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HindustanTimes Thu,18 Sep 2014

Mayank Shekhar's review: Shaitan

Mayank Shekhar, Hindustan Times  Mumbai, June 10, 2011
First Published: 21:25 IST(10/6/2011) | Last Updated: 11:12 IST(11/6/2011)

Shaitan
Director
: Bejoy Nambiar
Actors: Rajeev Khandelwal, Kalki Koechlin
Rating: ***

"What do you call a dildo that's gone nuts?" asks one. "Dildo paagal hai," he answers himself. You laugh. It's the kind of pun on the Yash Chopra flick that those growing up in the '90s will recognise instantly. It's like why Devdas remains frustrated forever: He has two beautiful women in his life. Yet, when they sing for him together, they both go, "Dildo-la re!"

In a similar vein, the film derives itself almost wholly from a pop, counter-cultural new wave of late '90s that roughly defined independent films back then – first in Britain (Trainspotting, Lock Stock And Two Smoking Barrels…), then in America (early Tarantino, Rodriguez; Requiem For A Dream, and the like). That cinema is this movie's only context. The outcome may be partly pretentious; it's largely satisfying still.

Four Mumbai-based post-teenaged youth truly live up a rock-star life – without any talent of musicians, of course. Their stories seem a mini travelogue set around bored hedonism on a rented yacht; drug and alcohol addiction over games of truth and dare; speed thrills on a yellow Hummer; and general delinquent stuff like shoplifting, stealing cough syrups.... You can sense a strong, collective rage amongst them: Is it against the machine (the system)? Their own selves? Their failed ambitions? It's hard to tell.

One of them (Gulshan Devaiya) wanted to be a gynaec as a kid, he's considering an MBA now, until he "blows up daddy's money." The second one (Kalki) finds her dad fake, her step-mom ugly. Her mom's dead, and she's obsessed with her. She's from LA. They call her "Hollywood". The third one's (Kirti Kulhari) been forced into modeling, and the fourth's (Shiv Pandit) a mystery.

What matters is that they're up shit creek now. One of the girls in the group was nearly raped. They may have murdered the rapist. Two days before, they'd run over, killed unsuspecting squatters on the road. They'd faked their own abduction to pay a cop off, which has gone seriously wrong.

The filmmakers, like the characters, figure their way through Bombay's filth, up and down Bhindi bazaar. Frames freeze or adjust its speed. The stellar background score is thumping when you expect it, sweetly operatic (Khoya Khoya Chand) when you don't. Violence is comical, as kinky porn would be to an average adult. Gore is graphic, but pretty much for the shocking sake of it. This is the nth Indian rendition of that cinema of the late '90s cool. To be fair, Hindi films had been only rummaging through their own rubbish in the interim. Can't blame this fine first-time filmmaker (Bejoy Nambiar) for it.

The group of delinquents on the screen is on the run now. There's a tough cop. You know he will get 'em. This officer owns a precious Van Gogh, is dealing with marital issues while on an important case. He may not exactly be Al Pacino from Heat. But this guy, Rajeev Khandelwal, you'll notice, holds himself pretty well.

He has the mainstream media behind him. Hindi TV stations are curious about these ameer (rich) party people for their "drrrugggs ka sevan (drug use)." English ones are following a popular urban story. Between them, you can tell, news is a national epidemic. It's the same viral effect, which could start from a minor fever on Facebook, that makes off-stream movies like these, possible commercial successes now. Which is good to know. As the great Kamaal R Khan (KRK) puts it on Twitter, "Shaitan twitter pe hit ho chuki hai (Shaitan's a hit on twitter). But if you all will watch before the release only then what will happen…" Huh? True!

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