Rajeev Masand – movies that matter : from bollywood, hollywood and everywhere else

June 11, 2011

Devil in the detail

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 12:24 am

June 10, 2011

Cast: Kalki Koechlin, Gulshan Devaiya, Shiv Pandit, Neil Bhoopalam, Kirti Kulhari, Rajeev Khandelwal

Director: Bejoy Nambiar

Hindi cinema seldom makes films about unapologetically amoral characters. The protagonists in director Bejoy Nambiar’s Shaitan are a group of five wayward youngsters who snort cocaine, get drunk, and drive around recklessly through the streets of Mumbai. This is a group of mostly ‘poor-little-rich-kids’ who’re emotionally estranged from their families. When they mow down two innocent people in a rash-driving accident, they must come up with big money to close the case. Going to their parents is not an option; hence one of them, Amy (played by Kalki Koechlin), an NRI with unresolved mommy issues, suggests that her friends fake her kidnapping so they can demand ransom from her dad. Expectedly their plan spirals wildly out of control, and that’s when the devil inside each of them decides to rear its ugly head.

First-time-feature director Nambiar tells his story confidently and stylishly, and uses various narrative devices like voice-overs and flashbacks-within-flashbacks to keep things from getting predictable. One of the film’s most exciting sequences is a shootout and subsequent chase in a crowded chawl cut to a remixed version of the classic song Khoya khoya chand.

But Nambiar punctures the narrative repeatedly with Kalki’s visions of her mother, and those flashbacks serve no purpose but to justify and apologize for Kalki’s eccentric personality, which in turn is a disservice to the very bravura of this film. It’s hard also to connect with these characters or empathize with their condition when Nambiar seems to be putting all his effort into distracting you with his fancy technical skills.

He has more luck when he shifts his focus to the track involving the tightly wound cop (played by Rajeev Khandelwal) who remains unfalteringly committed to his job, even as his marriage is coming apart. There is a smoldering intensity to those wordless scenes in which Khandelwal watches his wife leave their home, or when he loses his patience with a bureaucratic officer in the divorce court. Khandelwal is easily this film’s biggest strength, and even his tiniest moments have something to offer – like that scene in which he kicks a resistant auto-rickshaw driver into action.

The film’s other key weapon is its remarkable soundtrack that is credited to as many as five composers. Nambiar uses music cleverly to maximize dramatic impact. Of the central cast, the three boys – Neil Bhoopalam as Zubin, Shiv Pandit as the rakishly charming Dash, and Gulshan Devaiya as KC – get a better shot than the girls at realizing their characters. But the film itself goes south post intermission, with giant loopholes in the plot and repetitive scenes, not to mention that cop-out climax. What could have been a terrific, thrilling film is ultimately an impressive first-time feature. Nevertheless, Nambiar makes a confident debut and delivers a brave, engaging film that shouldn’t be missed.

I’m going with three out of five for director Bejoy Nambiar’s Shaitan. It isn’t as daring as Anurag Kashyap’s debut Paanch whose themes it clearly mirrors, but it’s got many moments that’ll surprise you.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)


  1. AGREED….and one more thing, found it a bit lengthy and the first half was slow…

    Comment by Sunny Bali — June 11, 2011 @ 12:45 am

  2. Good review..just watched the movie…loved the movie overall…

    Comment by sushanta — June 11, 2011 @ 2:25 am

  3. mind blowing film…with its heart and libido in the right place…strictly in that order…certainly not 2 be missed…kudos 2 everyone involved…

    Comment by anheedonius — June 11, 2011 @ 2:35 am

  4. Shaky after second-half. 1st half was better. Script could have been ‘More’. Good Cinematography and Score. Nevertheless, a good watch.

    Comment by Niku Dutta — June 11, 2011 @ 2:57 am

  5. ” One of the film’s most exciting sequences is a shootout and subsequent chase in a crowded chawl cut to a remixed version of the classic song Khoya khoya chand”
    Awesomness..Rajeev pls ask anurag lashyap to release this version of khoya khoya chand..grt grt remix 🙂
    i got my oaisa vasool in this sequence itself,rest was bonus for me

    Comment by Kaustuv — June 11, 2011 @ 11:18 am

  6. Movie was of course a gr8 attempt n visual treat but faltered with the story…Far less Shaitaniyat than expectd..The fact that the 5 wer panicked n confused made the film routine…Also why the cliched plan couldn’t have they thought something more interesting n wicked to get the money?? Film shudve been darker to fit the name..Also focus shifted from the 5 after the police peep in..

    The camera,action sequences wer superb..Rajeev Khandelwal’s entry n Udaan guy Rajat Barmecha’s wer memorable..All songs nicely woven..All actors did a gr8 job but cream on the cake is undoubtedly Inspector Khandelwal..

    Comment by Vikramsinh — June 11, 2011 @ 1:34 pm

  7. kalki rocks.
    just watch it for KALKI….

    Comment by DHAVAL THAKKAR — June 11, 2011 @ 3:02 pm

  8. Totally loved the movie…amazing performances from all the cast..especially Rajeev Khandelwal…I think it deserved more than a 3 star.

    Comment by Soundarya Giridhar — June 11, 2011 @ 3:56 pm

  9. I did not enjoy the movie. It was too dark and violent. The ending was silly and illogical. CNN IBN is a media partner and that is the only reason Rajeev has given this movie a 3 star. His heart would have ratted this movie a one star.

