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Upperstall Review



Ek Thi Daayan


Hindi, Horror, 2013, Color

Bobo (Emraan Hashmi) is India's leading magician. But unknown to even his girlfriend Tamara, Bobo's life is falling apart. His constant hallucinations leave him with no option but to seek psychiatric help. Going through regression 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, enters the irresistible Lisa Dutt. Bobo is convinced that she is the daayan. But is she, really? Or is he just losing his mind?

My issue with the Hindi film industry's perpetual representation of the horror genre is deep and frustrating. Every such film in recent times has already assumed the existence of ghosts, witches and a higher power. often relying on the supernatural (unexplainable, like the scripts) to produce requisite shivers and heebijeebies. This, apart from mandatory sound effects and creepy children. The assumption of such mythological powers and folklore tales is disappointing when these films should actually be about whether these things exist, or whether regular everyday life can be scary. The first 20 minutes of these 'frightfests' almost always includes a narrator ghost, closing doors and moaning curtains. And of course, ghosts or witches explaining in growling tones the logic and rules behind their being ghosts or witches towards the climax.

Ek Thi Daayan (ETD) is not an exception. Daayans (witches) exist, no questions asked. In cities too. What is more difficult to grasp is the existence of celebrity illusionists or magicians like Emraan (Bobo, if you may) in Mumbai. Hashmi is far from convincing as this famous magician though this is not entirely his fault. Tacky effects and Magician101 tricks leave him vulnerable immediately, but that's not the point. Thankfully, he is a troubled soul. That is an absolute must. No clean soul on this earth can have demons in their minds. Or so they say.

Bobo's backstory in the most engaging part of the film - well shot, engrossing and almost logical. Thanks to Konkana Sen Sharma's eerily good act, ETD assumes a perch on top of the recent Bollywood horror list. despite the painfully loud background score that commands us to be scared even before the moment arrives. The manner in which kid Hashmi suspects the new arrival in his father's (Pavan Malhotra) life to be a Daayan expertly tries to keep us guessing, right upto the moment it falls into the regular trap.

Apart from the unintentional hilarity of adult Hashmi's psychiatrist - a sitting duck from frame one - nothing unexpected comes your way in the second half. Even Kalki is an NRI, and immediately, her arrival clears all speculation about what the final twist could be. Just like Hashmi's usual contractual lip-lock, the climax can be seen coming from a mile away. Because there better be one, after Hashmi's psychological demons drag us through a boring last 30 minutes before all hell breaks loose.

Huma Qureshi is not a patch on Konkana here, and struggles to share any sort of chemistry with Emraan through the film. Also, another issue with Indian horror films is the superhuman ability of the central characters to express horror over heartbreak when their loved ones are affected. Because the background score and genre demands it. Because we're watching, and we want to get scared, not sad.

Eventually, while Kannan Iyer's ETD (script, music, dialogue by Vishal Bharadwaj) could have been far more engrossing with smarter writing, it does its job better than most other Hindi horror flicks today. But then that's not really saying much either.

- Rahul Desai aka Reel Reptile





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