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Horror from the top drawer

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TO NDR ek-thi-daayan-emraan

GENRE BUSTER: Emraan Hashmi in Ek Thi Daayan. Pictures: Supplied

Ek thi daayan

DIRECTOR: Kannan Lyer

CAST: Emraan Hashmi, Huma Qureshi, Kalki Koechlin, Konkona Sen Sharma

RUNNING TIME: 132 minutes

CLASSIFICATION: TBA

RATING: ***

TO NDR ek-thi-daayan-Huma

GENRE BUSTER: Huma Qureshi in Ek Thi Daayan. Pictures: Supplied

EKTA Kapoor has earned the title of a prolific producer, attempting films in varied genres in a relatively short span – a biopic (The Dirty Picture), gangsters (Shootout at Lokhandwala and Once Upon a Time in Mumbai), horror (Ragini MMS), comedy (Kyaa Kool Hain Hum and Kya Super Kool Hain Hum), reality (Love Sex Aur Dhokha) and the enterprising producer adds yet another genre to her remarkable repertoire: supernatural thriller. A genre that’s intimidating as well as thrilling.

Do ghosts or spirits exist? What about black magic? Is it a myth? Does it really work? Last year, films like Raaz 3 (a fading actress indulges in black magic to settle scores with a rising star, Talaash (the spirit of a dead woman kills the perpetrators of the crime) and, more recently, Aatma (the fight between a woman and her dead husband over their child) took the spectator into the world of spirits.

Ek Thi Daayan may come across as yet another film that talks of ghosts and witches, the occult and the like, but it is, perhaps, the first Hindi film that presents witchcraft most realistically. Also, it’s one of the most eerie experiences to unfold on the Bollywood screen.

Indian culture is littered with superstitions, fallacies and myths. We have heard tales of witches. According to myth, daayans (witches) can be good-looking, their feet are turned inwards, their power lies in the plait (choti), and so on, making the spectator believe in stories about evil, the paranormal, the supernatural and mystical powers.

Ek Thi Daayan makes you react to the rituals that have existed since time immemorial, but, I’d like to elucidate, it does not glorify these practices. Intense and scary, Ek Thi Daayan is positioned in the present time and folklore about witches is integrated smartly into the screenplay, making it a fascinating cinematic experience.

Bobo (Emraan Hashmi) is India’s leading magician. But unknown to even his girlfriend Tamara (Huma Qureshi), Bobo’s life is falling apart.

His persistent hallucinations leave him with no option but to seek psychiatric help. Undergoing hypnosis, a terrifying story about his childhood surfaces involving a sinister power called Daayan, who has not only destroyed his family, but also promised to return to haunt Bobo. He chooses to ignore it and move on with his life.

Just when his career and love life is at full throttle, the irresistible Lisa Dutt (Kalki Koechlin) enters the picture. Bobo is convinced that she is Daayan. But is she, really? Or is he just losing his mind?

There is something inexplicable and beyond the realm of human comprehension that Ek Thi Daayan taps into grippingly.

First-time director Kannan Iyer offers something radically different in this genre and those who believe in daayans – and even those who don’t – will take to the plot instantly because Kannan’s storytelling is lucid and relatable.

The flashback portions in the first hour are noteworthy, with Emraan revisiting his childhood. At the same time, Kannan ensures that there is a love story running parallel to the main story, besides integrating the mandatory songs in the narrative, thus steering clear of being labelled “dark and dry”.

Thankfully, Ek Thi Daayan is not standard horror fare and the storyteller does a volte face in the concluding reels. The suspense – when it unravels – is sure to hit you like a ton of bricks.

However, the film tends to get a bit predictable at this point and the pacing, too, slows down soon after the interval, but the scare quotient and the twist towards the final stages of the tale more than compensate for the shortcomings.

Living up to the reputation of coming up with a qualitative musical score, Vishal Bhardwaj delivers a soundtrack that is seeped in melody.

The visual effects (Prana Studios) are top notch. The background score (Clinton Cerejo) deserves special mention. It adds to the spooky ambience.

Emraan nails his character. He carries the film on his broad shoulders, bringing plenty of soul to his character. This is among his finest works, undoubtedly!

Ek Thi Daayan marks Konkona Sen Sharma’s tryst with this genre and, given her acting experience, she delivers a terrific performance yet again. After portraying the part of a small-town girl in her first two films, Huma Qureshi exudes coolness and confidence in this new avatar.

Kalki looks perfect for her part, but her character tends to get a bit confusing towards the final moments. Pavan Malhotra is first-rate again.

Rajatava Dutta (as Emraan’s doctor) is remarkable. Bhavesh Balchandani, the child actor, is okay, but it is another child actor, Vishesh Tiwari (portraying the young Emraan), who delivers a super performance. The child actor portraying Vishesh’s sister is simply adorable.

Ek Thi Daayan is an imaginative and appealing supernatural thriller.

The film is set in a relatable world, with myths about witches expertly intertwined in its absorbing screenplay. Exceptionally novel, it’s a first of its kind. Watch it for the sheer novelty it puts on display in its genre. – bollywoodhungama.com

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