Shaitaan is nail-biting—almost all through

Ajay Devgn and R. Madhavan in Shaitaan. Photo: Universal Communications

Make no mistake: Shaitaan goes the thriller way with a difference—there is no ghost or no evil spirit. There is just an evil man, who dreams of conquering the world with some vashikaran (black magic). What he plans and how he will go about it is shown only in the climax.

This Hindi remake of a 2023 Gujarati hit, Vash, is undoubtedly nail-biting and terrifying in the first half and in a lot of the second. The climax, all told, is quite logical, and yet it is quite fanciful and long-drawn in the way it is executed. Also, unlike in Drishyam and Drishyam 2 (and Shivaay earlier), the violence is often too brutal, which can make young viewers squirm and cringe.

Kabir and Jyoti, a well-to-do couple, with a lovable pair of children—gadget freak son (Dhruv) and daughter (Janhvi), go to their luxurious farmhouse for a break. On the way, they have a chance meeting with a man (R. Madhavan) at a dhaba (roadside restaurant). The man even shows them a picture of his daughter on his mobile, and pays a nominal amount (twenty rupees) for their tea when the cashier refuses to give Kabir change for a Rs. 500 note. He also offers the kids a sweet, which Janhvi consumes.

When the family reaches the farmhouse, after a while, the same man, Vanraj, lands up there and requests for his phone to be recharged. He will only take 15 minutes for it. The hospitable Kabir lets him in. What happens later is completely chilling. By now Janhvi has begun to listen to everything Vanraj tells her to do, and he demands that the parents ‘give her’ to him forever! A bribe does not work, and he means business, which will not stop at commands for the spell-bound Janhvi to stab her mother, set fire to gas emitting from a kitchen cylinder with a matchstick, banging her brother’s head on the staircase and many more horrific and often bloody things.

The family is also blocked from communications as Vanraj has broken all their mobiles, cut their landline connections and is making more and more insane demands, even as if he makes Janhvi do untold vile things. How does the family get out of this mess?

Vikas Bahl has a ready material at his command, and all he has to do is adapt it for the national audience. After the 2011 Chillar Party (which he co-directed with the redoubtable Nitesh Tiwari) and 2013’s Queen, this is his most accomplished product, as he delves into the thriller with dedication and determination to tell a story that is quite fresh for Hindi film audiences, just like those films. One wishes he could have ironed out the few flaws and missing links. How did Vanraj find the family after just a passing encounter with them at a dhaba? It is refreshing to have a villain without a back-story justifying his deeds, but we could been served a more convincing detailing of his background all the same. And the script could have eschewed the girls who fight an injured Kabir because they too are under his spell, for that suggests that he expected an attack when he had no reason to do so. More importantly, it stretches the length of the film and has exactly the reverse effect when used as a tool to elevate the excitement.

The film rests on two powerful performances. R. Madhavan is magnificent as Vanraj. The way in which he nonchalantly delivers commands to Janhvi with a whimsical smile is just too good, to use a clichéd term. His grins and gestures are brilliantly done. The post-climax scene is also interesting, though quite unnecessary, but he is very good in that as well.

The other potent turn comes from Janki Bodiwala as Janhvi: she is amazing in the quicksilver changes she shows and particularly excels in the ‘swing’ sequence and later when she pretends to be sorry with her parents.

Anngad Raaj as Dhruv is completely endearing. Ajay Devgn is his usual, intense self, helplessly furious at first and determined later, when limits are crossed. Jyotika, looking vaguely like Hema Malini in some sequences, is effective as the powerless mother. As the entire story revolves exclusively around the family and the invader, no one else has a featured role.

The other assets of the film are the dialogues and the background score.  The production is upscale and the cinematography (Sudhakar Reddy Yakkanti) and production design (Kritika Shrivastav) need special mention. The sound designer has also done a great job.

On the whole, the freshness may work with the audience, but family audiences might be restricted because of the intensity of the violence.

Devgn Films, Panorama Studios & Jio Studios present Shaitaan  Produced by: Ajay Devgn, Jyoti Deshpande, Kumar Mangat Pathak & Abhishek Pathak  Directed by: Vikas Bahl Written by: Jay Bhatt & Krishnadev Yagnik with Aamil Keeyan Khan  Music: Amit Trivedi  Starring: Ajay Devgn. Jyotika, R. Madhavan, Janki Bodiwala, Anngad Raaj, Ashish Gokhale, Vikash Kawa. Abhishek Arun, Madhurima Ghosh & others








Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here