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Last updateTue, 17 Mar 2015 2pm

'Ek Thi Daayan': Another example of Bollywood indecision


In addition to the usual disclaimers about ‘no animals being hurt during the making of this film’ and the endless thanks to ‘our media partners’, this Bollywood supernatural thriller adds that it ‘does not promote the stereotype of women as witches’.

Bobo ‘the baffler’ (Emraan Hashmi) is a troubled magician; he sees a dead girl and a killer lizard is on the loose! He goes to a shrink who sends him into a trance in order for him to recollect his childhood.

This results in a lengthy flashback in which we learn that the geeky 11 year old Bobo believed his evil stepmother Diana (Konkona Sen Sharma) was a witch (not in the ‘Lalita Pawar’ sense but an actual witch as in ‘Twilight’) who can transform into a lizard.

He is convinced that Diana murdered his younger sister by locking her in a trunk-box. He genuinely believes this as he read this in his favourite book called ‘Time, Witchcraft and the Devil’.

Since witches need to sacrifice a child every leap year in order to maintain their powers and have all their strength in their long hair, Bobo grabbed a dagger and chopped off Diana’s plait.

This resulted in Diana’s disintegration into piles of sand but not before she swears on the Devil that she will return!
Years later, the adult Bobo encounters the mysterious Canadian Lisa Dutt (Kalki Koechin) who may just be Diana in another manifestation…It is clear that this Diana ain’t no people's princess!

First time director Kannan Iyer attempts to inject a new twist into rural Indian folklore by setting his film in a modern, urban setting. This could have worked if the focus was on the very Gothic architecture of many Mumbai buildings.

Alas, the focus is on indoors, on an elevator which descends to HELL and the use of CGI in an attempt to spook us.

It fails to invoke the required scares. This is because it is yet another example of Bollywood’s inability to decide if this a straight horror flick or a ‘masala’ horror flick with songs, dances, romance, unintentional comedy, the pointless interval break.

It goes for the latter resulting in the inclusion of unnecessary background songs (not subtitled) including a wedding song and a romantic subplot with Bobo and his babe Tamara (Huma Quershi) which is simply an excuse to get serial kisser Hashmi to snog her.  He does.  

This results in a sluggishly paced narrative which is further undermined by the lengthy flashback and a preposterous ‘reveal’ ending.

Iyer’s idea of a menacing witch is to stick black contact lenses into Konkona Sen Sharma’s eyes and make her look like one of the blue creatures from ‘Avatar’. She does get one good line when she tells the cute kid: “so sweet; I could just eat you up.”

Then there is a random line of dialogue which attempts socio-political commentary: “South Africa is hell for Indians and blacks.”    

At one point Bobo (ok, his full name is Bijoy) tells his long suffering girlfriend that she should marry him because he was ‘a tiger in bed’.

Boo! Now that’s scary!

- Anil Sinanan     

Dr Anil Sinanan is a graduate of Oxford University and a specialist in European Law.  He is the Bollywood film critic for Time Out London and can be heard dissecting the latest Bollywood releases on the Nikki Bedi show on BBC London, every Friday at 10pm.   

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