Movie : Shaitan
Cast : Rajeev Khandelwal,Kalki Koechlin,Shiv Pandit,Rajit Kapoor,Kirti Kulhari and others
Director: Bejoy Nambiar
Producer: Anurag Kashyap, Sunil Bohra
Banner: Viacom 18 Motion Pictures
There are very few films that inspire the critic such that they can barely wait to write the review. This is one of them.
The film introduces us to a group of friends that you like and dislike in turns—but at all times they make for fascinating characters. Amy (Kalki Koechlin) is yet to recover from her mother’s tragic death and begins showing signs of rebellion and mental instability. Her indifferent father makes things worse. Moved into Mumbai from LA, Amy befriends the rest of the gang.
Son of a super-rich father, KC throws her off a cliff into a swimming pool to explain trust in a friendship. The Parsi, sweet boy likes making Holi balloons with his waste, gang-leader Dash smooth-talks like a criminal, and upcoming model Tanya is tired of barfing before every shoot. They’re a wild bunch, raiding innocuous chemist stores when they’re out of alcohol to get high and racing cars with strangers. Drugs and personal battles feed off each other in a vicious cycle. And one tragic night, they have an accident.
This incident, as the film loves describing it, brings out the inner ‘shaitan’ in each. It’s pretty basic stuff—the issues have always been there but resurface in this time of crisis—so you have anger management issues, childhood trauma and so on. It makes for a severely gritty film. You do need some resilience to last this one. But it’s worth it.
The performances are the best one has witnessed in an ensemble film of late. Each actor is incredibly competent and the cast, made up of first-timers and relative newcomers, truly impresses. Koechlin blinds you with her flawless rendition of Amy, flitting trickily between sanity and instability. Rajeev Khandelwal is super-cool as the cop. Shiv Pandit is marvelous as the hot-headed Dash, and Gulshan Deviah brings out KC’s complex nature. Kirti Kulhari as the sensible Tanya is effective and Neil Bhoopalam is a delight as the relative simpleton of the gang.
One is certain the film has turned out the way writer-director Bijoy Nambiar envisioned it. It’s that rare film that transcends from a kick-ass script into an equally stunning film. Several experimental films have great vision, but the idea gets diluted at the execution level. Not this one. Shaitan is incredibly stylish, crossing the fine line into gimmickry only a couple of times. Otherwise, the masterful and magical camerawork (R Madhi) will take you along on a heady trip with the protagonists. The soundtrack will transport you into another world. The dialogue (Abhijit Deshpande) will have you laugh at the acerbic wit.
There are a few portions where you question the script. Why are the people killed in the accident not mentioned at all? The film treats them like our protagonists do—as nobodies. What’s the deal with the cop’s marital life—why are there rifts between the couple in the first place? The films sets out to shock, but is a bit of a prude.
Despite two people in the group being in a relationship and hints at attraction between others, there’s no inclusion of any romantic/sexual equation between them. Again, the portrayal of the spoilt rich brat-pack is too soft, humanizing them to a fault. The ‘shaitans’ in our film, despite everything they do, remain likeable ones who have lost their way. In reality, the brat-packs on our roads are far more sinister, far more ruthless, far more unrepentant. Again, the portrayal of the police force as being honest with a corrupt cop as a rare exception is naïve, although charming.
One can say the film is inspired by Quentin Tarantino and David Fincher’s stylebooks. But despite any inspiration, Shaitan is Nambiar’s very own. You’ll be transported from Mumbai’s swish locales to the innards of Bhindi Bazaar where you witness the unexpected developments, including a ‘80s style cop-n-robber chase. Humour pops in-and-out like a pleasant surprise guest.
It doesn’t make sense to classify the film as good or bad—Shaitan is a unique experience to be savoured if you’re looking for an adventure. In other words—don’t miss!