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

March 22, 2013

Mean spirited

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

March 22, 2013

Cast: Bipasha Basu, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Doyel Dhawan, Shernaz Patel, Tilottama Shome, Jaideep Ahlawat, Shiv Subramaniam, Darshan Jariwala

Director: Suparn Verma

95 minutes have seldom felt so long, as they do while watching Aatma. This curious but ultimately predictable supernatural thriller fails to escape genre conventions, falling into the same trap that so many of its predecessors have.

Bipasha Basu is a single mother struggling to protect her daughter (Doyel Dhawan) from the otherworldly grasp of her dead ex-husband (Nawazuddin Siddiqui), who wants to take the little girl away with him. It’s an intriguing premise, ripe with emotional potential, but writer-director Suparn Verma sticks to tried-and-tested gimmicks, never offering an original suspenseful experience.

Low on scares and unfolding at a snail-like pace, Aatma recycles familiar horror-movie imagery to little impact. In one relatively chilling scene that’s unfortunately given away in the trailer, a terrified Bipasha is confronted with the sight of her daughter walking the balcony ledge, as Nawazuddin’s spirit beckons her to jump.

Moments like these are few and far between in this lazy film that doesn’t even create the required atmospherics for a moody thriller. The resolution is underwhelming, a handful of fine supporting actors (Jaideep Ahlawat, Shernaz Patel, Tillotama Shome, Shiv Subramaniam, Darshan Jariwala) are wasted, and in the end you’re struck by the sheer futility of the enterprise.

I’m going with one-and-a-half out of five for Aatma. This is death by boredom!

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)


  1. A simple question…does not mean any disrespect to what you are doing.

    Why is it that one person has to review a movie when watched by millions of people…The movie review should be an aggregate of reviews written by all the people who watched it..

    Comment by Murali — March 23, 2013 @ 4:05 am

  2. Completely agree with your review sir. Here’s my take:

    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’.

    Comment by prakash gowda — March 23, 2013 @ 10:26 am

  3. Firstly does an aging bipasha basu and a zombie like jaydeep ahlawat mean the good things in the Aatma hope fully it doesnot do more ;bipasha looks panick striken through the entire film and with a friendly ghost in acting prowess like siddiqui the film should have delivered the goods.Well it doesnot as the actors are mismatched nawazuddin with his acting expressions remain in the dark while the script does no justice to bipashas glamour and fails to make you stay awake.The music adds to the dilemma than the suspense.Well to say the least you feel neither fear nor pity for the ghosts around.

    Comment by Pushan — March 25, 2013 @ 3:52 pm

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