'Shaitan', The Devil In the Details
By MovieTalkies.com, 10 June 2011
There are points in Shaitan where the makers of the film seem to be getting almost debauched with their visuals, mounting several minute long chases and montages just to show off the craft of their camera work and editing, melding it with a brilliantly offbeat soundtrack, reworking classics like khoya khoya chand to ironic effect. The amazing thing though, is that the scenes they create in this effort are so gripping and enthralling that you don't mind this self-indulgence on their part.
Make no mistake; Shaitan is a brilliant film from the Anurag Kashyap school of Hindi cinema. Yet, it's not everyone's cup of tea.
Kashyap, who plays producer here, hands over the directorial reins to Bejoy Nambiar, nearly sees himself outdone by the debutant. One has to wonder how much of Shaitan is Anurag's vision, since there has been talk of how this new release is a remake of his own unreleased dream project, Paanch. Still, if one is to take it at face value that Shaitan is all Bejoy, it has to be said that the student seems to have outdone the master.
As the tagline of the film suggests, Shaitan is a film about that one moment when you unleash your inner monster. Thus, it's most apt that this is a film that revels in sheer anarchy. A gorily violent film, Shaitan revolves around five youngsters, Amy, KC, Dash, Zubin and Tanya, whose commonality is that all of them come from dysfunctional homes and get off on substances, sex and speed. But when things go wrong and they find themselves needing to raise two and a half million rupees in a hurry, they decide to stage a fake kidnapping of one of their numbers, Amy, thereby setting off a chain of events that you know is going to end badly for them.
In the midst of this is also a suspended police inspector hot on their trail, Inspector Mathur, who is in the midst of a messy divorce and has problems with temper control.
The strange thing about Shaitan is that none of the central characters of the film are truly relatable, almost seeming like edgy caricatures of the urbane excesses that filmy teenagers seem to occupy. Yet, with an absolutely riveting set of performances from these core actors, one can't seem to draw one's eyes away from the screen, if nothing else, only to see them beat each other to a bloody pulp.
Of all the actors, it is Gulshan Devaiya who sets the screen afire with his manic energy as KC. Devaiya is the spirit of the film, best representing its inherently violent and 'we-own-the-world' attitude. Kalki's act as the almost sociopathic, schizophrenic Amy, Amrita Jaishankar, comes a close second, though her angle with the dead mother never quite connects with the central plot here. Shiv Pandit as the drug-peddling Dash, Dushyant Sahu, has searing screen presence and the talent to match, though his quiet mastermind act doesn't quite give him the scope he needs to show it off. Still, he seems to set the tone for the film in the opening credits itself, in the scene where he goes up against a roadside 'khadaklakshmi' in a self-flagellation match. Neil Bhoopalam is also well-cast as Zubin, who seems to be ODing on nerdrage, but fits into the group, bringing along a bit of dark humour. The only misfit seems to be Kirti Kulhari as Tanya, who seems quite unsure at times whether she belongs to this crazy set or not, being strung along by KC.
Rajeev Khandelwal as Inspector Mathur reaffirms that he is one of the best actors in Hindi cinema today. Perpetually on the boil, Rajeev's Mathur brings unbelievable amounts of 'badass' to the table in his cop role, ready to kick heads at the drop of a hat, though the film does tend to occupy him at times without reason with his dragging divorce angle. Rajat Barmecha strikes a hilarious note in his cameo as the 'flashback mein flashback' Shomu, while Rajkumar Yadav, last seen in the scare flick Ragini MMS, is also quite good as the crooked sub-inspector Malwankar here. Others, like Pawan Malhotra, Rajit Kapoor and Rukhsar, are okay.
However, the strength of Shaitan comes more from the background technicians on the film than anyone else. Chief amongst these are Madhi, who just kills it with his cinematography, crafting some of the most brilliant visuals brought into Hindi cinema in the longest time, while Sreekar Prasad backs him with equal magic in the editing department. The sequences set to the tracks khoya khoya chand and pintya, respectively, are a highlight of the film. Which brings us to the soundtrack of the film, where Prashant Pillai and veteran Ranjit Barot, both shine, backed superbly by the likes of Bhayanak Maut, Amar Mohile and Anupam Roy.
Shaitan is a seductively terrifying vision of teenaged anarchy crafted by Bejoy and Anurag. Though one can be sure that this is not a film that'll be easily digested by audiences that live on the sugar-pop love stories that are the order of the day in Bollywood, the film is an amazing peek at the talent that lies at the edges of the desi mainsteam…