Sunday, June 26, 2011
I remember how when I was a child, I would hear people admonish someone who was naughty or did something wrong as “shaitani”. You mustn’t be called that, because that would mean that you are a bad person. It’s almost the height of evil doing. And that’s what this movie is about. It’s about what happens when you continuously indulge in things that are not good for you, losing your sanity in the process. It is about how when you have to cover up for one mistake, you have to commit many more, that turns out to be a never-ending nightmare of bitter regrets and unimaginable actions.
Shaitan, directed by newcomer Bejoy Nambiar came as a brave attempt at unearthing the underbelly of the Indian police, and the consequences of young, wild erratic lifestyles of the uber cool, rich city bred kids. Five friends, KC (Gulshan Devaiya), Dash (Shiv Pandit), Zubin (Neil Bhoopalam),Tanya (Kirti Kulhari) and Amrita Jayshankar a.k.a. Amy (Kalki Koechlin) are on a wild ride of drugs, drinks and all that spells trouble. A fatal accident completely shocks them and to cover that up, they are forced to device a riskier plan that they hope would save them from serving a jail sentence. The “plan”, however, proves to be too costly to their friendship, their faith in each other and in life itself. Life turns out to be one hellish journey that takes away their spirit, their hopes, their happiness.
Shaitan’s appeal lies in its ability to provoke the senses of the viewer, to make the unexpected come true, but only in certain sections. While the first killing seems real, the ones following that seem a bit overdone. The film urges one's senses and performs in these particular bits. The technical experimentations are fresh, but borrowed. Distinctly Aronofsky right at the beginning. I liked how he brought a twist in Tanya’s story. And how Amy got high in the shot of her against the wall. I liked how the remixed songs were played in the background of completely contradictory visuals. The songs did not come in the way of the film, neither did it disrupt the flow of the narration. It only added to the substance, sometimes loudly, sometimes subtly, but it played in a way that blended with the screen action. The chase scene is done with alacrity keeping the pace and pulse fast and intense. The accident is, by far one of the best sequences in the film. The impact, the silence, the heaviness - all combined to bring out the extent of its magnitude - that would determine the course of the rest of the film.
The film did not work for me for a few reasons. First its luck was pulled too far. The antics started to repeat itself, and hence felt overdone. The dialogues sometimes lacked an intelligence. The actors did a fair job, but other than Rajeev Khandelwal who played Inspector Arvind Mathur, there was a certain lack of depth in the other characters. Amy’s estranged mother and her devastated state of mind was explored well, yet failed to really come through. It lacked a history, and a solid build to the mother and consequently her state of mind. It tries to have an impact, but again, lacked a fineness. However, the last scene of the child in the tub pulls it off well. Arvind Mathur’s marital problems did not directly affect his screen presence, and the parallels drawn between his police life and his issues at home did not bring any major point to the forefront. There was a disconnect between these two selves.
The larger issue on which the film built itself on, the corruption of the Indian police force is not fully addressed. Yet its attempt to expose the flaws in the system and display how easy it is to make a "bribe" in order to keep a crime under the rug is admirable. Rajeev's character acts as the thread that tries to keep the credibility of the system intact. He is the fibre that runs through the film to connect the dots, to replace the missing pieces, to bring justice. Our society needs to wake up to these realities and stop taking corrupt ways for granted. If it can ruin someone else's life, it can very well ruin your life too. This is what the characters in the movie symbolize. They are the victims of a system gone terribly wrong. And one wrong system can turn into a vicious circle of many many wrong and awful consequences.
The characters were clearly inspired by real people that the director may have come across in his life. They had different shades and dimensions to their personalities. The overall message of the film stands strong in its desire to shake our fantastic thoughts of wild fun, and ground us to the grim realities of such dangerous turns.
Watch it for its edginess, its pace, and most of all, its compelling theme.