Bollywood and culture in an emerging India
(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.
Bollywood has always survived on the formula — the elusive secret to making a successful film that combines elaborate sets, melodrama and of course, dancing around trees. Then multiplexes arrived and we were told it was the era of niche films, ones that didn’t go by the formula.
Films like “Wake Up Sid” are well on their way to becoming a meeting point between the old and the new, and becoming a whole different genre of films — the formula multiplex film.
And that’s not just because he is brilliant in the part — he is. But the scenes capture perfectly the subtle performances and nuanced characters this film is bursting with.