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

April 19, 2013

Poor little witch girls

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 10:55 pm

April 19. 2013

Cast: Emraan Hashmi, Konkona Sen Sharma, Kalki Koechlin, Huma Qureshi, Pavan Malhotra, Vishesh Tiwari

Director: Kannan Iyer

A very different beast from Makdee, his charming directorial debut from eleven years ago, Ek Thi Daayan, co-written and co-produced by Vishal Bhardwaj, sees the filmmaker revisit the mythology of witches once again. But where Makdee was an old-fashioned fable about a village witch who supposedly turned humans into animals, Daayan, set in the modern, urban world, is intended as an eerie supernatural thriller.

First-time director Kannan Iyer sets up the film nicely, introducing us to our protagonist Bobo (Emraan Hashmi), who appears to have everything…a successful career as a magician, a supportive fiancée, Tamra (Huma Qureshi), and even a young boy they have chosen to adopt. Yet, Bobo is haunted by hallucinations of his dead sister. When he delves into his past through hypnosis, he must confront his memories of the mysterious woman, Diana (Konkona Sen Sharma), who was hired to babysit his sister and him as kids.

Iyer does a good job of conveying the curious, suspicious nature of an eleven-year-old obsessed with the idea of the dark side. When Diana enters their lives, all young Bobo needs is a clue to confirm his theory, and Konkona plays up the intrigue deliciously.

Back in the present day, just when Bobo appears to have shut out the past, another mysterious woman, Lisa Dutt (Kalki Koechlin), enters his life. Bobo insists she’s a witch, but Tamra befriends Lisa and convinces him otherwise.

The film’s USP is co-writers Vishal Bhardwaj and Mukul Sharma’s decision to transport the folklore of witches to the heart of a modern-day story. Young Bobo believes that hell exists at the bottom of his building, and he’s constantly trying to program the lift into traveling all the way down below the ground floor where mean neighbors, evil stepmothers and khadoos watchmen have been banished. There’s potential in the premise that your nanny, or the woman buying your flat, could be hiding a sinister secret.

But alas, the film reveals its chinks in the final act when it arrives at an underwhelming climax involving such clichés as child sacrifice and particularly a human-versus-evil forces face-off that seems straight out of a bad Vikram Bhatt movie, complete with laughable special effects. The “big twist” is easy to predict, and the film’s message so pat, you can’t help rolling your eyes the moment it’s delivered.

In the thrills department, Daayan packs one or two effective jump-in-your seat moments, but for the most part it cruises along on the strength of its suspense alone. Emraan Hashmi gives a nicely contained performance, never going into ham-and-cheese mode as the paranoid protagonist. A word also for Vishesh Tiwari who leaves a lasting impression as young Bobo.

Yet, despite its solid pedigree, the film sadly is never greater than the sum of its parts. The makers exploit more than a few age-old superstitions associated with witches, but have nothing particularly new or important to say.

I’m going with two out of five for Ek Thi Daayan. It nicely builds up intrigue, but leaves you wanting more in the end.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)


  1. Rajeev Sir,

    I like the way you review a movie. Its very impartial.

    Comment by Pankaj — April 19, 2013 @ 11:14 pm

  2. Dumb movie!!!

    Comment by Shobhit — April 20, 2013 @ 12:51 am

  3. ur review is best and unbiased. u match my taste of movies…

    Comment by ashish.. — April 20, 2013 @ 10:08 am

  4. I totally agree with Rajeev, the plot is weak…but emraan hashmi & konkono pack a decent performance…

    Comment by Amit — April 20, 2013 @ 11:00 pm

  5. My review of the movie Ek Thi Daayan

    Comment by Ashwath — April 20, 2013 @ 11:46 pm

  6. I like the concept of this movie that is being portrait. If you are ready to accept the vampire movies or zombie from Hollywood , you should accept this kind of story if you are watching a movie that is made in Bollywood. At-least from beginning till end except last 15 min of climax the movie did a great job. It holds you & will keep you guessing whether it is a physco thriller or a real horror movie. I have to admit this is far better than those other Vikram Bhat aur Ramu’s movie. Its fresh In-spite of its dumb ending.

    Comment by Ankur — April 21, 2013 @ 12:49 am

  7. I am a big fan of your reviews and I always read them first.

    I’m sorry to say that this is the worsty review I’ve read from you.. Very disconnected and ambiguous.. 🙂

    Comment by abbas dalal — April 21, 2013 @ 1:16 am

  8. Hi Rajeev ,
    I do agree that the climax could have been much better but still the overall movie is pretty good. The performances by Emraan and most of all by Konkana are pretty good plus the dark atmosphere in the movie add to the charm.The best part of the movie rests with Vishesh spying on his stepmom and the confrontation that follows.

    Comment by Sujit Tiwari — April 21, 2013 @ 11:48 am

  9. Hopeless movie.. they could have really made the ending far better..

    Comment by abhishek — April 21, 2013 @ 4:26 pm

  10. You have praised the movie all through except the last para…..couldn’t digest the fact that the last para brings the no. of stars to 2.

    Comment by Harsh Kanchan — April 21, 2013 @ 5:08 pm

  11. Good movie. Entertaining but bad climax.

    Comment by ravichatlani — April 21, 2013 @ 10:09 pm

  12. The movie has a good built up, and does spooks you in more than couple of occassions; however, the end was the ice berg that sunk this film. What should have been a good thriller turned out to be peanuts when the curtains were called off. Nevertheless, go for the movie to get some goosebumps.

    Comment by Abhishek — May 1, 2013 @ 4:33 pm

  13. dear mr masand, did you understand the final scene? dont u see its one step ahead of shutter island/ inception? the whole time we were taken for a ride and goodness how? Mr bharadwaj has surpasses martin scorsese/ christopher nolan.. realty stops at the kalki and imran hasmi meeting in the restaurant ( when he goes to apolog)ize) and thereafter till the last scene of their same meeting in the same restaurant. the inbetween 1/2 hr is a figment of mr. hasmis mind. Wow, wow wow.

    Comment by bimal — June 16, 2013 @ 2:43 am

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