    Comment by Balaji Ranganathan — June 11, 2011 @ 8:39 pm

  10. nowadays, neo-realism has become a cool thing to do in movies…but it sucks seriously..especially, in the name of neo-realism, we are becoming mere copy-cats…no originality in the style of movie-making…

    Comment by santhosh — June 12, 2011 @ 2:13 am

  11. Completely agree Santhosh

    Comment by Digg — June 13, 2011 @ 3:32 am

  12. Shaitan – a decent watch – 2.5 to 3 stars – depending on whether u have seen such “karma” kind of themes earlier-it seemed too repetitive-both the concept and the making-only for multiplex audience- short and pacy,based in mumbai(camera has captured it really well) and has its share of laugh-loose screenplay- it was like seeing a play in prithvi as most of them r theatre actors – rajeev khandelwal was good though missed jimmy shergill-its made by nambiar and he seems t b overly inspired by a. Kashyaps movies (direction and locations and subtleties) – however I think these guys go too far sometimes in this subtleness-concept of the movie is “”shaitan”&”shaitanyiaat”& how we all have this monster in us and how its just a thin line t crossover-so avoid it if u can” – shor in the city was better…there’s X-Men too…

    Comment by Rajiv — June 13, 2011 @ 5:37 pm

  13. I didn’t like the movie at all.The story was old,nothing new.It was very slow.The movie was so filmy esp. in the shooting sequence scene where the hero doesn’t die how much ever you hit him.

    I would give it a 1/5.Nothing more than that.

    Comment by Hemil — June 14, 2011 @ 11:33 am

  14. Horrible film! Anurag Kashyap hugely disappoints. The movie was predictable and left us to discuss how boring it was , during the film. bad story, good execution is as bad as good story, bad execution. I would give it two out of five, just for the efforts of few actors, the cinematographer and the sound designers. Rating **/5

    Comment by Anuj — June 14, 2011 @ 10:11 pm

  15. excellent work , highly engrossing movie i still had a few memoirs of those chase scenes , worth a go !

    Comment by brat guy — June 16, 2011 @ 12:25 am

  16. LOL.. this movie sucked.. it looks like anurag kashyap is paying these critics to get good reviews…[though aam junta like to watch brain rackers only if their brain is free]..

    Comment by giri — June 16, 2011 @ 12:26 am

  17. Rich kids going the corrupt way & the plan falls apart,”Shaitan” has nothing new to offer except a few highly charged moments backed by a pulsating background score and a fewer tongue in cheek dialogues & gags.

    Comment by Nilanjan Mitra — June 18, 2011 @ 6:48 pm

  18. Loved the movie, the one-liner’s…the darkness, the superb music which is ever-present in my ipod, looking forward to the sequel now when Kalki comes out of the convent school, teams up with a new group of shaitaans and avenges her friend’s death with the corrupt police officer 🙂 🙂

    Comment by Varun — June 19, 2011 @ 8:14 am

  19. Shaitaan comes with a subtle message, everydody has a “shaitaan” inside him or her.

    Comment by Aditya — June 19, 2011 @ 12:46 pm

  20. Excellent movie….

    one of the best editing and cinematography i have ever seen in bollywood movies…

    TO THE CRITICIZERS : (1) if u r giving this one 2/5 then what rating will you give to ready, bheja fry 2, patiala house ragini mms and innumerable brainless movies

    (2) LOOP HOLES????????? cmon there would be some, if you want one for an indian audience, THERE WILL BE SOME COMPROMISES!!!!!

    Comment by AK — June 21, 2011 @ 8:49 pm

  21. to append above

    3.5 stars from me…. 🙂 =======GO WATCH IT!!!! YOU WONT REGRET!!!!===========

    Comment by AK — June 21, 2011 @ 8:50 pm

  22. Three stars for the movie are bit too much.

    First of all, the title of the movie in itself is a complete mismatch. Secondly, the movie lacks a central character. It keeps exulting from one character to another; making the viewer wonder, whose story the movie is telling after all. This became even more evident, when the closing scenes showed Rajeev Khandelwal character all emphatic. Making the viewer wonder, was the movie about him?

    The movie lacked focus, didn’t fairly treated the parts it should have (like how the cop actually traced the guys); and seemed to convey too many messages. I think 2 stars would have been sufficient.

    Comment by A Bisht — June 23, 2011 @ 6:19 am

  23. Rajiv khandelwal is the best thing about the movie. he is the best actor we have . Perfect in every role he s given .

    Comment by seema — July 6, 2011 @ 3:49 pm

  24. Anks Movie Review: “Shaitan” (4/5) – I always wait for Anurag Kashyap’s movie. He has competition with him self and his legacy of movies such as Black Friday, Dev D, Gulaal, No Smoking etc…. Shaitan is not at that par of legacy but its surely an intelligent cinema… quite fast paced and all sequences are amazingly done. The camera movements, background score and editing was superb, but storyline lacked Anurag’s touch. Indeed a great cinema.
    I will not say this movie focuses on its tag line “Inner Shaitan” but yeah a movie about how one things leads to another.

    Comment by Ankesh — July 21, 2011 @ 7:47 pm

  25. Indian film makers should make more movies of these kind…………….an awesome thriller

    Comment by raj — January 20, 2012 @ 3:54 am

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