Direction: Kannan Iyer
Actors: Emraan Hashmi, Konkona Sen Sharma, Kalki Koechlin
Rating: **1/2 stars
Legendary filmmaker Stanley Kubrick once remarked: “A story of the supernatural cannot be taken apart and analysed too closely. The ultimate test of its rationale is whether it is good enough to raise the hairs on the back on your neck.”
The good news is that Ek Thi Daayan, co-produced by Ekta Kapoor and Vishal Bhardwaj, manages that. The bad news is that the film only manages that in the first half.
Until the interval, debutant director Kannan Iyer had me pinned to my seat. Of course, first I had to get over the fact that the hero in this film, played by Emraan Hashmi, is called Bobo. He’s a magician, so people refer to him as Bobo the Baffler. Bobo starts to suffer from hallucinations. He undergoes hypnosis and discovers that in his childhood, he was terrorised by a woman named Diana, played by Konkona Sen Sharma, who may or may not have been a Daayan – that’s Hindi for witch. Kannan seamlessly transposes a rural old wives’ tale into an urban setting. The building lift becomes a passage to hell. But the screenplay by Mukul Sharma and Bhardwaj maintains an eerie ambiguity. Is the young Bobo, played very well by Vishesh Tiwari, simply over-reacting to the new woman in his widower father’s life or is she actually a murderous witch? There are moments here that made me jump. Konkona is deliciously wicked and at one point, I got so spooked that I closed my eyes.
And then, the curse of the second half struck like a gale-force. Kalki Koechlin, playing Lisa Dutt, makes an entry. She’s an interesting actor but the film doesn’t know what to do with her. The pace slackens, the plot unravels and Kannan’s assured grip on the material loosens. By the climax, Ek Thi Daayan descends into Vikram Bhatt territory – the plot doesn’t stay true even to its own logic. It’s cheesy and simply too silly to scare. Which is a real bummer because until then, I was having a lot of fun.
Ek Thi Daayan had the potential to be an A-grade horror film but it’s an opportunity lost. However, I would love to see Diana get her own film and I’m very curious about what Kannan will do next.