Shaitaan Review: A horror thriller that lacks conviction!

Sakshi Sharma
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Shaitaan review

Shaitaan review

Shaitaan Review: Vikas Bahl's attempt at curating a horror thriller through black magic and star power is generic and mindless fun!

Horror is one of those few genres in India where the audience has to rely on films beyond our borders, especially from the West. Though with film festivals like Wench, horror fanatics have something to look forward to because apart from mainstream films like Stree or Tumbbad, big-budget mass commercial films usually disappoint in this department. And Shaitaan is just another addition to that list of Bollywood films that cannot tap into the full potential of the horror genre! 

Adapted from the Gujarati film Vash, Shaitaan follows the same plotline as any English horror film you might have seen. An extremely happy-go-lucky family of four, Kabir (Ajay Devgn), Jyoti (Jyothika), and their kids - a teen daughter, Janvi (Janki Baodiwala), and a young son, Dhruv (Angad Raaj) decides to take some quality time off in their secluded and massive farmhouse. The heightened sense of happiness and the fun, cool dynamic of the family, where they play in the pool fully clothed or pull pranks while traveling, make you aware that horror lurks around the corner. 

Jump scares or horror thrills come from being shocked while predicting the inevitable. This story is the same as it doesn't depend on unpredictability but rather on your sense of knowing things beforehand. Case in point: when Vanraj (R Madhavan) enters and offers Janvi something to eat, you know all hell will break loose. But the conviction with which the film plays with your assumptions, which should have made the film work, is exactly where Vikas Bahl's film loses. 

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The technical aspects of the film, with Amit Trivedi's exceptional score, sound design, cinematography, and the thunder-rain, create the aura of the film where every tense situation makes you feel creepy, just like any horror film does. But it is the script where the film falters. Supernatural is a genre where you don't give into the logic of things but the reasoning of the story that binds you hence you want to believe in Shaitaan's black magic but you just can't give in to it. Maybe an exploration intVanraj, the devil could help us understand why he possesses Janvi with black magic or needs permission from her parents to take her away. If he is the God as he boldly self-proclaims, then why doesn't he have powers? Except for him controlling Janvi with his voice commands and her diligently doing what he asks, even if it is killing her own brother or her parents, the film bothers with nothing else. And this just gets repetitive instead of intriguing after a point of time. 

This also leads to Madhavan losing his charm with his calculated acting, slowly becoming irritating rather than mysterious. He is already walking a very thin line between overdoing it as a manic devil or keeping it understated yet fun. Ajay Devgn reigns in his reliable, Drishyam-style common man, protective father who gives his kids enough freedom to go on a trip to Ladakh with friends but expects his daughter to share her live location with him and wants to know his kids' passwords. It is interesting to see him take a backseat and not become some cliche-wrapped hero who will rise like a Singham until the climax. 

Jyothika, as this distraught mother who unexpectedly charges at Vanraj after she reaches her boiling point by seeing her daughter completely lost, holds her stance convincingly. But Janki as this possessed girl who will dance till she dies or eat chai paati just because she is told to, is the most convincing of them all. Shaitaan needed a better way of exploring these women more! Inspired by The Shinning, this film, with all its faults, has its moments especially when exploring the helplessness of the distraught parents or showing us how black magic gives control in a puppet-puppeteer style. 

Shaitaan wants to be a home invasion horror thriller that tells you that real horror and the devil lie inside our homes and ourselves. It's a commentary on the greediness of human beings, and how girls are equally unsafe with their own families just as they are alone. Vanraj feels like a reflection of society, which wants to teach a lesson to girls who think freedom is her birthright or people who have more faith in money than God but fails to do so. In a loud and muddled climax that spells out the film's message, the film, just like the devil's tongue, loses all its credibility. It's almost ironic how, a film on parents fighting against supernatural forces to save their child, that's supposed to make you feel dread and scared, just ends up being generic and unintentionally a comedy! 

Shiataan is currently playing in theatres near you! 

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r madhavan Ajay Devgn vikas bahl Jyothika Shaitaan