Shaitaan Review: Nothing More Scary Here Than The Fluffy Film Itself

Shaitaan Review: Jyothika is the only one in the cast who is able to rise a bit above the sheer absurdity of the proceedings. The two male characters and the actors playing them don't stand a chance.

Shaitaan Review: Nothing More Scary Here Than The Fluffy Film Itself

A still from the film. Ajay Devgn in the trailer. (courtesy: YouTube)

In a hackneyed good versus evil construct that is as contrived as it is convoluted, Shaitaan centres on a happy family of four that finds itself up against a diabolical modern-day sorcerer who works his black magic on a young girl and makes her do his satanic bidding. The devil is out to put the fear of God in you. But there is nothing more scary here than the fluffy film itself.

Swinging between the cacophonous and the batshit crazy, Shaitaan, remake of a recent Gujarati film, is targetted at lead actor Ajay Devgn's fan base, which loves to watch him play the tough guy who proves equal to any task, be it as an invisible police officer fighting lawbreakers or a father compelled to turn indomitable defender of a family threatened by a wicked world.

The fear factor in Vikas Bahl's Shaitaan is meant to be unsettlingly high. It is aimed to have you squirming in your seats. But the execution of the scenes that are ostensibly designed to terrify are generally terribly pedestrian and undermined irretrievably by done-to-death, near-risible methods.

Coming off the resounding debacle of Ganapath, Bahl tries his hand at a genre he has never had a shot at before - supernatural horror blended with psychological twists. Parts of the exercise pass muster because the key actors led by Devgn (who is also one of the producers of the film) get into the swing of things without holding back. The script breeds excess. Nobody and nothing is spared.

The bizarre goings-on are delivered in an unapologetically over-the-top manner. That leaves no room whatever for any degree of subtlety to seep in through the film's crater-like holes.

The fact that Bahl is working with a tried-and-tested script - Vash, a 2023 film written and directed by Krishnadev Yagnik - comes in handy in setting up the clash between a family on a weekend vacation in a farmhouse in the hills and a strange entrapment masterminded by an evil intruder who overstays his welcome.

The flummoxed parents, Kabir and Jyoti, played by Devgn and Jyothika respectively, are at their wit's end when Jahnvi (Hindi cinema debutante Janki Bodiwala, reprising the role she played in Vash) falls prey to an amiable but mysterious man who the couple let into the house when he seeks permission to charge his mobile phone. He not only refuses to leave, but he also takes complete control of Jahnvi with his unmatched powers of hypnosis.

For the lead actor, Shaitaan is narrative terrain that isn't as unfamiliar as it might appear. In the Drishyam films, remakes of Malayalam thrillers starring Mohanlal, he is a father determined to save his family by hook or by crook.

Here, he slips into the garb of another dad faced with a situation in which he has to pull out the stops to protect his daughter from grave danger. What is it with daughters in films about such my-daddy-strongest figures that makes them sitting ducks for the wolves-in-men's-clothing lurking out there?

Produced by Jio Studios, Ajay Devgn Films and Panorama Studios (which is also part of the Hindi versions of Drishyam and its sequel), Shaitaan generates tension and suspense for a while after R.Madhavan's character, the guest who refuses to budge, reveals his true colours and begins to wreak havoc on the family through the medium of Janhvi. The actor hams without a care in the world. He has no choice. He is after all saddled with a character who does unspeakable things to everyone he confronts.

Once all the cards are laid on the table, the film falls into a high-pitched yet insipid rigmarole that strives very hard to scare us stiff but succeeds only sporadically to achieve that goal. But despite not being wholly satisfying, the feeling that the film leaves one with is that it is doing enough to click with those that dig twilight zone thrillers of this variety and are not given to asking questions.

If you aren't the gullible sort, the 132-minute Shaitaan will be very hard to stomach. What the venal Vanraj does is perfectly easy to understand, but why he does what he does isn't. The tone of the film fluctuates wildly but the performances are consistently trapped in a zone of mediocrity.

Jyothika is the only one in the cast who is able to rise a bit above the sheer absurdity of the proceedings. The two male characters and the actors playing them don't stand a chance. The protagonist and the antagonist have a go at each other and drag the film into a claptrap that has no redeeming features.

The climax of Shaitaan is the pits. If it does not appear to be as abysmal as it is, it is only because what goes before prepares us for the worst. If you are willing to withstand a script (it is written by Aamil Keeyan Khan, who also authored the screenplays of Runway 34 and Drishyam 2) that is devoid of genuine imagination because the film features your favourite actors, <i>Shaitaan</i> might be worth the price of a ticket. If you are not, stay away.


Ajay Devgn, Madhavan, Janki Bodiwala, Jyothika


Vikas Bahl