Hindi cinema is no longer a lesson in moral science…
In the seventies, we saw the rise of a Hindi film hero who was anti-establishment and ‘amoral’ (mostly Amitabh Bachchan); but his evil deeds were mostly limited to smuggling of gold or infiltrating the villain’s gang to avenge his father’s murder or his mute sister’s rape. He was never into drugs himself and protected the heroine’s honour with his life. In the nineties, we saw the evil protagonist return with the hero pushing his fiancée off a high rise (Shah Rukh Khan in Baazigar), once again to avenge his father; or the obsessed lover who tries to kill the other guy in order to get the girl (Shah Rukh again in Darr). However, viewers were always given reasons to like the anti-hero with a sad background story… It is only in the new millennium, our filmmakers really started exploring dark themes and the audience started accepting them as well.
New age filmmakers like Vishal Bhardwaj, Anurag Kashyap, Dibakar Banerjee and Sriram Raghavan present their characters as flawed human beings who are jealous, greedy, selfish and at times evil as well. Hindi cinema is no longer a moral science lesson where the good triumphs over the bad but is more real or more fantastical where the good co-exists with the bad. This allows directors, especially the new ones to be brave and present innovative and path breaking ideas. Debutante director, Bejoy Nambiar’s Shaitan also explores something different; it is about the inner evil that over takes all sense and the characters are the victims of their own excesses.
Shaitan is bold, shocking, disturbing and an entertaining thriller… its strength lies in the writers’ (Megha Ramaswamy and Bejoy Nambiar) ability to shock; the principal characters’ vulnerability while they project complete control (great job by all actors); along with the technical finesse. It is a story about five friends who live life on the edge; they trust each other and believe they can do or achieve anything when they are together. They are not go-getters and achievers in the traditional sense but rebels without any cause. Amy (Kalki Koechlin) has not been able to get over her mother’s demise and finds solace or a sense of escape with her new friends in Mumbai; KC (Gulshan Devaiya) is a rich brat who thinks he owns the world and all the women in it; Zubin (Neil Bhopalam) is a geek who is happy to go with what his friends say or do; Tanya (Kirti Kulhari) is bulimic, insecure and dreams about her future with KC; Dash (Shiv Pandit) is the group’s master mind who has nothing to lose but everything to gain from his friends’ insecurities and vulnerability. Things go wrong one day and they need a lot of money to get out of the mess. They plan Amy’s fake kidnapping but things go out of control. An aggressive and sincere cop, Arvind Mathur (Rajeev Khandelwal) gets involved in the whole drama that unfolds in a way that the youngsters had not envisioned.
The film moves at a fast pace apart from the sequences involving Amy’s memories of her mother and Arvind Mathur’s marital discord. While too much focus on Amy’s story distracts from the film’s mood; the scenes between Arvind and his wife are sensitively shot and help empathise with his character. Cinematography by Madhie is outstanding especially a shoot-out sequence in slow motion, set to a remixed version of ‘Khoya Khoya Chand’ in the background. Music by Prashant Pillai, Amar Mohile, Ranjit Barot and Anupam Roy is impactful as it works so well with the film’s narrative. The two remixed tracks, ‘Khoya Khoya Chand’ and ‘Hawa Hawai’ (which appears for only a few seconds) are outstanding. Editing by Sreekar Prasad is also good but the second half could be much tighter.
Overall, Shaitan is a well made film and we have a brilliant new director to applaud. Congratulations, Anurag Kashyap (producer along with Viacom18) for introducing new talent like Bejoy Nambiar and Vikramaditya Motwane (Udaan).
My rating: * * * ½ Three and a half stars on five
– Shrey Khetarpal
Video Courtesy: T-Series