Monday, September 26, 2011

Who Wears Prada? – Shaitan (2011)

Directed by Bejoy Nambiar
Rajit Kapoor - Rajeev Khandelwal - Kalki Koechlin - Pawan Malhotra

Shaitan means devil, and the film itself is as fire-spitting, thunderous and capricious as only the devil hidden inside us humans can be. 
It tells the story of a group of more or less rich, chronically bored, rebellious young adults who slowly get absorbed in a slough of drugs and, eventually, violence and murder. 

Nambiar's way of directing is quite similar to Kashyap's – supposably Kashyap, who agreed to produce the film after the project had been put on hold for two years, did have a great influence on the debuting director. Which is superb, as I count Kashyap to the best Indian directors of all time. He is one of the few persons that are able to catch the current Zeitgeist, to provoke, shock and give you something you never expected. 
The question is, how much of this film was changed after Kashyap became the producer, but I like to trust people, so I do trust Nambiar, calling himself the director. 

Though, if Nambiar is the true brain behind this striking piece, there is one thing he's done wrong in my opinion: the scene at the beginning, where he (or was it Kashyap?) tells us that consuming drugs and alcohol is a bad thing and we shouldn't do it. Even without having seen the film, I felt like a stupid kid who needs to be told that there's a difference between reality and filmic fiction. Seeing the film even made it worse - except for a few sequences in the first half, the film successfully demonstrated how unhealthy and bad drug consumption is. "Daring" is one of the words that I feel are best suited for describing Kashyap and his films, including this one - but doing the above mentioned scene is not what I call daring. It's gutless. 

You see, the scenes that did have an air of coolness were absolutely necessary for the film. There's one scene, where Amy accomplishes the "challenge" that lets her be accepted in the group, and she says that being in that group, she felt like she was a part of something, powerful, better than everyone else. It is in that scene we can feel why she got into this, why all of this happened, why no one ever said "stop", before it was too late. I felt it - and just in that moment, I didn't know if I would've said "no" and left those people. 
Surely, this must be one of the problems the Indian audience had with the film; they couldn't identify with the characters as much as I did, because a) they're young and b) quite wester-minded, especially the main character Amy, who lived in L. A. before moving to India with her father and step-mom. Plus the fact that they're more or less rich. 
Amy is an interesting character - I also hardly identified with her, except in the mentioned scene(s), but obviously she's mentally disturbed, as her has mother died in an asylum some years earlier. People often say this about well-cast actors, but I must repeat it and say that no-one could have played the role better than Kalki Koechlin, the rising star of off-beat and modern Indian cinema. 

Shaitan can be called an ensemble film, though I tend to not put it into that category. It's more of a modern, female-centered film, however with a flat hierarchy of characters. This results in none of the characters seeming stereotypic. The only one who sometimes seems a little unelaborated is Tanya, a bulimic model/ actress who is in love with the heartbreaker of the group, and exploits the nerdy one, who's in love with her. Kirti Kulhari did her best, but there were parts when the character drifted into the archetype "bitchy model with a soft core".  
Aside from Kalki, all of the actors were either debutants or unknown new comers, perfectly cast and promising.

Another Kashyap-y highlight: the soundtrack. Mostly in the background, it fits the film like a glove with psychedelic rock sounds and edgy lyrics. A special treat is the joyous remix of oldie "Khoya Khoya Chand" during a disgusting, drenched in blood sequence. 

I hope, and strongly believe in, the fact that films like Shaitan are the future of Hindi cinema. Not entirely, there still has to be room for comedy and more optimistic films, but I'm talking about the spirit, the ingenious daringness and rebellion. We need something new, and I know that it's coming - in fact, it has already arrived. 
Now all we need is the rest of Indian film-goers to realize this, because the sad truth is revealed through a look at the box-office result of Shaitan. "Below average". 

Summarizing the adjectives, this film is fresh, daring, striking, ingenious, edgy and disgusting - devilish. 
Until now Shatian is my second favorite Indian film of 2011. 
So if you haven't seen it yet, then shame on you - hurry up, catch it (legally) here on youtube. 

Rating: 9.4


  1. Lovely review, so far is films have left me with a bitter taste in my mouth and maybe that's because I'm more of a bollywood traditionalist, i'll check this one out

  2. bollywooddeewana - Considering that you write about older films mostly, that might be true. If you didn't like Kashyap's previous films, I'm not sure whether you're going to like this one. Still, I can recommend giving it a chance.

  3. Aha! I just bought this! And you've given me a couple of reasons to look forward to watching it (even though I'm not exactly into psychedelic rock over bloody scenes...)! Now to find the time away from my current crushes and actually SEE it!! :)

  4. Dolce and Namak - I'm looking forward to a review, if you'll write one. I think you'll like it.


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