Balaji Telefilms Ltd., Alt Entertain ment and VB Pictures’ Ek Thi Daayan… (UA) is a supernatural thriller. Bijoy Sharan Mathur alias Bobo (Emraan Hashmi) is a renowned magician but he senses, some witch is troubling him. He often gets flashes of his little sister who had died in unnatural circumstances when he, too, was a child. Bobo has a girlfriend, Tamara (Huma Qureshi), and both of them have even adopted a little boy, Zubin (master Bhavesh Balchandani). Tamara helps Bobo in his magic shows. Bobo is sometimes drawn to his ancestral home of which he has terrifying memories in his sub-conscious mind.
Unable to take it any more, the troubled Bobo consults Dr. Ranjan Palit (Rojotava Dutta) who uses hypnosis to take him back to his past. Bobo now opens up about his childhood. His father, Sharan Mathur (Pavan Malhotra), had married Diana (Konkona Sen Sharma), the governess of his two kids, much against the wishes of little Bobo who feared that she was a witch. Bobo’s worst fears had come true when Diana had killed his sister, Misha (baby Sara Raj Arjun). Diana, according to little Bobo, had murdered Misha as she wanted to get back all her powers, and that could happen if and only if she killed a child on the full-moon night of 29th February in a leap year. Bobo’s father had also died at the same time. Knowing that a witch’s powers lay in her hair, little Bobo had then cut his stepmother’s long hair because of which she had been reduced to dust but not before vowing to come back.
While Dr. Palit dismisses Bobo’s childhood story of Diana being a witch as manifestation of his hatred for her, Bobo is convinced that Diana was a witch and that she had come to haunt him over again. Even as he is unsure about what new form the witch had now, years later, taken, enters Lisa Dutt (Kalki Koechlin) in his life. The name, Lisa Dutt, rings a bell in Bobo’s mind and he feels, she is the new witch. His belief gets stronger when Lisa shows an interest in buying the ancestral home of Bobo.
Does Bobo sell his ancestral home to Lisa? Is Lisa the witch who has entered Bobo’s life again? If not, who is the witch and what does she want? Is Bobo able to ward off the witch?
Writers Vishal Bhardwaj, Mukul Sharma and Kannan Iyer (with inputs from Matthew Robbins) have penned an interesting story about witches and woven a screenplay which offers enough chills and thrills before interval. The first half becomes truly terrifying with the entry of Diana. The angle of the creepy lizard is a masterstroke and it serves to terrify the viewer. However, the audience feels the absence of Emraan Hashmi in a fairly lengthy part of the pre-interval portion as Bobo goes into his past when he is a child (master Vishesh Tiwari). The second half is loose and does not explain things as explicitly as the first half.
Also, the angle of Tamara falling off the balcony looks forced, inserted in the drama only with the intention of misleading the viewers. That is definitely a red mark in the screenplay writers’ report card. Nevertheless, the shock value and the chilling nature of the drama continue to keep the viewers engrossed and frightened. The scenes in the lift and of the lizard throughout the film are excellent and serve to scare the audience. Even the get-up of the witches and the computer graphics and visual effects used to show Diana being reduced to dust will impress the viewers. Vishal Bhardwaj’s dialogues are suitably decent.
Emraan Hashmi gets limited scope, which is likely to disappoint his fans. Nevertheless, his acting is good and he also has intimate and kissing scenes in the film, which will be loved by the fans. Konkona Sen Sharma is extraordinary as Diana. Her expressions and dialogue delivery right from the beginning till the end are just too wonderful. She acts with effortless ease and casts a lasting impression on the audience. In fact, she is so realistic that it becomes easy for the viewer to believe that she can turn into the slimy lizard she often does. Her makeup, when she turns into a witch, is superb. Huma Qureshi is very natural and does a fine job. She could do with some weight reduction if she is to play more leading roles. Kalki Koechlin has a relatively brief role and leaves a good impression in that. Rojotava Dutta is not too impressive in the role of Dr. Ranjan Palit. Pavan Malhotra performs ably. Master Vishesh Tiwari shines as young Bobo. Baby Sara Raj Arjun is very cute and also acts beautifully. Master Bhavesh Balchandani does fairly well. Good support comes from Pallavi Batra (as Sangeeta), Shirina Sambyal (as Anna), Deepak Dadwal (as principal), Habib (in the role of the old watchman), Vidyadhar Karmarkar (as the incapacitated old man on the wheelchair), Deepali Pagare (as the old man’s nurse) and the others.
Kannan Iyer’s direction is good. He succeeds in keeping the viewers engrossed, more in the first half of the drama, and sends enough chills down their spines. Vishal Bhardwaj’s music is nice but not super-hit. ‘Yaaram’ is the best song. ‘Yeh kaali kaali aankhon ka’ is also appealing. ‘Tote udd gaye’ is fair. Gulzar’s lyrics are of a good standard. V. Dinesh’s choreography, especially in the ‘Tote udd gaye’ number, leaves something to be desired but more because the actors on whom the song is picturised lack grace. Clinton Cerejo’s background score and the sound design are lovely. Saurabh Goswani’s cinematography is excellent. Sets (Subrata Chakraborty and Amit Ray) are fantastic. Action scenes (Sham Kaushal and Abbas Ali Moghul) are nice. Sreekar Prasad’s editing is wonderful. Visual effects and computer graphics are good.
On the whole, Ek Thi Daayan… may be an entertaining fare but the second half is a letdown. The limited work of Emraan Hashmi will disappoint his fans, more so because he does not have a great role also. The film may keep the audience screaming in their seats but it will not keep the distributors smiling too much in theirs, mainly because it started on a shockingly low note (collections picked up later during the day) and, as is common knowledge, the business of the first three days is what matters the most. While some distributors will be able to earn commission on their investment, others may not be as lucky. As for the producers, they will make a fair profit of some crores as they have already recovered 90% of their investment of around Rs. 25-26 crore by pre-selling satellite, music, Overseas and many Indian territorial rights while still retaining the distribution rights of Bombay and East Punjab circuits with themselves.