The ApunKaChoice movie review of Shaitan. Life -- however morbid or mawkish, violent or vacuous -- looks beautiful in slow motion. Fatal accidents happening in slow motion, bottles smashed broken on people’s faces, jaws fist-clobbered in dilated time. Everything dark and morose gets an intriguing appeal when shot on overcranked camera, which director Bejoy Nambiar’s film Shaitan relies on more often than not.
With an overt nod to producer Anurag Kashyap’s cinema (Kashyap’s long-canned film Paanch in particular), Nambiar (also the co-screenwriter with Megha Ramaswamy) spins a tale of drugged debauchery and delinquency of paanch friends in Mumbai.
There’s Amy (Kalki Koechlin) a disturbed NRI still coming to grips with the shock of her mother’s death at an early age. There’s Dushyant (Shiv Pandit), a drug peddler with devil-may-care attitude. There’s the rich and reckless KC (Gulshan Devaiya). There’s Tanya (Kirti Kulhari), a reluctant model and actress with a crush on KC. There’s the geek and freak Zubin (Neil Bhoopalam).
The quintet bargains for a life on the slippery edge and that’s what they get after an accident (one of the finely shot sequences in the film), following which they hatch a plan for the fake kidnapping of one among them. But things go horribly wrong and the quintet is caught in a web of violence and deceit, with a seething cop (Rajeev Khandelwal) close on their heels.
What’s creditable about Shaitan is the unflinching contempt with which it pitches morality into the dustbin of Bollywood stereotypes and lays out a story with characters each concealing something satanic within. There’s unapologetic depiction of gut-wrenching violence in the second half, which appears a tad repetitive and needless after a while, but Nambiar pulls the reins just in time to conclude the story on a somewhat redemptive note.
Particularly deserving of a strong pat on the back is the cinematographer R. Madhie, his slow motion shots almost lending surreal poetry to the putrid. Nods of approval also for the performances by Rajeev Khandelwal, Gulshan Devaiya and Shiv Pandit. Kalki Koechlin is verily the girl interrupted and Kirti Kulhari too comes up with a convincing performance.
Director Bejoy Nambiar makes a confident debut. He manages to yoke together the aesthetic with the essence, the form with the content, to give us a film that’s entertaining and disturbingly real. The devil mostly lies in the detail and that Nambiar squarely manages to nail.