Ek Thi Daayan

Once there lived a witch and she promised to return…

Ek Thi Daayan; Pic Source: Wikipedia

“So sweet, I could just eat you up…” how many times have you heard people, especially women say this to cute little kids? It’s meant as a compliment to the kid and nobody cares how sinister it sounds, not even the parents. But when Konkona Sen Sharma says this to a little girl in Ek Thi Daayan, you know she means it. It’s a normal scene and she looks like a regular woman but this time you are scared, just like the kids who are talking to her. That’s where Kannan Iyer’s debut film as a director wins; the sequences that stay close to reality are scary and tense. Once the film starts explaining things, it starts going downwards. A brilliant first half makes Ek Thi Daayan a must watch, even for people like me who don’t enjoy horror as a genre. But post interval, the film starts losing the tension that was built and the climax is a major let-down.

The film revolves around a famous magician named Bobo (Emraan Hashmi) who has a disturbing past… a past that has a mysterious woman who, as he claims, was a Daayan (witch). His girl-friend, Tamara (Huma Qureshi) loves him a lot but is not comfortable with him being secretive. And then there is a young NRI woman, Lisa Dutt (Kalki Koechlin), who shares her name with a woman convicted of murdering children in the 60s. Based on Mukul Sharma’s short story and adapted for screen by Sharma himself and Vishal Bhardwaj, the screenplay is as interesting as it gets till there is time for the conclusion.

Ek Thi Daayan is one of the better horror films made in India. The last good one I remember is Ram Gopal Verma’s Bhoot; the others churned out by the Bhatt camp and the likes are laughable at best. The film’s strength lies in the actors’ performances, especially Konkona who makes evil so deliciously menacing and normal at the same time. She has always been a fine actor who makes it easier for us to relate to the characters she portrays. In this film also, she uses the same quality to make the Daayan so scary by looking and behaving normally. Huma Qureshi is very confident on-screen and it’s good to see her playing a modern character after her small town girl roles in Gangs of Wasseypur and Luv Shuv Tey Chicken Khurana. Kalki brings in the right level of mystery and Emraan strikes the balance between a loving boyfriend and a troubled soul. While Kannan Iyer has done justice to the script, somethings appear funny and take away from the seriousness of the film. For instance, it’s difficult to take a brooding hero seriously if he’s called Bobo; then there are scenes where Hashmi loses his cool and goes after women’s braids – there is a perfectly good explanation for the behavior but it still appears funny. The climax appears straight out of co-producer, Ekta Kapoor’s old TV show, Mano Ya Na Mano. Discount that and you have a near perfect horror film.

Vishal Bhardwaj’s music with Gulzar’s lyrics elevates the film further and creates the right mood at the right moment. Rekha Bhardwaj’sLautungi Main…” and “Yaaram…” by Sunidhi Chauhan and Clinton Cerejo are the best songs from the album.

Ek Thi Daayan is a good attempt and is definitely worth a watch. It could have been a brilliant film if the makers took a different approach towards the end; something that could have been more disturbing and open-ended than the current overly simplified end. Still watch it for a riveting first half and a brilliant performance by Konkona Sen Sharma.

PS: If you are scared of lizards, be prepared for an uncomfortable ride.

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The Dirty Picture

Vidya Balan is Silk, and Silk is entertainment

The Dirty Picture; Source: Wikipedia

“Silk is the only hero in this industry”, says a film journalist in The Dirty Picture and after watching the film, I can also say, Vidya Balan is the only hero in the Hindi film industry. Not because she has ‘dared to bare’ but the conviction with which she’s played the character of Silk – a dancing star from the eighties who knows her sexuality is her biggest strength. While most actors claim to prepare for their roles, there is rarely a performance where an actor completely lets go of any inhibitions and becomes the character on screen. This is where Vidya wins; she looks good, she looks fat, she looks ugly, but she looks and behaves like the charater, Silk in the film.

Apart from Vidya, The Dirty Picture works because of its entertainment factor and Rajat Arora’s sassy writing plays a major role. The dialogues are provocative, shocking and dirty, true to the film’s name. Director, Milan Luthria packs a punch in the first half; however the film goes downward like the lead character’s career in the second half. It starts with a village girl, Reshma (Balan) coming to Madras with big dreams. She struggles, sleeps hungry and almost gives up, till someone offers her Rs. 20 to sleep with him. Her life changes, she gets a big break and the attention of the reigning superstar, Suryakant (Naseeruddin Shah). Silk’s journey to the heights of stardom is extremely entertaining and engaging where two other men appear in her life; Ramakant (Tusshar sans Kapoor), an upcoming writer in awe of her persona and Abraham (Emraan Hashmi), a director who hates Silk and what she stands for. The film soars in the first hour and a half but the last hour is poorly executed as suddenly you feel disconnected from Silk while you’re supposed to empathise with her.

Naseeruddin Shah once again delivers a spectacular performance as a manipulative and selfish star, for whom, women are just objects to entertain. He also has the best lines in the film and manages to match up to Vidya’s pizzazz in an elaborate dance number with kitschy costumes, over the top sets and raunchy moves. The song, ‘Ooh La La…’ is the film’s highlight (Vishal Shekhar – music composers); Bappi Lahiri and Shreya Ghoshal capture the mood perfectly with their vocals and lyrics by Rajat Arora. The other song that works is ‘Nakka Mukka’, which is borrowed (legally) from a Tamil film; it has a catchy beat and helps showcase Silk’sbombaat’ attitude at various intervals during the film. The rest of the soundtrack is nothing great. Coming back to the actors, Emraan Hashmi does a fairly decent job and proves that he can be taken seriously as an actor now. Tusshar tries hard but fades in front of Vidya and Naseer’s powerhouse performances.

The film’s costume designer, Niharika Khan deserves a special mention for capturing the tackiness and razzmatazz of that era and the characters. There is a lot of cleavage on show but I guess that’s another reason the makers (producer, Ekta Kapoor) chose Vidya as the leading lady – her traditional and family oriented off-screen image helped keep the focus on the character and not on the sleaze.

The Dirty Picture is a brave film and shows how Indian filmmakers and the censors have grown – a heroine centric film can be commercially successful and Indians can handle bold subject matter. Go watch the film for three things, as clearly articulated by Silk“entertainment, entertainment and entertainment”.

My rating: * * * ½ three and a half on five

– Shrey Khetarpal