By Subhash K. Jha
Film: "Shaapit"; Cast: Aditya Narayan, Shweta Agarwal, Rahul Dev, Natasha Sinha; Director: Vikram Bhatt; Rating: ** 1/2
There are good spirits and bad spirits waltzing all over the place. All we have to do is reach into the past and pull out the relevant ghoul, and we are into the realm of the spooky cool.
Vikram Bhatt's "Shaapit" has a certain coherence and clarity generally denied to the horror genre. Bhatt, a past master at creating the shiver, treats the material on hand with affection and respect.
"Shaapit" is one of those rare horror thrillers which are not designed simply to scare the yell out of viewers. The research on spirits and ghosts that underlines the story of a boy in love and his effort to liberate his object of adoration from a 300-year-old family curse includes scholarly interpretations of witchcraft, sorcery and other spiritual know-how.
While this knowledgability is an advantage, it also dampens the spirit. While on the one hand, you appreciate the trouble taken to transport the horror genre beyond pedestrian scares, the effort to enthrust an academic dimension to the terror often hampers the free flow of the fear.
"Shaapit" has a climax when Aditya Narayan submerges in the ashes of an evil spirit (played by the articulate Natasha Sinha) who tries to stop him every 'witch' way.
The flying objects in this case are not members of the audience trying to find a way out. There are moments in the plot, shot with the compelling and persuasive genre-defining enjoyment.
Pravin Bhatt's cinematography exudes an enchanting expertise. The film is shot in accentuated orange, yellow, black and grey hues that create a feeling of hushed expectancy and tentative beauty.
The narrative is energised by a rush of riveting episodes all meant to create a spiral of suspenseful segments in the ongoing spook-opera known as "How To Save Your Beloved From Evil Spirits".
Aditya Narayan looks a little too raw and inexperienced to do a rescue the damsel in distress. He has a screen presence which could be better cultivated. He has good support from a friend (Shubh Joshi) and Rahul Dev playing a occultist academician.
New girl Shweta Agarwal would have made a better impact with less makeup.
Vikram Bhatt, always a neat, compact and straightforward storyteller, moves in two time zones. The art and decor for the sequences of palace intrigue 300 years ago suggest more papiermache than authenticity.
But the film is well-mounted and packaged with sincerity. Yup, the ghoul can be quite cool.
Bollywood.com Rating: 3.5