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.

Advertisements

Vishal Ko 7 Khoon Maaf

Pic Source: Wikipedia

A couple of weeks ago, I had written a post on The Genius of Vishal Bhardwaj and had great expectations from his next film, ‘7 Khoon Maaf’ based on Ruskin Bond’s short story, ‘Susanna’s Seven Husbands’ (adapted for screen by Vishal and Matthew Robins). It’s been little over a week since the film’s release and a lot has been said about it, good, bad and ugly. Though I did not love the film, I still think Vishal is amongst the best filmmakers we have in India today and his weakest is eons better than many others’ best. So what worked and what did not work for 7 Khoon Maaf… here’s my list of 7 things (plot spoilers ahead for those who haven’t seen the film)

Screenplay – A killer plot but a very straightforward narrative did not help the film. The whole world knew that Susanna (Priyanka Chopra) is going to murder her seven husbands in the film but one expected some surprises and some twists throughout… the murders were lined up like a multi-course meal and we got entrée after the hors d’ourves as promised; in fact there comes a message at the interval point – ‘4 more to go!’ The film is full of brilliant moments and images like a Persian cat walking down a grave made of snow; John in a blue negligee playing chor-police; Susanna asking her poet husband, “who is Mukarrar” when he praises her couplet by using the Urdu word that means ‘again’; and Neil Nitin Mukesh dangling his amputated leg in his wife’s face, amongst many others. However, they somehow do not come together to leave a hangover like Vishal’s earlier films did.

Priyanka Chopra – She dazzled in Vishal’s Kaminey but could not really pull off a complex character like Susanna. Not her fault, she tried and tried hard but that effort showed and she never became Susanna like she became Sweety in Kaminey or Kareena became Dolly in Omkara or Tabu transformed into Nimmi in Maqbool. She shines in a few scenes but not throughout the film. The writing also did not support her as you neither feel bad for Susanna, nor you hate her. She moves from one marriage to the other but there is just so much happening that you’re left to wonder if she’s started to enjoy it or is a pained soul.

Climax – What saves the day is the superb twist in the end… the film lifts in the last ten minutes and Priyanka also delivers her best especially in the scene where she says, “this time I will drink his blood…” She appears sinister and then the surprise.

Music – A brilliant soundtrack helps the film move forward. Vishal Bhardwaj and Gulzar once again create magic especially with the song, ‘Daarrling’ (vocals – Usha Uthup and Rekha Bhardwaj) and ‘Bekaraan’ (vocals – Vishal Bhardwaj). The two rock numbers one after the other distract and only one would’ve been sufficient.

Cinematography – The scenes are set to create a mood and the lighting is dim… Vishal conceptualizes the scenes brilliantly and Ranjan Palit shoots them like never before. 7 Khoon Maaf looks like a brilliant piece of art but falls short of being a brilliant piece of cinema.

Make-up – The moment Susanna first appears on screen, you do not notice her but you notice her bad prosthetic make up that makes her look fake. A powerful scene is ruined with everyone discussing her cakey make-up around you. Of course, her journey from a young beautiful army wife to a middle aged frustrated woman requires her to look different but technical flaws like this take away from the emotion.

The husbands, the supporting cast – Some worked and some didn’t but the film has a very interesting ensemble cast. Annu Kapoor as an opportunistic policeman, Keemat Lal is brilliant and so is Irrfan Khan as Wasiullah Khan, a gentle poet by the day and a masochistic lover by the night. Neil Nitin Mukesh as Major Edwin Rodrigues, an insecure and jealous husband is good while the Russian actor, Aleksandr Dyachenko as Nicolai Vronsky is just about ok. Naseeruddin Shah as Dr. Modhusudhon Tarafdar is miscast as you just do not relate to him talking with a Bengali accent; and John Abraham as a drug addict rock star has nothing much to add. Vivaan Shah makes a confident debut and is able to manage the growth in his character over the years (though make up fails him also).

The burden of expectations is such that minor mistakes get magnified and a little disappointment is devastating. 7 Khoon Maaf also suffers from not matching up to the humungous expectations of Vishal’s devoted fans. But Vishal, 7 Khoon Maaf to you as well and we accept your take on Susanna and eagerly await your next with the same expectations (fans never learn, you see)

My rating: *** Three stars on five

The Genius of Vishal Bhardwaj

He is a composer, a playback singer, a writer, a producer and a director; he excels in all these fields and is amongst the finest filmmakers in the country today.

He has directed five brilliant films and his sixth one, 7 Khoon Maaf is already creating a lot of excitement in the filmy circles. He is Vishal Bhardwaj who has made delightful children’s films like Makdee and The Blue Umbrella and films that delve into the dark human emotions such as Maqbool, Omkara and Kaminey.

His adaptations of Shakespeare and Ruskin Bond have opened doors for more literary adaptations in the Hindi film industry. His musical compositions mean different sounds, unusual playback combinations and haunting melodies. The genius of Vishal Bhardwaj has not yet been fully discovered by the Indian film industry and something tells me that soon the whole world will sit and take notice of this brilliant filmmaker.

Here’s a look at his directorial ventures that have helped redefine Bollywood in the last decade…

Click here to read my full post that appeared on nowrunning.com on January 23.

Ishqiya

 

Saucy, Bold and Wild…

Pic: Ishqiya; Source: planetbollywood.com

 

This is a film that teases you, surprises you and even mocks you as it takes unexpected turns throughout its 2-hour plus screenplay. Abhishek Chaubey’s first directorial venture, Ishqiya is a wild film that keeps you hooked from start to finish. Not your usual romance, it mixes the love angles between the principal characters with adventure, humour and bold writing.

Ishqiya is about two thieves, Khalu Jaan (Naseeruddin Shah), a 50-year old romantic and Babban (Arshad Warsi), a lustful rogue. They are on the run from their boss whom they have cheated and find refuge with an old friend’s widow, Krishna (Vidya Balan) near Gorakhpur (Eastern UP). Krishna is not what they had expected; she is a mystery that they both seek to unravel. Is she an innocent damsel in distress or a conniving seductress; is she in love with Khalu or with Babban; the director keeps the audience also guessing till the end. All actors deliver brilliant performances but Vidya walks away with the film as she gets the meatiest character.

The strength of Ishqiya lies in its brilliant writing (Abhishek Chaubey, Vishal Bhardwaj and Sabrina Dhawan) including the screenplay and the caustic dialogue (Vishal again). The only downside is the film’s climax that does not quite live up to the exciting tone of the film. The film’s music is another big strength with Vishal Bhardwaj (music) and Gulzar (lyrics) pairing up again after last year’s superb score of Kaminey. ‘Dil Toh Baccha Hai Ji…’ is rendered beautifully by Rahat Fateh Ali Khan and Rekha Bhardwaj’sAb Mujhe Koi…’ stays with you like a haunting melody.

Highly recommended.

My Rating: * * * * Four stars on five

Shrey Khetarpal