Critics' review: Aatma is disappointing

By HT

Cast: Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Bipasha Basu, Tillotma Shome, Doyel Dhawan, Shiv Subramaniam, Geetika Tyagi and Mohan Kapur
Director: Suparn Verma
Plot: The film revolves around Maya, a single mother. She has managed to escape the cycle of abuse from her husband after his death. But, her sense of peace is shattered when she discovers that her husband is possessing their daughter with the intent of causing the child’s death and taking her with him to his own ‘world’ (world of the dead). The film then focuses on a fight between a desperate mother and a http://www.hindustantimes.com/Images/popup/2013/2/Aatma_poster.jpgghost in which the mother has to fight tooth and nail against the ghost in order to keep her beloved daughter safe from the ghost of her father. She will go to any lengths to protect her child and keep her out of harm’s way.

Saibal Chatterjee, NDTV
The intriguing premise and the evocative texture of Aatma are somewhat at odds with what the film eventually adds up to. One is tempted to look for layers of meaning beneath the images. There is none. You are left clutching at thin air. A skeletal plot and the scarcity of truly chilling moments defeat the very purpose of the paranormal thriller about a sweet little girl possessed.

As a result, Aatma is not quite as mind-bending or as terrifying as writer-director Suparn Verma wants it to be. Its spirit is in fine shape, what is missing is soul. There is a juncture or two in the film where it is quite evident that writer-director Suparn Verma is mindful of the limitations the genre is heir to and is determined to rise above them. Unfortunately, intent is all there is to the film. The end result is patchy.

Is Aatma a bit of a feminist film about a tough working woman who decides that she has had enough of being at the receiving end of a vilely abusive husband susceptible to bouts of brutal rage? Or is it a story of three generations of a family – a mother, a daughter and a grand-daughter – caught in a life-and-death tussle with a force of destruction that simply won’t let go? The film does have elements of both of the above, but is eventually just another horror flick that tries very hard to break free from the established conventions of the genre. It is doomed to mundane monotony.

Aatma hinges primarily on the dire pronouncement of an urban exorcist. The tormentor, he intones ominously, is no longer a part of the here and now, so he can be stopped only by the dead.

Thanks to Nordic director of photography Sophie Winqvist’s energetic camerawork and mood-inducing lighting, Aatma wears a unique look and feel. The ghostly air is accentuated by the quick changes in the camera’s focus that at once draw the viewers into the action as well as put them at a clear remove, often within the span of a single sequence.

Nawazuddin Siddiqui, the aatma referred to in the film’s title, remains as insubstantial as the character he is saddled with. However, in the only scene in which he is allowed to be anything other than a reprehensible monster – it takes place in the marriage court that grants his wife divorce as well as custody of their only daughter and he is flummoxed into a twitchy protest – Nawazuddin is outstanding. Debutante child star Doyel Dhawan has an innocent, wide-eyed quality that cannot be missed. The supporting actors – Shernaz Patel, Tilottama Shome, Jaideep Ahlawat, Darshan Jariwala, et al – are all competent performers but they can only be as good as the screenplay allows them to be.
Verdict: One star for gumption, one more for effort, but none at all for the rest.
Rating: **

Taran Adarsh, Bollywood Hungama
With the 3D technology making a big splash across the globe, the trend of making horror films in 3D has already caught on in Bollywood. Vikram Bhatt's Haunted, Dangerous Ishhq and Raaz 3 and Ramgopal Varma's Bhoot Returns narrated spooky tales in 3D. While I am not against this technology, I am glad Suparn Verma decided against making Aatma in 3D because this one's a psychological thriller -- more of a human drama -- and the 3D glasses would've only acted as a blockade.

First things first, Aatma is *not* the quintessential horror film. It's not about a haunted house or a tormented spirit thirsting for vengeance. It has layers. It has supernatural elements. It tackles an abusive relationship. It's about a strong emotional bonding between a mother and child. Primarily, it's the fight between a woman and her dead husband over their child. An interesting concept without doubt, but what comes across on screen is such an anticlimax!

To give the credit where it's due, Aatma doesn't resort to appalling, nauseating visuals. It's low on gore, but high on atmosphere and mood. Unfortunately, Suparn presents the age-old beliefs without giving a new spin to the fight between the dead and living.

Bipasha Basu is a tormented housewife and a distressed mother. However, unlike Raaz 3, Aatma doesn't offer her the podium to demonstrate her acting skills, although the talented actress gives her best shot. Nawazuddin, who won laurels in Gangs Of Wasseypur and Talaash last year, forays into mainstream Bollywood with Aatma. Surprisingly, he too doesn't get any scope to prove his credentials. Doyel, the child artist, handles her part wonderfully. Shernaz Patel is alright. Darshan Jariwala is effective. Jaideep Ahlawat gets minimal scope. Shiv Subramaniam doesn't impress.
On the whole, Aatma stands on a weak script. Besides, there are hardly any scares here. Disappointing!
Rating: **

Resham Sengar, Zee News
Thanks to Aatma - the brainchild of director, screenplay and story writer Suparn Verma, Hindi cinema can now heave a sigh of relief after years of being pulled up for its stereotypical ‘scary’ films belonging to the supernatural genre. After going through the one-and-half-hour-long movie, it turns out that the makers of Aatma have kept their promise of presenting a freshly baked horror film with pleasant surprises thrown in here and there on the audiences’ platter. So here you won’t find the baggage that comes with the usual horror films.

The story is kept real and believable and here’s how it goes: Maya Verma (Bipasha Basu) is trying hard to start her life afresh after the accidental death of her violent husband Abhay (Nawazuddin Siddique) who she got legally separated with after an unsuccessful marriage of 7 years. Now, as the story moves forward, Maya’s stream of consciousness reveals that Abhay was a husband from hell but a doting yet an overtly possessive father to his little daughter Nia (Noyel Dhawan). Nia’s affection for her father brings him back from the dead which results in hell breaking loose in Maya’s life. And this time the father is determined to take his daughter away with him to the netherworld. Now the only thing posing as a roadblock for the demoniac soul of Abhay is the strong mother-daughter bond that Nia and Maya share. This sets the base of ‘Aatma’s story. Now the question is, will the powerful and undefeatable evil Abhay have his way or will Maya’s motherly love win over the evil? Don’t rack your brains over this dear readers, simply go and watch the film (if you love the horror genre).

As the film’s writer, Suparn Verma had tried to make sure that he leaves no stone unturned in making the film connect on a logical and emotional level. For instance, one may question the logic behind the evil spirit going about killing every person that came its way in the film except Bipasha’s character but the reason behind that manoeuvre is revealed as the story progresses. But that does not imply that Aatma is an excellent film. Rather it is more apt to say that it is an out-of-the-box film. The scary moments before the interval are more like foreplay. They titillate the viewer before the main course is served in the second half of the film with creativity flowing in the thrilling scenes. There are a couple of sequences that will give you the goose bumps while there are a few that will make you look into the screen without batting an eyelid. However, the best is preserved for the last – the climax!
Verdict: Aatma does not belong to the league of those horror films that leave a powerful impact on your mind for days. Instead, hopefully it will leave you without any fear of the unknown lurking in your heart.
Rating: ***

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