Ajay Devgn and R Madhavan lead 'Shaitaan', but script falls short | The Haunted Column

'Shaitaan' posters. Photo: IMDb

'Shaitaan' directed by Vikas Bahl and starring Ajay Devgn, R. Madhavan, Jyotika, and Janki Bodiwala, was released in theatres in March this year and recently made its debut on Netflix. The film, an adaptation of the 2023 Gujarati movie 'Vash', has garnered significant attention and success. The story revolves around a family that faces grave danger when a man uses black magic on their daughter, forcing her to obey his commands in an attempt to blackmail her parents into surrendering her to him. R. Madhavan plays Vanraj, the sinister practitioner of black magic. Ajay Devgn and Jyotika play the parents, Kabir and Jyoti, while Janki Bodiwala takes on the role of the daughter, Janhvi.

Despite its popularity, the movie has received mixed reviews, being considered a decent watch but with notable flaws.
The movie had all the elements of a good horror thriller: strong performances and an effective plot, at least in the first half. Initially, the story is engaging and well-structured, but it succumbs to Bollywood clichés in the second half. Since many have likely seen the movie by now, let's dive into it with spoilers.

Take 'The Conjuring', for instance. Before the haunting scenes begin, the film establishes a deep bond within a beautiful family, allowing the audience to connect with the characters and root for their freedom from the haunting. In 'Shaitaan', this crucial element is missing. Despite Ajay Devgn and Jyotika being talented actors, their performances feel scripted, and their relationship with their daughter Janhvi comes across as forced.

R. Madhavan is the saving grace of the movie, delivering a powerful performance. However, the climax undermines his efforts. Vikas Bahl opts for a highly dramatic approach, culminating in a typical Bollywood-style ending that feels messy rather than strong. In the climax, Vanraj takes control of Janhvi and brings her to his eerie old mansion. Kabir, despite having a knife stabbed into his hand, follows them. He confronts Vanraj, cuts off his tongue, and single-handedly rescues hundreds of girls. The whole hero saves the day sort of ruins the movie in the end.

In the first half, Vikas Bahl successfully creates a creepy atmosphere, particularly through the unsettling voodoo rituals R. Madhavan's character performs on Janhvi. These include chilling commands like asking her to kill her brother or laugh uncontrollably until she dies. Since the film doesn't involve demons or ghosts and focuses on Vanraj's black magic, there isn't much opportunity for jump scares. Thus, the horror primarily stems from the interactions between Janhvi and Vanraj.

The movie had some strong moments, such as the scene where Janhvim pushes her brother off the roof, creating a sense of looming dread. However, the second half becomes predictable, which diminishes the overall viewing experience.
The movie could have been a great viewing experience if the story had developed differently.

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