Movie review: Ek Thi Daayan is more tiresome than frightening
What would happen if Ram Gopal Verma tried to be Gulzar? Or Vikram Bhatt directed 'How I Met Your Mother'? You'd get a film as confused and un-frightening as Ek Thi Daayan
Bollywood's affair with the ghostly other is long, time-tested and obviously rewarding. It gave Ram Gopal Verma a sense of being employed after Satya. Thanks to it, Urmila Matondkar won a second lease of life after Manish Malhotra. And, come rain or the absence of Emraan Hashmi, it kept the Bhatts' Vishesh Films afloat.
While horror has had its lows (remember the talcum powdered zombie lookalikes in Vaastu Shastra?), it had had its moments in the bronzed Bollywood sun also - say for example Bipasha Basu snogging a maggot-spewing thing in Raaz 3.
When Vishal Bhardwaj decided to produce a supernatural thriller based on a short story and starring three stunning women wrapped around one Emraan Hashmi, we expected nothing less than magic. With the added advantage of Bhardwaj writing the dialogues, Ek Thi Daayan seemed like a ghost film made in heaven.
So imagine our disapointment when the only memorable line in the film turned out to be, "Main wapas aoongi!", followed by a snarl similar to one cats make when shooed away. Even when Ahaat was doing the rounds on Indian television, that didn't qualify as chilling.
Also - spoiler alert - since political correctness isn't a virtue in Bollywood, the gorgeous but dusky, dark haired Konkona Sen Sharma was conveniently gifted the opportunity to stare, grin and try scare the living daylights out of the audience as a possible witch. We can't have the actress with the palest complexion be labelled a witch, can we?
The film, like in Emraan Hashmi's past quasi-natural onscreen outings, is about an ordinary man whose extraordinary talent is hooking up with a staggering number of gorgeous women who fawn over him. In Ek Thi Daayan, he is Bobo The Baffler - a top notch, Houdini-type magician in Mumbai (never mind that clownish name).
I say top notch because he seems to be doing fabulously for a magician in this century, given his swanky apartment. Bobo has a tormented history with witches. One killed his father and pretty little sister on a fateful night of a leap year, when he was a boy. Little Bobo, however, had saved himself - by chopping off her long plait. For those who didn't know, ignore everything you've heard about long, shiny hair being a good thing. Long, shiny black hair tied into a braid means you're a bona fide wicked witch and hidden in that braid is a witch's power.
So Bobo, now a fabulous magician with a swanky apartment and a swankier girlfriend (Huma Qureshi), lives in the fear of the murderous witch returning. (Understandable. It takes a lot of effort to grow one's hair long, after all.) One fine day, a Fair and Lovely-white Kalki Koechlin turns up and Bobo is petrified she may be the witchy one. What follows is what would have happened if Vikram Bhatt ever directed How I Met Your Mother.
With all the Bollywood props of a ghost movie - a moldy old building, a lift that doesn't work, a gloomy apartment with teak wood furniture and old mirrors, a friendly doctor who initially doesn't believe in ghosts, a curious little boy and an impending lunar eclipse - Ek Thi Dayaan is filled with familiar Bollywood tropes and it moves at about the same pace as Jodhaa Akbar. Women in black Manish Malhotra chiffons and berry lip colour, explaining the importance of being a ghost with about as much verve as Dr Manmohan Singh when he whines about FDI on national television.
That said, there are no doors banging inexplicably and windows rattling in the wind - that's obviously not up a music director like Vishal Bhardwaj's alley. But there is a helicopter-like-drone to tell you how fearfully powerful witchcraft is. However when the power of a witch sounds like an auto not starting up, you have to wonder about the director and composer's imagination.
And of course, there is Emraan Hashmi, who stoically manages to look as distressed as a man who has spilled coffee on his favourite shirt throughout the film.
It's as though director Kannan Iyer wants to be Ram Gopal Verma, but is in denial and instead is projecting himself as Gulzar. All that achieves is a confused film that is more tiresome than frightening.
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