered expressions aside, Kabir and Jyoti barely resist the intruder and yield to the demented Pied Piper’s demands almost defeatedly.

When they belatedly step into offensive mode, the conviction stems from the actors, not the writing.

Reprising her role from the original, Janki Bodiwala is a force of nature as she draws fear and sympathy in her woefully possessed state.

Anngad Raaj is equally believable as the younger brother at the receiving end of her mad, mindless rage.

As someone who has kids of the same age, Ajay Devgn’s familiarity around a distraught family man, earlier as a husband in Bhoot and now a father in Shaitaan, is aptly conveyed in restrained show of tenacity.

Chandramukhi star Jyothika understands the pain of possession only too well and lends Shaitaan all its emotional volatility.

At the heart of its wild, wayward supernatural spectacle is R Madhavan and his exceptional command on duality of emotions. Like a chameleon, he transforms from friendly and trustworthy to mean, magnetic and menacing in no time.

Shaitaan Review Rediff Rating: