Reviewing the Reviews: Ek Thi Daayan

22 Apr,2013

Ek Thi Daayan

Key Cast: Emraan Hashmi, Konkona Sen Sharma, Kalki Koechlin, Huma Qureishi

Directed By: Kannan Iyer

Written By: Mukul Sharma, Vishal Bharadwaj

Produced By: Ekta Kapoor, Shobha Kapoor, Vishal Bharadwaj, Rekha Bharadwaj


After the retrospectively cult-ish Ramsey Brothers, Ram Gopal Varma and Vikram Bhatt have appropriated the horror genre in Hindi films, made up of shlock effects and mumbo jumbo.


That’s why, when the combined intelligence of Vishal Bhardwaj and Mukul Sharma, plus Ektaa Kapoor as co-producer, worked together on Ek Thi Daayan, something totally different was expected.  Directed by Kannan Iyer, the film is marginally different from the usual bhoot-pret fare Bollywood churns out, but most critics were disappointed because it did not break the mould.  The film got mostly 2.5 stars, and some 3s. And a rap on the knuckles for the awful climax.


Anupama Chopra of Hindustan Times was riveted by the first half… “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.”


Rajeev Masand of IBNLive commented, “But alas, the film reveals its chinks in the final act when it arrives at an underwhelming climax involving such clichés as child sacrifice and particularly a human-versus-evil forces face-off that seems straight out of a bad Vikram Bhatt movie, complete with laughable special effects. The “big twist” is easy to predict, and the film’s message so pat, you can’t help rolling your eyes the moment it’s delivered.”


Shubhra Gupta of the Indian Express analysed, “The best supernatural movies are rooted in the real. Because that’s where the dark things live. Because that’s where the fears are. A benevolent glance switching to sudden, startling malevolence. An empty room with murderous corners. An eyeball turning dense black. Ek Thi Daayan starts so well that you are riveted. Just about everything in the first half, with its well-calibrated chills, is just as it should be. The second half is unravel time, and you are then left grasping at thin air. Quite appropriate, in a film about magic and apparitions, and witches, and, yes, daayans. The sharp slide wants to make you ask, what just happened here, did a black cat cross the path of the film?”


Raja Sen of wrote, “This is the sort of creep-fest which is better creating an uneasy buildup than at actually scaring the pants off you, and perhaps it should have stayed goosepimply instead of going for the jugular.  Ek Thi Daayan isn’t a truly scary film – though it will provoke nightmares in the young, and I strongly recommend all parents keep their children away from this one.  As if losing confidence in the narrative, the film tries to do too much in the second half – with suddenly oscillating variations in tone and mood – but thanks to performances and craft, it chugs along well enough. An ominous character called Lisa is introduced quite inventively into the story, and the film appears to hit the next level when that wonderful Yaaram song takes on a different meaning.  Alas, it is here that things start to go aground. Clues point so determinedly in one particular direction that they convince us the film must take the other route, merely for twist’s sake, and the climax unforgivably descends into B-movie territory. Suddenly there is too much malarkey and, worse yet, too much talking about malarkey.  A lot of which makes absolutely no sense. A film that started off smartly restrained sadly ends up cacophonic and, frankly, more than a little silly. By the time the actual end comes around, it’s hard to care.”


Sanjukta Sharma of The Mint rightly commented, “The problem is not the other-worldliness of the witches, but the fact that their world is so boring. In storytelling and plot, Ek Thi Daayan has no inventiveness. The background sound is over-punctuative, comprising a familiar amalgamation of bangs, creaks and jangles. Iyer is almost desperate in his attempt to ensure his audience does not miss the exact moment of horror. Most of the time, these build-ups don’t end in a big surprise and jolting out of chairs.”


Saibal Chatterjee of NDTV was not too hostile: “Ek This Daayan is passable fare as a scary movie – the dark, spooky mood is sustained with the aid of dark, shadowy interiors and an effective and unobtrusive background score.  It might have helped had the film not been given to quite as much thematic obfuscation.  Is it intriguing enough to sustain audience interest over two hours and a bit? Most certainly. Is it a true spine-chiller? Only occasionally.  The riveting parts of Ek Thi Daayan are far outnumbered by the limp moments. Yet it is worth a watch owing to the idiosyncratic treatment of a done-to-death genre.”


Meena Iyer of the Times of India was one of the few 3.5 stars, but that’s standard. “Kannan Iyer makes an impressive debut… and kudos to Ekta Kapoor and Vishal Bharadwaj for allowing him to bring his daayan to life without compromises. This film doesn’t play to the galleries nor is it one of those brain-dead movies that Bollywood churns out as assembly line. Note: You may not like the film if transcendental stuff doesn’t move you.”


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