Saturday, June 11, 2011

#136: Shaitan

Anurag Kashyap has a reputation in Bollywood of being an indie filmmaker. It is said he used to struggle with submitting his scripts to production houses and in a moment of desperation even gave away the script of Satya at a throwaway price. That phase taught him that in Bollywood people didn't value scripts as much as star power. 12 years later, it is only befitting that it is Anurag Kashyap who gives a break to another promising talent, Bejoy Nambiar, who was also struggling to get a financier for Shaitan

Shaitan begins aimlessly and takes time to establish the main premise of the movie- a staged kidnapping by five friends of one of their own. With a cast of mostly newcomers, the movie makes up for it's dreary start with a series of action-packed sequences. Once Rajeev Khandelwal, a suspended cop is assigned to track down the kidnappers, the story acquires a frenetic pace. The five friends who all seem to be in their early twenties are spoilt brats who only believe in frittering away their time on drugs and alcohol. The point of their debauchery is established very early in the movie and yet the writers- Bejoy and Megha- stretch it to occupy the first twenty minutes. But just when you think it is getting boring, a road accident turns the lives of these youngsters upside down. It was inevitable that Rajeev Khandelwal and Kalki leave their mark in a movie full of debutant actors and actresses. Neil Bhoopalam has done himself a good turn as well, while the others did enough to hold attention.

The one thing that seems to have worked for Shaitan well is that this seems to be a movie where the technical guys seemed to be having fun in the background. So whether it's the short five minute flashback about the life of Shomu (Rajat Barmecha), Khandelwal's chase through a slum or the incredibly vibrant soundtrack- each of units of filmmaking involved- the stunt director, the composer, the sound team and the cinematographer- have functioned like units of a well-oiled machine. I don't know what to refer this as but that teamwork shows. The editing is equally fluid and no praise is enough for the soundtrack. There were times in the movie you'll wish there was more of it. Sample the rendition of Hawa Hawaai, Khoya Khoya Chand, the song on the opening credits or even Nasha, each more appealing than the other. Where Shaitan comes a bit of a cropper is the realism part of it. Five friends working together but acting so stupidly was a little hard to digest and just like the beginning, the ending (not the climax), was a stretch as well. At least a third of the theater had emptied even before the rolling credits started to appear.

Having said that, Shaitan is an impressive debut by a promising talent. It has a certain edginess that is fresh and more importantly, all the spunk in the movie is not without substance. Don't give this one a miss, it's one of the few good ones we've had this year.

Rating: 6.8/10

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