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'Shaitaan' movie review: Satanic curse of second half

Updated on: 08 March,2024 10:40 PM IST  |  Mumbai
Mayank Shekhar |

'Shaitaan' movie review: Does this film have you under its control/spell, like the teenaged girl in it? Up until the clever interval point; more or less, yes!

'Shaitaan' movie review: Satanic curse of second half

Ajay Devgn and Jyotika in a still from Shaitaan

Film: Shaitaan 
Director: Vikas Bahl 
Cast: Ajay Devgn, R Madhavan, Jyotika, Janki Bodiwala 
U/A: Supernatural, thriller 
Rating: 2/5

There’s a young girl at her home, with her Facebook profile picture-perfect, upper-class family in Shaitaan (Satan). A stranger, for an equally strange man, enters their isolated farmhouse.

He takes over the girl’s brain, turning her into an obedient robot for a sentient being—totally remote-controlled by him. He progressively makes her do bizarre things, placing her family in clear and present danger.

The Hindi word for this black magic, as per the film, is “vashikaran”. I quickly typed it on my phone, which, inevitably under the vashikaran of auto-correct, has punched the word as “vashpikaran”.

That means evaporation, and something the family in this movie would wish to occur for the obscure nightmare playing out before them.

Now, here’s the thing. It’s not like the tall, petite, young girl in the picture has consequently been blessed with extra, superhuman powers.

Surely, she can be tied up, tied down, tired out, or put to sleep? Also, can this burly bloke not be overpowered by this family, of the husband, wife, and another child?

Like me, if you’re asking these questions inside the theatre—in your head, of course; please never yap with those you’re with—it’s a good sign. That means, as an audience, you’re participating with the pic.

Given that every time there’s a doubt, there is a sufficiently believable explanation that follows a few minutes later. Which is just as well.

Shaitaan stars Ajay Devgn—easily the biggest-ticket draw in the film’s line-up. This is a supernatural thriller. Clubbing all such flicks into a single genre, the last time I recall Devgn killing it in this space was probably Ram Gopal Varma’s Bhoot (2003). Actor R Madhavan stars opposite Devgn here.

Going by the cast, it’d be fair to term Shaitaan, in business parlance, as a ‘medium budget’ movie. Something that many believe is no more the domain of big theatrical releases.

Until a film like Drishyam 2 (2022), also starring Devgn, storms into cinemas, and forces everyone to redo their movie math! Both films, by and large, bear the same producers.

Shaitaan is centred more on that teenaged every-girl (Janki Bodiwala), under external mind-control. That she exudes zero personality, otherwise, should make audiences feel all the more pathetic and sympathetic for her. She’s suitably subtle, even when screechy.

Tamil star-actor, Jyotika, right off the brilliant Malayalam film Kaathal (2023), plays the girl’s mom. Devgn is the doting husband and dad. He plays a chartered accountant (CA), by profession.

To be fair, even in real life, let alone films—I can visualise Madhavan as a CA. He’s been picked for the dangerous, deranged, demonic rogue’s part. It’s a fine choice.

Does Maddy going mad as shaitaan/satan, gritting his teeth, growling under his breath, give you goosebumps in return? Over a moment or two, yes. Even if not quite in the same way as, say, Ashutosh Rana has been appearing in our nightmares since Sangharsh (1999)!

Does this film have you under its control/spell, like the teenaged girl in it? Up until the clever interval point; more or less, yes!

And it would’ve, throughout, if this was a tight 90-minute thriller, set in the claustrophobic space, that neither the characters nor the audience can escape from. Think of it as Varma’s bungalow-bedlam, Kaun? (1999), with Urmila Matondkar, Manoj Bajpayee.

Shaitaan is admittedly the remake of Krishnadev Yagnik’s highly-rated Gujarati film, Vash (2023). Those in the know tell me that itself was somewhat inspired by Vikas Desai and Aruna Raje’s Hindi horror, Gehrayee (1980). I’ve seen neither to compare.

Especially, if either film similarly suffered from the satanic curse of the second half. Wherein, over the final 25 minutes or so—feel/look/plot wise—this script fully flips into another film!

The beauty of Drishyam 2, for instance—the success of which could explain the release of this horror-thriller—is the consistency with which it stays its course as a suspense drama, without once descending into insecurities of securing a wider theatrical audience-base.

Imagine Shaitaan as Kaun, that visually switches into some kinda Kantara (2022), then? No, you don’t have to imagine it. You can just watch it, if you like! 

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