Shaitaan review: Vash-ted opportunity?

Shaitaan review: Vash-ted opportunity?

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We haven’t seen the original Gujarati film Vash (2023), but this Hindi remake is not quite the devil that R.Madhavan, Ajay Devgn fans expected it to be.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️ (2 / 5 )

By IndiaLevel Media

A family from Uttarakhand is driving to their private villa at a hill station. Family banter during travels is fine, but it’s dangerous to distract the driver. The teenaged daughter can be forgiven, but such conduct isn’t expected from the mother. On one occasion, the father nearly loses control of the wheel. Phew, is the family trying to be Khatron ke khiladi (daredevils)? They run the risk of inviting trouble.

Trouble soon arrives in the form a friendly stranger they bump into at a dhabha. Short of change, Vanraj (R.Madhavan) offers to buy tea for Kabir (Ajay Devgn), his beautiful wife Jyoti (Jyotika). Never take anything from strangers. The family learns it the hard way as Vanraj unexpectedly lands at their private villa. The night turns into hell for the family as Vanraj’s vashikaran (black magic) sees him take control of their daughter Janvi (Janki Bodiwala).

Shaitaan gave the impression of a horror film, but it is actually a dark thriller. It is a remake of Krishnadev Yagnik’s Gujarati film Vash (2023). We haven’t seen the orginal but word goes that director Vikas Bahl, screenwriter Aamil Keeyan Khan have naturally tweaked few things. The common factor in both films is Janki Bodiwala playing the victim.

Shaitaan offers a fairly gripping first half as one is likely to be intrigued by the drama, chills that unfold in Kabir’s villa. It holds promise for a thrilling, possibly supernatural experience, but the fear factor just dissipates in the second half.

Pin the blame on the average writing, direction. The bigger problem is its chief tormentor, Vanraj. He is fine to begin with, but R.Madhavan displays familiar frailties (hamming) that often frustrates Bollywood viewers. Come the critical hour, he doesn’t turn into the Shaitaan (devil) that we all expected him to be. Black magic is usually perceived to be the handiwork of the illiterate, but greed, envy can even drive a privileged crazy. Madhavan’s Vanraj is a polished dark arts practitioner, but him mumbling English during the pivotal climatic action is such a put off. Did Aamil Keeyan Khan fall short of Hindi words, or was Madhavan more comfortable with English? Madhavan’s disappointing second half effort undoes all the preceding good work. 

The same can be said of the overall screenplay. Given its plotline, director Vikas Bahl gets the hard part right by pulling off the in-house action. It should have been relatively comfortable once the action moved to different locations, but  that is where Bahl loses the plot.

Ajay Devgn, Janki Bodiwala in Shaitaan [2022]

Not quite age, but Ajay Devgn has lacked energy in his last few films. Drishyam 2 (2022), though, was an exception. Unfortunately, Devgn finds himself in a familiar conundrum –  family-ke-liye-kuch-bhi-karega (Will do anything for the family). Kabir, though, isn’t as sharp as a Vijay Salgaonkar. The latter, however, didn’t encounter a delicate, dangerous situation as the former. Ideally, one expects the mother to break down, but it’s Kabir who gets emotional. Devgn puts up a decent show.

Jyotika makes a return to Hindi films after ages. Despite the critical situation, the mother shows a steely resolve to drive out the evil from her house. She speaks little, but Jyotika conveys more with her expressions. Eventually, a mother’s patience is broken. It’s a conducive time for forlorn artistes like Jyotika to make amends in Bollywood. Hopefully, she gets her opportunities.

Janki Bodiwala in Shaitaan [2024]

Janki Bodiwala is fortunate to be able to reprise her role in the Hindi remake. We haven’t seen Vash [2023] to make any comparative analysis. The Shaitaan trailer had us worried whether Janki was the right choice. She puts all doubts to rest with a fairly gripping performance. Maybe, a Janvi doesn’t quite mirror the standard cinematic definition of a possessed girl. There are moments where you question the possession? But then again, a Janvi is a prisoner to Vanraj’s last command. And Bodiwala does as  her director Vikas Bahl commands.

Child artiste Anngad Raaj is adorable as Janvi’s brother Dhruv. Traditional Indian families, however, will not approve of a 8-year-old calling a father by his name.

A dark film by Vikas Bahl where a young woman is literally remote controlled by a man. Is this an ideal sight on Women’s Day? Perhaps not, but the climatic events, a father’s resolve to save his daughter at all cost underline Shaitaan’s larger feminist cause.

Whilst the film is below par, Shaitaan scores high on atmospherics. The hills of Uttarakhand offer natural beauty, but the immersive cinematography, production design enrich the overall visual experience. That still can’t mask the average storytelling. Sadly, this Shaitaan is another Vash-ted opportunity.

Shaitaan review: Vash-ted opportunity?

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