I can care for a character if there's both good and evil within him/her. If I don't see the evil side, it scares me. If don't see the good side, what's my motivation to care? Shaitan doesn't explore any fights within, it's just one devil versus the other. If it weren't for the brilliant performances, Shaitan would look like it's Director, Bejoy nambiar and producer, Anurag Kashyap's urge to sew plainly written scenes with quirky treatments.
If there is only evil within you, there is nothing for you to struggle against. If you have no dilemmas, no internal conquests to make, you don't make interesting characters. If your characters don't interest me, I'm an audience tapping my feet, waiting for something unpredictable to happen. If you don't make anything unpredictable happen, I can only be awed so much by your slick cinematography, smart editing and pulsing background music. The point is there's an attempt to make the same point about our degenerating youth, in a different way. But style gets more than its share, and the dry runs of trying to shock, fail.
And yet just the performances make this film worth a watch. It makes you sit up and take notice. All of them from a short role by Raj Kumar Yadav to the main characters played by Shiv Pandit, Gulshan Devaiya, Kirti Kulhari, Neil Bhoopalam, and of course Rajeev Khandelwal. We always knew Kalki Koechlincan play the doped out, girl-woman. Here you see another facet. The one with perfect comic timing. Sure, she has some awesome one-liners. And her character has a sense of humor darker than mine (yes, I have an inflated opinion about my dark sense of humor). Kalki takes being an insensitive bitch to the next level.
And that's the best the writers do. The odd one-liner. Where's the depth that will engross you in the characters? The twists that will make you sit on the edge?
There's a quip in my native language, marwadi, which translates to - Don't you trust your fate/luck? Usually used when someone's eating as if there's no tomorrow. Looks like director, Bejoy Nambiar doesn't trust his fate. Which is why he put in everything he thought is quirky in this one film - whether it belonged or not0. Lest he didn't get another chance. One example, Amy's (Kalki) excuse for being cold is shown to us in a fairy-tale like atmosphere. That just doesn't fit in with the otherwise morbid story-telling. Maybe this was just wrong judgment. Everyone is allowed a few of those.
But there are more such examples. Dark characters find themselves in a spot that couldn't possibly get tighter. At this point, Bejoy breaks the fourth wall, has a character talk to the camera and have text superimposed on the screen!? Totally rocks the boat you've settled yourself in.
Maybe, just maybe, this was intentional. Maybe the characters have lost their marbles and can't think straight anymore. Maybe, the youth that Bejoy seems to be commenting on is so beyond redemption that they can only find comedy in the great tragedy they have created. I'd have given that benefit of doubt if the rest of the writing supported it. Can killing someone by accident make you callous enough to kill at will?
Without a doubt, the situation that Khoya Khoya Chand is set to is brilliantly edited. And for once I liked the use of slow motion in a song (ahem!). Yet, it looked more like a part of Bejoy's showreel rather than his Shaitan.
Yes, each one of us has a devil that has made us its home. Yes, we need to fight it constantly to make this world livable. Yes, it's a beautiful concept that needs to be explored in Hindi cinema. Yes, it remains so.
- meetu, a part of the audience
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