Tuesday, August 02, 2011


Directed by: Bejoy Nambiar
Produced by: Anurag Kashyap; Sunil Bohra; Guneet Monga; Meraj Shaikh
Screenplay by: Megha Ramaswamy; Bejoy Nambiar
Starring: Rajit Kapoor; Rajeev Khandelwal; Kalki Koechlin; Pawan Malhotra; Shiv Pandit; Gulshan Devaiya; Neil Bhoopalam; Kirti Kulhari; Sheetal Menon; Sonali Sachdev
Music by: Prashant Pillai; Amar Mohile; Ranjit Barot; Anupam Roy;
Cinematography: R. Madhi
Editing by: Sreekar Prasad
Release date(s): June 10, 2011
Country: India
Language: Hindi
Budget: 11 crores

After seeing it for the second time, I was thinking about the soundtrack of the recent Hindi film Shaitan. This would sound very disconnected in writing, yet worked so wonderfully on screen. I give Shaitan full marks for this sequence. It’s the second act, two scenes are unfolding simultaneously — a group of youngsters runs through the maze of Bhindi Bazaar buildings after perhaps killing a rapist, the black folds of the burkha they wore fluttering in the wind, and there’s a shoot-out in progress inside a chawl building between the police and African drug mafia (?). The camera intercuts between the scenes, between real-time mayhem and slo-mo choreography, and on the soundtrack you hear a female retro remix of the Md Rafi number ‘Khoya Khoya Chand’ from the Dev Anand film Kala Bazaar. It’s all hyper, disorienting, and yet hypnotically fascinating.

This is Shaitan for you. It’s a compulsive watch for an average Hindi film. Is the film good? I don’t know. The pace is relentless, it is shot in innovative psychedelic colours, and there are so many things happening, you find it really hard to keep up with it. There are too many backstories that hinders the main plot, there are too many loose ends that never ties up. For instance, how deranged is Amrita Jaishankar? We see that she is mentally-unstable, haunted by the image of her mother who tried to commit suicide; soon she becomes a junkie. But, how does this help move forward the central plot? The question is not answered. The film ends with Amy again, still unstable. Is she the Shaitan of the title. Not clear.

It's as if the director wanted to show everything he could, as if he won’t get a second chance. The director is Bejoy Nambiar and he will get a second chance, of course. When Anurag Kashyap gives you a break, you know you are talented and you have arrived. Sometimes back he had won an award to learn filmmaking in the US. You may remember him from the gossip newspapers. He was married to Raj Babbar’s daughter Juhi, and his father had publicly claimed that his son made him a bankrupt by buying expensive gifts for his wife.

Shaitan is also about directionless offspring of rich parents. No, all of them are not rich, still, all of them are loafers who spend their days in the daze of booze and cocaine, and wisecracking (one of them asks, what do you call a vibrator that has gone crazy. Answer: Dildo paagal hai. Ha. Ha. Ha.), and travelling on a yellow Hummer.

Then, one drunken night, the Hummer runs over two men on a shooter. They scoot from the crime scene; but a slimy cop picks up the trail and offers them a proposition: Rs 25 lakh for a clean chit. How are they going to raise so much money? One of them have a brainwave. How about kidnapping Amy? Her father (a fat and balding Rajat Kapoor; he was such a handsome man once) is super rich. Amy happily volunteers. It’s all an adventure. And then, things go wrong, as it must.

Add to this melee a disgraced cop, in the middle of his personal tragedy, a track which is unnecessary to say the least. But every film needs a ‘heroine’, and the cop's wife, who finally forgives her husband, fills the role. But Rajeev Khandelwal as the cop is fantastic, so is Nikhil Chinappa as his partner. Khandelwal is sure to land similar roles in near future, unless the producers want Randeep Hooda, who had become the resident cop in Hindi films post-Once Upon a Time In Mumbai. (Like Iftikar of the yesteryears. Don’t remember him? Rent any old Amitabh Bachchan movie and you will see this tall, lanky old man in khaki, he’s your police officer.).

The plot had the power to become a nailbiting thriller, as the friends are pushed to the extremes, and turn to each other. However, it is mired by a screenplay which wants to say too many things, most of which are unnecessary. Agreed, it makes the characters complex and ambivalent, but it robs the film its punch.

It is nice to see, however, filmmakers who take their background music seriously, not just the songs, but how music completes a scene.

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