Wide Frame Pictures’ Aatma (A) is a psychological supernatural thriller. Maya (Bipasha Basu) is married to Abhay (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) but the marriage is on the rocks as he tortures her mentally and physically. They have a little daughter, Nia (Doyel Dhawan), whom both love. In fact, Abhay dotes on Nia.
Since Maya and Abhay can’t get along, Maya decides to divorce him. The custody of the child is given by the court to Maya, much to the horror of Abhay. He is dejected, disturbed and threatens Maya in the court itself before he is thrown out. Abhay meets with an accident the same day and dies. His spirit now starts troubling Maya and others with whom Nia comes in contact including her classmate and teacher. Nia also often ‘speaks’ to her dead father. While Maya is convinced that Abhay’s spirit is behind all the murders and strange happenings around her, the investigating police inspector (Jaideep Ahlawat) doesn’t believe her completely. Maya fears that Abhay would carry out his threat of taking away Nia with him and she is desperate to save her.
One day, Abhay’s spirit kills Maya’s sister, Akansha (Geetika Tyagi), but since the needle of suspicion points towards Maya, she is arrested and put behind bars. Maya tries hard to convince the police that it was her dead husband’s spirit behind this murder too, but her pleas fall on deaf ears. Meanwhile, Maya’s mother (Shernaz Patel) tries to ward off the evil spirit by having a poojaconducted at home by a priest. Not only does the spirit kill the priest (Darshan Jariwala) who is conducting the pooja, but also the mother herself.
Maya remembers that the priest had told her, she’d never be able to save Nia from Abhay’s reach while she was alive. So what is the way out for Maya? Does she manage to secure her freedom from prison and save Nia? Or is Nia taken away by her father’s spirit? Or is there more to the drama than meets the eye?
Suparn Verma’s story and screenplay are quite tame and hardly have any chilling sequences so necessary in a supernatural thriller. Elements of horror also fail to scare the viewers to the desired level. Verma has not cared to explain why Abhay was always so critical of his wife, Maya. It is also not clear whether he doubted her loyalty because he was critical of her or whether he became critical of her as he doubted her faithfulness. No doubt, some scenes do shock the audience but the overall impact of a thriller is missing. Suparn Verma has tried to add the element of divine intervention but even that is so half-baked that it doesn’t make much of a difference.
Sex, fear and drama – three important elements in a thriller, generally speaking – are either in short supply or almost completely missing in the film. Even music does not have the haunting effect. Dialogues, written by Sudarshana Dwivedi and Suparn Verma, are commonplace.
Bipasha Basu does a fine job and ably conveys the emotions of fear, anxiety, helplessness and despair. Nawazuddin Siddiqui is splended but gets scope which does not match his great calibre. Baby Doyel Dhawan is cute and performs well. Jaideep Ahlawat leaves a mark as the investigating police officer. Shernaz Patel is okay as Maya’s mother. As Maya’s father, Shiv Subrahmaniam is ordinary. Mohan Kapur hardly has any substantive role to speak of but he dutifully does what is needed of him. Darshan Jariwala is alright as the priest. Geetika Tyagi is okay. Tillotama Shome makes her presence felt as Nia’s teacher. Sharad Jagtiani (as Maya’s brother-in-law) and Padam Bhola (as Maya’s colleague) pass muster.
Suparn Verma’s direction is okay but he is unable to send chills down the spines of the viewers who, therefore, end up watching the film without getting too involved in the drama. Siddharth and Sangeet Haldipur’s music is functional, at best. Kumaar’s lyrics are ordinary. Sophie Winqvist’s camerawork is good. Jai Singh’s action and stunt scenes are quite alright. Not much thought seems to have gone into the sets (Sukant Panigrahy) as many look so similar to each other. Hemal Kothari’s editing is okay.
On the whole, Aatma lacks the excitement and chills of a thriller and does not even have haunting melodies or hit music to make up for the little entertainment value it offers. It will, therefore, not be able to make its mark at the box-office. Its poor opening will only add to its tale of woes. Its modest budget is the silver lining, though, if one may say so.