Shaitaan Shenanigans And The Rise of Psychological Thrillers !

Just being back from the wedding festivities and all the adorableness that it holds, it is not really my cup of tea. But, my hearty congratulations to the couple! Since all the cuteness started to get under my skin, it was time I turned to my comfortable space and naturally sought respite in an old friend – psychological thrillers. And no, I didn’t watch and/or read anything from the genre but instead I delved into the concept and growing popularity of it. To most of our surprise, the genre is fairly recent and came to be of the masses’ taste in the past as close as the 90s. Surprising, eh?

But, before we dive into that discussion, it would be unfair to skip past this Friday’s bombshell of a release that’s been making rounds on social media for the strong performance it showcased from its cast. Yes, yes. You guessed it right! Of course, I am talking about Shaitaan. Directed by Vikas Bahl, under whose names critically acclaimed movies like Queen, Trapped and Udta Punjab fall. Shaitaan is produced by Ajay Devgn who also stars in the movie alongside the very dynamic R. Madhavan, Janki Bodiwala  and Jyotika.

Once the trailer dropped for Shaitaan, the audience has been left in awe pretty much as it explores the realm of supernatural thriller. The plotline of the movie revolves around Kabir and his family’s fun weekend retreat that takes place in their farmhouse which in a dramatic turn of events becomes nightmarish as they open their gates to a friendly yet mysterious stranger. As the story unfolds, the family is exposed to the horrors of the stranger, who practised black magic on Kabir’s daughter. The daughter plays by the stranger’s commands as the family grapples with their new reality while simultaneously looking for a way out.

Bahl has been on the receiving end of some brilliant commentary when it comes to the success of this one of a kind thriller. Glancing on the acting front, every actor has done due justice to its character and the audience seems to be raving on about the same. The choices with this movie have been spot on right on from the casting to the sound to the cinematography to the storytelling. So, if you are someone who has watched the movie and has a thought or two about it, please do tell us your opinion.

Now that I am through with my first order of business, it is time to move on to the next thing on the list which is the saga of psychological thriller. Generally, thrillers are defined as a genre of fiction that has a number of overlapping subgenres such as crime, horror, detective fiction etc. They are characterised and defined by the mood they evoke which engages its audience with heightened feelings of suspense, excitement, surprise, anticipation and anxiety. Throw in the mix some psychological fiction and you have the perfect recipe for psychological thrillers. It deals with the in depth exploration of the human psyche which adds to the several nuances of the movie and thereby, increases the likeability of the movie with the audience. Not only is this young genre a tough one to work and execute properly but it also requires extensive planning and strong ideas. Additionally, look at it from the vantage point of the audience, following a genre like psychological thriller can be incredibly stimulating and taxing as well.

This genre houses several popular movies like Gone Girl, Nightcrawler, American Psycho, Shutter Island and The Silence of the Lambs. And I am fairly positive that if you have ever found yourself in a room full of cinephiles and or have just had a random icebreaker conversation with the opening question of “so, what type of movies do you like?” then I am pretty sure that the names of some of the movies from this genre must’ve popped up, followed by a “bhai, mindfuck hogya ekdum”. Such is the popularity around it and to say that they have achieved cult like status in today’s supposed wannabe intelligentsia wouldn’t be so much of an overstatement.

The journey of consuming psychological thrillers is marked by a certain elation, an adrenaline rush that instils greater fascination within us with respect to the genre. When we are consuming media or literature of this genre, we often find ourselves picking one side or the other, as they dive in further in the character’s innermost thoughts and motivations. This allows the audience to both examine and anticipate the plot progression which ranges on the extremes of human ethics and morality. This genre forces the audience to recognise the darkness that lies within themselves and the others via the journey the character undertakes.

When undertaking a journey with the character, the viewer finds itself immersed with the character yet there is considerable detachment, in the sense that if the viewer is thrown in the shoes likely of the character, he/she is bound to come up with better choices than the character is exhibiting at the moment. Owing to this reason, there is a certain level of smugness involved in the viewer as they engage with the plot. But then again, we are in the safety of our homes, are we really sure that we won’t be making the same mistakes?

There is no way that we are discussing psychological thrillers and the climax, that final release, finds no mention. After being on the edge over the course of the journey, there comes an instance when all the pieces fit and things finally make sense and a cathartic conclusion is reached. The endings of psychological thrillers can pretty much break it or make it into a classic. There is just too much riding on the execution as the solution can in no way appear obvious or even seem likely. On the contrary, it cannot appear like a surprise that has no connection to the plot whatsoever. It has to provide that satisfaction of it being out there all along. This is what leaves the audience finally satiated!

The sheer bliss of watching or reading a well made psychological thriller, is an experience that compares to no other. And like most of you out there, I am obsessed with psychological thrillers as well and I look forward to reading your recommendations. Feel free to drop them below.

By Deepali Verma