Oscar Wilde said “We are each our own devil, and we make this world our hell”. Within all of us lies an inner devil, how much of it we unleash, are choices ours to make. We have all been a victim of that one-minute-impulse reaction that we later lived to regret. But what happens if the repercussion of such an act impacts the life of some other being? We read such cases so often. Rich kids, looking for thrill at the cost of someone else’s life, get into trouble with the law, scot free owing to the clout of their families. Cases are dismissed, everything’s’ forgotten until the next day when yet another alike incident occurs. With a subject as strong as this, writers Bejoy Nambiar and Megha Ramaswamy have a mammoth task at hand – to inform, educate and entertain in the same vein. Do they succeed? Read on to find out.
Keeping the thriller quotient intact, I’ll refrain detailing too much of the plot. But at the crux of it are five youngsters – Amy (Kalki Koechlin), KC (Gulshan Devaiya), Dash (Shiv Pandit), Zubin (Neil Bhoopalam) and Tanya (Kirti Kulhari), one high-on-life night out, a hit-and-run accident, a corrupt cop (Raj Kumar Yadav) who needs to be paid off to close the accident file, a honest cop (Rajeev Khandelwal) in pursuit of truth, a plan gone awry, what follows is a series of crimes to cover the ones that have been committed.
Like most movies that have released recently, this one to starts ambitiously; initially wasting some time in setting base, subsequently gathering momentum in to a fabulous build-up, but soon begins to falter, struggling to maintain set levels of energy. From there on, all the Shaitaniyaat takes a detour, making way for predictable sidelines, avoidable quirks, eventually falling prey to Bollywood’s latest disorder of ‘style over substance’. Sadly, this is an issue I am running out of ways to complain about.
Thankfully for the director/writers, the cast is much stronger than the characters they are essaying. Not manacled by their poorly sketched characterizations, they instead go leaps and bounds to keep the film’s neck above water, thus lifting it to a watchable level. Not many of us will relate to them personally, but we begin to enjoy them. Rajeev Khandelwal, possibly one of our most underrated actors, is the biggest strength of the film. He’s lends ample credence to help the audience connect with his bits of the movie. While Kalki and Rajkumar Yadav are good, they bear light reminiscence to their earlier roles and hardly bring much novelty. Debutants Shiv, Neil just about manage arresting screen presence and have their see-saw moments. It’s the undertone sparks exuded by remarkable acts of Gulshan and Kirti that we wish to see more of, among all the actors to make the two-odd hours worthwhile. Unfortunately we don’t quite get there.
The director Bejoy Nambiar overpowers the writer in him, thus accrediting the debutant filmmaker with accolades for some snazzy sequences and pulsating direction, but none for story. It’s a brave directorial debut and one that deserves enthusiastic support. While the film amasses gratuitous commercial components of a glamorous, slickly crafted drama, if there’s one problem alone with Shaitan, it is that the narrative slumps and the loopholes in the script are far too many to keep one hooked. It raises many questions in the mind of the viewer and leaves many questions unanswered. Not acceptable especially for a film belonging to this genre. Editor Sreekar Prasad should have been stricter at the editing table.
On its upside, Shaitan can unabashedly boast of some fantastic cinematography credit R Madhi’s camera and lighting work which moves in striking, clear motions lending the scene with perfect intensity and edginess. Given the locales and subject it must have been tempting to go overboard in these departments, but Madhi shows restraint. But then there’s just about that much amount of slo-mo effects you can endure if there isn’t anything substantial enough playing onscreen. While Kashyap and Bejoy’s intention to promote a certain art of film-making, plot is admirable, the fact that they just touch the periphery of the concept of ‘one’s inner-demon’, but never go all the way is quite bothersome. It’s quite disconcerting that a film about such a serious issue offers not much to take away.
I have been having such a good run with the movies I have watched lately and the general reaction to this one was so affirmative. Not to forget my own positive feedback to the promos and soundtrack, so I am guilty of watching it with extremely high expectations. But expectations are called for when you have Kashyap’s name associated with a project. However despite few levies and benefit of doubt, overall it has some cheap thrills but majorly lacks punch. Can’t say the film is enjoyable, can’t say it’s not either. Although it’s not the best shot at a thriller, it’s one of the better ones to come out in recent times. Despite the vital department having flaws, the rest synergizes decently to chance it to a ‘one time watch’ feel.