Aatma is a wannabe ‘hatke’ horror film


‘Hatke’ from Ramsay Brothers

Right from the first frame, Aatma steers clear from deformed faces with badly done prosthetics as if there were omelets pasted on the ghost’s face. So there are no purana khandar, haveli, mandir or tehkhaana, no horse carriages, no comedy artist vying attention of a voluptuous semi-clad housemaid, tarzan-like village stud, and no Ramu kakas (why don’t they ever show Ramu kaka receiving salary or demanding an appraisal?). And guess what, even our tantrik (Darshan Jariwala) is sophisticated and chants ‘Om Hrim’ mantra in a restrained manner until the ‘aatma’ prods it go add some aggression (I suspect the aatma whispered: Ramsay films nahi dekhi kya bey?). Conclusion: Aatma is not a Ramsay kind of horror flick.

‘Hatke’ from Ram Gopal Varma

This means there are no weird or upturned camera angles as if the cameras were shoved inside the clothing of actors or a hidden contest of asking audience to count the actor’s nostril hairs, no irritating door bells and eardrum-splitting background score, tantrik baba who seems to be high on some weed, toys, artifacts and idols strategically placed to scare after the sun sets, and no abrupt ending which makes one feel as if the director ran out of money to buy stocks and shoot further.  Conclusion: Aatma is not like an RGV Factory’s product.

‘Hatke’ from Vikram Bhatt

We see no fog on screen, no violins played by half-naked woman, no ’Emraan Hashmi film rejected’ songs thrown in at every given opportunity, no manipulating woman, no ‘Ooty woods chase’, no lovemaking scenes, and no ‘mera yakeen karo’ and ‘yeh tumhara vehem hain’ wala scenes where a frightened heroine tries convincing the hero that there’s an aatma around while the hero laughs off the matter as if it were a Raju Shrivastava joke and insists on continue making out with him or sing a song at foreign locations till the first half, no Victorian era setting, no white saree-clad woman (safedi ki chamkaar?)with long flowing tresses (khoobsurat baalon ka raaz?),and no Hanuman Chalisa chants. Conclusion: Aatma is not like Vikram Bhatt’s brand of film.

‘Hatke’ from James Watkins

Sad, but true, director Suparn Verma steals the basic premise of this James Watkins directed ‘Woman in black’ with shameless ease. To begin with, the original film starring Daniel Radcliffe and Ciarán Hinds, showed a woman in black who killed children of a village to avenge her son’s death. So the film shows myriad kids committing suicide.  One couldn’t help drawing parallels between these two films when we watch the scene where the little girl (Doyel Dhawan) walking on the edge of her balcony.

The director doesn’t shy away from copying the end of ‘Woman in black’ where the child is rescued by the aatma on railway tracks. Well, if not railway track, Verma could have at least set the climax scene at an airport, for the sake of originality. Now before you say the ‘I’ word of ‘inspiration’, this one’s a blatant copy, set against an urban backdrop and few ‘Phoonk’ and ‘Mirrors’ inspired scenes thrown in here and there.

‘Hatke’ from usual casting

Nawazuddin Siddiqui towers over other actors with his nuanced performance, especially in the court scene where he loses his daughter’s custody battle. One fails to understand why the camera was placed as a third person gazing, rather than focusing on Nawazuddin’s histrionics and fear in the face of Bipasha (cinematographer Sophie Winqvist makes up for it by capturing other ‘panic-stricken’ expressions of the leading lady in other scenes). Bipasha is already adept at playing such roles and now appears almost a veteran in this film. Shernaz Patel seems too young to play Bipasha’s mother but plays it convincingly, thanks to her theatre experience.

Jaydeep Ahlawat (Gangs of Wasseypur fame) , though a great actor, is saddled with a shoddily written role. He seems to be someone who has just watched the film Talaash and is convinced that every murder has a supernatural angle to it. For instance, right from the first murder of a child in the school, he prophesizes, “I can feel something bad about it”. Perhaps he was referring to the writing of his character rather than what the director wants us to believe.

‘Hatke’ from a convincing plot

The trailer of Aatma reveals the film’s story and the director ensures that you stumble upon nothing new. By the end of the film, you don’t find yourself rooting for any of the lead characters, be it the one played by Nawazuddin (a father who loves his daughter so much that he returns to take her along after his death), or Bipasha Basu (a mother who fiercely guards her daughter and also manage her career).

Instead of rooting any character, you end up laughing at the two aatmas fighting with each other like any other couple. One is reminded of the scene from Peter Berg directed film ‘Hancock’, where Will Smith and Charlize Theron fight with each other on the roadside.

‘Hatke’ from a smart conclusion

As a cherry on our disappointment cake, we see a smiling Bipasha before the credits roll. Come on, this isn’t a spoiler; you can figure it out even by watching the trailer. Conclusion: Aatma is neither a Ramsay and RGV film, nor a Vikram Bhatt flick, but it isn’t a horror film either. Try catching up the Zee Fear Files this weekend if you really wish to experience some mild shivers down your spine.  I repeat, ‘mild shivers’.


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