Bollywood review: ‘Ek Thi Daayan’ is anything but a spookfest

In the dead of the night, a little boy trails a woman into their building’s creaky elevator, suspecting she’s a witch who travels to the world beneath, only to discover she has miraculously transformed into a lizard.

He’s quickly jolted out of his nightmare after the bellowing woman bursts into his face.

‘Ek Thi Daayan’ piggybacks on the unimaginative spook fest staples – screeching women, dolls, little girls with curly locks, noisy lizards, creepy watchman and creaky elevators – even tipping us with an eerie crescendo every time the evil readies to strike.

There are paranormal activities that might credit a scream but those are far too few to leave an impression.

Director Kannan Iyer does nothing out of the ordinary to capture the sinful nocturnal escapades.

His troubles are further accentuated by tacky visuals, an unhurried screenplay and unnecessary soundtracks.

While the first-half, almost entirely, is in flash-back, with writers Vishal Bhardwaj and Mukul Sharma delicately exploring the past of a troubled child and a bit of his successful present, the second half delves entirely in piecing together the mystery.

Despite unveiling the mystical world of the unknown, through haunting images and intriguing characters, the writers are unable to set the pace till the end.

There are theories of lunar eclipses and leap years, and its evil implications that appear ineffective and forced.

The narrative falters and fumbles, and swiftly concludes into a senseless war of the good and the bad, with action sequences staged that remind you of a bad school play.

This is a classic example of how what could’ve appeared incredible on paper, was lost in translation.

‘Ek Thi Daayan’ centres on illusionist Bobo – The Baffler, who is trapped and tortured under the mystic powers of a witch’s lengthy braid, or so he believes.

With very little evidence over whether he’s guilty of blurring the lines of reality and illusion, he journeys to regain his lost world before losing his sanity.

He’s joined in his efforts by his girlfriend Tamara and his childhood shrink.

Their lives are suddenly impacted by the suspicious arrival of a chirpy, Canadian girl, who claims to want to be a part of Bobo’s life.

‘Ek Thi Daayan’, despite its many flaws, is endurable because of some fine performances.

Konkona Sen-Sharma is menacingly enjoyable as the braid-flipping, saree-clad Diana, who sneakily taunts two little kids over their belief that she’s a witch.

Two-film-old Huma Qureshi is vivacious as Bobo’s supportive girl Tamara, handling a myriad of emotions with remarkable flair.

As the free-spirited Lisa Dutt, Kalki Koechlin is unmatchable.

But, it’s Emraan Hashmi who is left to carry the load of the movie on his able shoulders. And, he manages just fine. Probably an early training in the Bhatt camp could’ve come in handy. Ironically, it’s during the lip-sync jig that he looks the most awkward.

Even the curly-haired Vishesh Tiwari who takes on the young Bobo is impressive.

A tighter non-musical edit and more funds for a technical jazz-up would’ve gone a long way in creating havoc.

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