Bollywood and culture in an emerging India
Ek Thi Daayan: It’s the witching hour
(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not necessarily of Reuters)
At the end of the first half of Kannan Iyer’s “Ek Thi Daayan”, you may be forgiven for harbouring an unnatural dread of elevators or old abandoned buildings. Except for a few scenes, director Iyer keeps you on the edge of your seat with the spectre of a witch seen through the eyes of a child.
Emraan Hashmi plays Bobo, a magician who is so haunted by his past that it hampers his future with girlfriend Tamara (Huma Qureshi) and comes in the way of his profession. He seeks help from his shrink, who hypnotises him so that he can go back to his childhood and put those demons to rest. The flashback, where we see the 11-year-old Bobo dealing with a woman he’s convinced is a witch, is the most effective part of “Ek Thi Daayan”.
Konkona Sen Sharma is deliciously good as Diana – the mysterious neighbour who terrifies Bobo and his younger sister Misha but enthrals their father (Pavan Malhotra). Bobo is convinced Diana isn’t what she seems to be, and his quest to find the truth leads to some of the film’s scariest moments. There are the usual creaking doors and abandoned buildings, staples of the horror genre, but Iyer does make you jump out of your seat a couple of times.
In the second half though, the story quickly unravels. The plot falters, the scary moments seem repetitive (how often can a lizard on a wall scare you?) and the climax is especially tacky and unintentionally funny.
Resorting to cliches about witches and the devil may work sometimes but not the way it is executed in “Ek Thi Daayan”. There is hardly any explanation for the character’s behaviour, the motives seem flimsy and the film gives you the feeling it was wrapped up rather clumsily, without tying up loose ends or even attempting to craft a satisfying ending. This seems like a cop-out.
Of the cast, Emraan Hashmi is restrained and quite effective, while Konkona Sen Sharma is scarily good.
“Ek Thi Daayan” has some eerie moments, but on the whole, it is not a scary film. Nor is it effective horror. Watch it only if you must.