An entertaining and entirely irreverent ghost story
Mukul Sharma-chronicler of science reconnoitre, witty raconteur and le pere de Konkona Sen Sharma—has written the story on which Ek Thi Daayan is based. His daughter plays the ‘Daayan’ of his invention, a witch, better known colloquially as a ‘churail’.
The film starts with a disclaimer saying that it doesn’t stereotype women as witches. This gives you a clue of the tone of the movie. It is to be an irreverent ghost story, one that is essentially sceptical of the supernatural, but, by and by, succumbs to the sensuality of the witch, that irresistible combination of destructive power and unconcealed sexuality. Each time a woman turns out to be a witch suspect, she goes from the ascetic to the lush.
Ek Thi Daayan starts with Bobo (Emraan Hashmi), a professional magician who has had a troubled childhood. He was introduced to necromancy as a little boy when his father, a single parent, was seduced by a witch who disguised herself as a curvy babysitter (Sen Sharma) and slithered her way into his life, first as companion and then as wife. Though Bobo, with his then elementary knowledge of witchcraft, eventually managed to dispatch her to the underworld, she is back now, in another human form, and interfering with his work, dangerously compromising his magic shows.
Kannan Iyer directs the film with plenty of style from ‘German Expressionism’—asymmetrical set design, frequent use of staircases shot from an extreme tilt, and chiaroscuro lighting, the menacing play of light and shadow. This is literate filmmaking, entertaining and good fun. Unfortunately, Iyer starts repeating a good thing till it becomes predictable, and eventually, in the last half hour or so, turns a good yarn into flat fizz.
Still, for a great piece of magic, turning Ranjan Palit from a documentary filmmaker into a psychiatrist, and for some good casting and performances, Ek Thi Daayan is worth a watch.