Film Review: ‘Shaitaan’

By Dr. Priyaankaa Mathur
Shaitaan lacks depth about the ancient Indian tantric practices, it’s treatment and characterisation!

Hardly a horror thriller Shaitaan is a comic remake of a Gujarati supernatural horror Vash missing out on research about the tantric practices.R Madhavan who plays Vanraj a tantric, acts more like a cool dude next door (Maddy) who has learnt the art of hypnosis accidently, with no depth of character.

The so-called black magic horror thriller hardly portrays him as a tantric, as his character needed much more layering and research about tantrics, the supernatural world, and their behaviour, who would know esoteric rituals and practices, tantras, samhitas, as practised by them.Vashikaran is a very deep subject and can’t be justified with a shallow portrayal.

The film has jumbled up many esoteric concepts rituals and beliefs in the name of black magic, which are performed in different regions and faiths of the world. The name Shaitaan, as per Islamic beliefs is the name of Iblis the devil king who performs the demonic acts. In Christianity, Satan is the Devil who seduces humans into falsehood and sin.

The film begins with Voodoo, which derives from the words ‘vodu’ which means ‘spirit’, and ‘god’.The Voodoo dolls or humanoid figurines with pins stuck, soaked in blood, are used to control a particular spirit as practised by witches and sorcerers, which has originated from tribal religions in West Africa.While,the term Vashikaran is an ancient Indian esoteric ritual that finds its references in ancient scriptures like Atharvaveda which is called the Veda of magical formulas.

The film is indeed an eye opener towards the dark world and the people associated with it, giving a caution, especially to children to not eat anything given by strangers.The plot begins with Kabir (Ajay Devgan) and Jyoti (Jyotika) with their two kids who are going for a vacation to his farm house.On the way in a local dhaba they meet Vanraj (R Madhavan) who gets them tea and offers their daughter to eat his ladoo.

While they are having a good family time at their farmhouse,Vanraj appears out of the blue and knocks on their door to charge his phone.By now he has possessed their daughter, and asks her to follow his commands including harming her parents and brother. Vanraj is rather a mysterious manipulator, who displays his cleaver side, than bringing a feel of thrill to the story.

The build up keeps you intrigued towards Vanraj’s behaviour, but doesn’t create any thrill except for the swing scene, that brings you to the edge of the seat for once. You keep wondering about Vanraj’s intentions behind possessing the girl, and keep waiting for the real chill to go down your spine, which never happens.

The screenplay crumbles towards the climax, while Vanraj hails himself as Shaitaan in front of a huge fire, which doesn’t create any impact,while the dialogue delivery is rather comic, as he over did some lines creating a lack of horror or terror.

Inspite of a loose script, Ajay Devgn  plays well a possessive father who’s confused and helpless, Jyothika justified her role enacting well the emotions of fear, despair, confusion and helplessness. Janvi (Janki Bodiwala) nails her enactment of being possessed and terrified to the core. The background score and title track by Amit Trivedi although very good fail to create the intensity for the badly written screenplay.

Dealing with subjects like Tantricism and Vashikaran, which are very deep in the context of Indian spirituality. The makers could have enriched the already existing story to attain in-depth knowledge through the tantric texts or at least reached out to tantric practitioners like Rajashri Nandi or spiritual mentors like  Sadguru, who have spent years attaining knowledge about yoga, spirituality and the esoteric world( tantra).

The film can be watched as a family entertainer, but not as a horror-thriller.

FF Ratings: ⭐️⭐️