“Mickey and Mallory know the difference between right and wrong; they just don’t give a damn,” said Dr. Emil Reingold in ‘Natural Born Killers’. The film Shaitan reminds you of the Oliver Stone classic, where the lines between good and bad blur and the face in a crackling mirror isn’t the one you’d wish to show to the world. Like its character would like to put it, “Trust is like balls. You ought to have them else you can’t do anything,” It’s director Beejoy Nambiar’s way of asking the audience to trust him, for he’s going to make the next two-odd hours of their life worth it. Paisa wasool did you say? Well, we’d better reserve those words for mediocre Bollywood filmmakers out there.
The ‘Bali – sound of Shaitan’ handholds you to introduce five quirky characters where a guy is making out with a girl in the middle of a family function, a schoolgirl is haunted by her past, a guy jerking off at the sight of lesbian video game, a girl sniffing drugs stealthily at her home, and a guy smashing bottle on another in fit of rage ala Dev D ishtyle. Shaitan revolves around these characters (Kalki Koechlin, Gulshan Deviah, Shiv Pandit, Neil Bhoopalam, and Kruti Kulhari) taking the wrong turn and a cop (Rajeev Khandelwal) who is on a mission to track them down, whilst enduring a dwindling marital life. The film has interesting cameos by Rajat Barmecha, the leading actor of Udaan, VJ Nikhil Chinnappa, Pawan Malhotra, and Raj Kumar Yadav of Love Sex aur Dhokha and Ragini MMS.
At the very outset, the film makes it very clear that it’s not a film, but an experience, not a story but a journey, not an acting performance, but portrayal of author-backed roles. You realise this fact the moment Rajeev Khandelwal is introduced, transporting you back to our seventies and eighties movies, where the hero’s entry was a key element of any film. Try recalling the Amitabh Bachchan in Deewar or Ajay Devgan’s entry scene in Phool Aur Kaante and you’ll know what I mean. After a long time, the hero has finally got his due – a perfect entry scene, where a shaky camera shows a Corporator being pushed off the first floor and the reflection of a car window shows us – Rajeev Khandelwal. The ‘Aamir’ actor is undoubtedly the best thing about Shaitan, just like the remixed version of the Dev Anand classic, ‘Khoya khoya chaand’ smartly used during a shootout scene. It catches you unawares and is sure to make you rush to the projector’s room and request (or even bribe) the guy to play it again, so that you can enjoy the encore. But the option of buying another ticket sounds much saner for this insane indulgence.
The music by Prashant Pillai, Amar Mohile, Ranjit Barot, Anupam Roy, Laxmikant Kudalkar Pyarelal is almost a character of the film. The same holds true for the innovative cinematography by R. Madhi and slick editing by Sreekar Prasad, which leaves you completely awestruck. The director’s prowess and experience of assisting Mani Ratnam is evident in every frame of Shaitan.
In an interview with Rajeev Masand, Anurag Kashyap said that his team is building a brand, which assures an experience of good cinema to the audience. Slowly, but surely, he wants to win the trust of people, where they feel that ‘Yeh log hamein ullu nahin banaayenge’. Well, we’ve got our balls of trust intact. I’ve had the opportunity to meet him up at a short film festival in Vadodara and know it for sure that he means what he says.
A message to the producer Anurag Kashyap: While you are already at it, can you please rechristen the abusive word ‘Bollywood’ with a new name which would define the genre of quality cinema Shaitan belongs to? We desperately need more Udaans and Shaitans, aayyaashi ki kasam! (Did you ask how many stars? Ratings are for Bollywood films, not this one)