Ek Hi Konkona Sen Sharma
I did not enjoy horror movies growing up; used to avoid them like Sajid Khan avoids logic in his movies. It helped that the number of horror movies made in Bollywood were few, unless you counted the B grade ones that played in matinee shows at single screens. This lack of interest, out of pure fear to be honest, was thrown right out of the window after I saw the first trailer of Ek Thi Daayan (ETD, 5/5 for the title!). Spooky beyond imagination the trailer (link here) ensured I watched a movie on the day of its release after a long time.
Debutant Director Kannan Iyer’s ETD begins with magician Bobo (Emraan Hashmi, seriously a hero named Bobo? 0/5 for this) getting visions from his past that lead him to the hypnosis table of a psychiatrist and the audience to a typical Bollywood flashback. Here the best portions of the movie begin with 11 year old Bobo (Vishesh Tiwari, Chillar Party before this) reading about daayans (witches) from a book and exploring the dark underground horror world with his younger sister through the lift of their building.
The perfect time for Daayan-a/Diana, (Konkana Sen Sharma) to enter their lives, first as a governess and later graduating to the role of their step mother. The child Bobo is convinced she is a witch but others around him ridicule the idea. Thus begins the cat and mouse game as Bobo calls it and the viewer is led through a series of shrieking and downright scary sequences. Don’t be embarrassed to close your eyes shut every now and then; trust me there would be quite a few like you in the theatre. Credit to the writers (Vishal Bhardwaj & Mukul Sharma) for weaving folklore about Daayans in the script with such frightening results. From twisted feet to long hair (chottis) to ‘eating’ kids to eclipses, we have it all packed in this scare-fest of a first half.
Sadly, the interval rings the death knell for the viewer interest levels as the movie slides alarmingly downhill. The romance between Bobo and Tamara (Huma Qureshi) is half baked and the songs act as a real dampener. Why the makers want a marriage sequence song right after scaring the living daylights out of their audiences in the first half is puzzling to say the least. The introduction of Kalki Koechlin as Lisa Dutt adds intrigue to the story but several loop holes emerge as the movie deviates from its own logic of dealing with witches. The final nail in the coffin is the outrageous last half hour where the Director completely loses the plot crashing straight into Vikram Bhatt territory with the climax.
Thank God or rather the Devil for Konkona Sen Sharma though. She single handedly delivers the best moments of the movie. Her introduction sequence is the best scene of the movie with Sen Sharma looking as daayan-ish as possible with those large eyes and wicked smile. She also gets dialogues like “So cute, I could just eat you up” to spook the audiences further!
Huma Qureshi who was absolutely fab (and hot!) in Gangs of Wasseypur is seriously disappointing here (on both the fronts!). Kalki Koechlin has too little time on screen and too little to do for making any impact. Emraan Hashmi is decent throughout as he realizes the women in the movie need to take the forefront. A special mention to Vishesh Tiwari as the kid Hashmi in the flashback sequences, he plays the nosy, scared yet brave kid to perfection. The music by Vishal Bhardwaj is soothing while the lyrics by Gulzar carry the dread the movie deserves. The importance of an appropriate background score for a horror movie cannot be stressed enough and Clinton Cerejo does a fine job here.
Apart from delivering the thrills, a good horror movie must have a reasonable explanation towards the end. It cannot ever be logical but should be convincing enough for the viewer to continue to feel the chill post the duration of the movie. For some time after the movie walking through dark empty lanes or climbing silent stairs post mid-night should be uncomfortable. Something my favourite horror movie, the Ram Gopal Verma directed, Revathi starrer Raat (1992) manages to do even now. ETD, had it lived up to the first half would have ended with a similar status. Kannan Iyer, you almost made it!
Rating: 2.5/5. The extra 0.5 purely for the first half thrills that only horror movies can provide. Hoping Bollywood produces more non Vikram Bhatt horror movies. It is an interesting genre after all and the few instances in life where the audiences feel entertained by getting scared.
Dessert Note (DN, as desserts are served after main course, a dessert note is served after the main article):
Being scared of horror movies, I must thank my burly Punjabi colleague who accompanied me to the movie. Watching him shiver like a kitten through the movie distracted me from my own fear and gave me more than enough bragging rights in office 🙂