Thursday, August 25, 2011

Shaitan - The Devil Within

The youth of today's India is trapped in a web of new age modernism. There's money aplenty, too much free time, a trend where the fast life of boozing, drugging is considered cool and to top it all, morals are  passe. The lines between right and wrong blur and a total disregard for life and values set in. In such a land-mine waiting to explode, circumstances can easily trigger the devil inside. Produced by Anurag Kashyap (widely regarded as the most daring film maker at this time in Indian cinema) and helmed by first time director Bejoy Nambiar, 'Shaitan' is a reflection of todays urban young India. It is edgy, shocking and at the end makes you think hard of where the new generation might be headed.

The tale begins with the new transport from Los Angeles to Mumbai, in her words while her dad still regards it as Bombay, Amy (Kalki Koechlin). A disturbed young girl, she has visions of her mother's mental illness and consequent death. Adjusting to life in the big city with a rich but self involved father (Rajit kapoor) and a new well meaning stepmother, she is quickly befriended by a group of laid back, pleasure loving youngsters. There's the rich guy whiling away life spending dad's money KC (Gulshan Devaiya), the bulimic model Tanya (Kirti Kulhari), the Parsi geek Zubin (Neil Bhoopalam) and the mysterious cocaine supplier Dash (Shiv Pandit). Life is an endless ride of partying, drinking, doing drugs till one night speeding in their Hummer they end up killing two people on a scooter. Since their conscience never really come to play, to get away they agree to come up with a huge sum of money to shut the mouth of the police officer who is wise to this incident. The problem is, how to lay hands on such a large sum.

As if killing and covering their tracks was not enough, they decide to fake kidnap Amy, secure in the knowledge that her rich dad would pay up. The dad calls the cops instead. The commissioner (Pawan Malhotra), making some wise observations on the reality of the police system calls on suspended cop with his own personal problems, Arvind Mathur (Rajeev Khandelwal) to solve the case. The case gathers a media circus and all hell breaks loose. The friends are tested and the devil in them rears its ugly head.

This is a movie which is an achievement in the technical department. The sound, cinematography, shot taking, editing all join hands to create an edgy, mad frenzy on screen. Some scenes stand out especially the shootout and chase sequence to the backdrop of a well remixed classic 'Khoya Khoya chand'. The accident itself is extremely well shot. The introduction to all the characters is superbly handled. The screenplay successfully captivates for at least half the movie. However, my grouse is that it does loose steam towards the end and the climax seems hurried and too tame for the impact, the beginning had prepared us for.

There is also the problem of connecting with these youngsters. Even though it would be hard to connect with such morally bereft characters, there is never much understanding to their worlds and the inner demons that cause them to be their selves. As such, it is hard to feel sympathy for any of them. Or was that intentional? Does one really need a reason to turn out a certain way? Scary thought that, and if society adds to it, the fibre of values and humanity might just tear away to reveal monsters. The director should be lauded for slapping the youth of today with his debut feature. To think, he could not find any producer backing him for the longest time till he hit pay dirt with the maverick director/producer, Anurag Kashyap. Kashyap has fought long and hard with an industry stuck to conventions and unwilling to take risks, emerging as a name to reckon with in a cinematic climate which is finally welcoming change and the daring, edgy cinema reflecting the new face of urban India.

The performances are top notch. The name that stands out is Rajeev Khandelwal. As a hugely popular television soap actor, he transcended successfully to become a well regarded and dependable performer with his very first movie outing 'Aamir'. In this second venture, as the tough cop, he is brilliant. Successfully carrying the weathered look of a person whose marriage is in shambles, career is in disarray yet rigidly holding on to his beliefs, he is completely believable as the cop who is stirred to action despite his own mess. He adds to even the smallest of moments, like when he kicks the errant rickshaw driver to action. The youngsters led by Kalki are all superb as well and hold their roles, never giving away the fact that for most, it is their first attempt at cinema.

Shaitan literally translates to devil. It is the horror of the deeds of these youngsters and what they are capable of that defines the movie. There is a lot derived from the real world. How often do we open the morning papers to read headlines about hit and runs by drunk rich kids, kidnappings, crimes of passion. There is food for thought here and even though it is not a perfect movie, it is a great start by Bejoy Nambiar. We look forward to more such hard hitting works from this definitive voice.

Released in 2011
In Hindi with English subtitles
Available on DVD


  1. Awesome review Sudi...will definitely check out this movie....

  2. Thx for reading Divs:) Do watch the of the finer Hindi films out there even though not perfect....that way I felt last year's Udaan was close to perfection! See u tmrw:)

  3. Well written, Sudipta. You are an expert.

  4. Thx Raji...I am hardly an expert, but my love for movies has taught me to observe:)