It is sickening to see how the genre of horror, thanks to the lacklustre productions that have been made in this country, has ended up being a branch of comedy (unintentional). Just a month ago, we saw Aatma trying to break that clutter but only managed to scare you. But finally the tried and tested myth of the daayan has attempted to revive this genre. Kannan Iyer's Ek Thi Daayan is positively chilling, hair-raising and is capable of being responsible for some sleepless nights.
Vishal Bhardwaj's disciplined screenplay creates a setting, which from the very beginning creates an eerie atmosphere of thick fog which makes you see only what the maker intends you to see. Ek Thi Daayan is a story of Bobo (Emraan), a famous illusionist, who is betrothed to his girlfriend Tamara (Huma). However, the ghosts of his past are a roadblock to their future together. He therefore revisits his old shrink only to recollect a horrifying regressed memory of how a daayan killed his sister and his father. Tormented by the memory, Bobo decides to move on, only to find Lisa Dutt (Kalki), an NRI come to India in search of him. This opens a can of worms and Bobo's life takes a turn for the worse. Has the old daayan returned? If so, why is she after him?
Just over two hours long, the film has a smooth flow to it and builds up suspense one-step at a time. By the end of the first half, you only have a lot of questions about what is going to happen and are in half a mind to get it over with soon. In the second half, the film answers most of your questions, but not before it descends into that part of your mind which feels ticklish when scared.
In an attempt to avoid the in-your-face horror, even the spookiest, eeriest scenes have a sense of believability about them. And although you don't feel the tremors of fear shaking your skin while the scenes take place, you may feel them later that night when you are lying awake in bed, in the presence of numerous moving shadows. The final ten minutes of the film are fairly ordinary, but you tend to go forgive that in the larger scheme of things.
The background score, by Clinton Cerejo, is largely under-utilised and could have added so much more value to the film. The music and lyrics are top notch, especially the title song Lautungi Main by Rekha Bhardwaj. Her haunting, melodic voice welcomes you into the film, before the actors take over and deliver some memorable performances.
Emraan Hashmi, although the protagonist of the film, has very little to do. Most of the times, his character is only reacting to situations. Huma Qureshi, positively shrugging off her image from GOW, is refreshing in her portrayal of Tamara. Kalki, who plays Lisa Dutt, also fits well into the shoes of a chirpy, outgoing girl. But Konkona Sen Sharma is the pick of the lot. Her character, Diana, is the personification of black magic itself. With subtle change in looks, she can go from being loving and adorable to deadly and vicious.
This psychological, super-natural thriller of a film is a great kick for horror junkies; and for the faint- hearted, stepping in elevators or being in the same room as a lizard will be hard for a few days.
Rating: 3 out of 5
Published in DNA (Pune) on April 20, 2013