CultureCinema ‘Shaitaan’: A Supernatural Thriller Anchored With Emotions

‘Shaitaan’: A Supernatural Thriller Anchored With Emotions

In the eerie twilight between the known and the unseen, Vikas Bahl's "Shaitaan" emerges as a mesmerising tapestry of darkness and familial turmoil.

“Shaitaan,” directed by Vikas Bahl hit the theatres last month veering into the chilling territories of black magic and supernatural possession, casting a dark shadow over an urban family’s serene life. This film, drawing inspiration from the Gujarati film “Vash,” intertwines the horror of the unknown with intense family drama, delivering a narrative that’s as much about the resilience of familial bonds as it is about the terror that threatens them.

In the eerie twilight between the known and the unseen, Vikas Bahl’s “Shaitaan” emerges as a mesmerising tapestry of darkness and familial turmoil. Like a whispered incantation, the film beckons audiences into a world where the ordinary and the otherworldly collide in a symphony of dread and resilience.

At its core, “Shaitaan” is a tale of a family ensnared in a web of malevolent forces beyond their comprehension. As inexplicable occurrences begin to plague their once-idyllic existence, the family’s unity is tested like never before. Yet, amidst the encroaching darkness, glimmers of resilience and unwavering love emerge, driving them to confront the terror that threatens to tear them apart.

A fresh take on familiar tropes

At the heart of “Shaitaan” is the dynamic between the possessed daughter Janvi (a compelling Janaki Bodiwala) and her parents. Amidst the terror and chaos, “Shaitaan” highlights the unwavering strength of familial bonds. Ajay Devgn and Jyothika deliver powerful performances, their characters driven by a fierce determination to protect their loved ones at all costs. Their struggle against the malevolent forces threatening their daughter becomes a testament to the resilience of the human spirit and the enduring power of love. 

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In “Shaitaan,” the exploration of fear and family dynamics is not merely surface-level; it delves into the depths of human psychology and emotion. As the supernatural elements unfold, they serve as catalysts for unearthing hidden tensions and vulnerabilities within the family unit. Each terrifying encounter not only heightens the sense of dread but also peels back the layers of familial relationships, exposing the raw emotions and underlying conflicts. Through subtle moments of interaction and intense confrontations, the film portrays the intricate web of love, fear, and sacrifice that binds the family together. It captures the essence of human resilience as they grapple with the unknown, drawing strength from their connections with one another even amidst the darkest of circumstances.

Ajay Devgn delivers a more subdued performance than his typical action-hero fare, portraying a father overwhelmed by the supernatural forces upending his family. However, it’s Jyothika who truly revitalises the film’s emotional core, embodying a mother whose quiet strength and intuition become key in navigating through the darkness. Jyothika’s portrayal stands out as a testament to the film’s subtle feminist undertones.

Unlike many horror films that portray women as victims or mere accessories to the male lead, “Shaitaan” presents her as a pillar of strength, whose determination and love anchor the family’s fight against the supernatural.

The haunting of black magic excelled by performances

Bahl masterfully crafts a narrative steeped in the occult, with black magic serving as the conduit through which evil infiltrates the family’s once-peaceful life. The possession of Janvi by dark forces unleashes a cascade of terror, each encounter with the supernatural leaving the audience on the edge of their seats. 

Source: Panorama Studios / YouTube 

As the film progresses, the plot plunges the audience into a disturbing exploration of black magic, with the occultist antagonist, Vanraaj, played with menacing charm by R. Madhavan. His portrayal of a seemingly benign stranger who gradually reveals his sinister intentions adds a palpable tension to the film.

The occult practices and the consequential possession of young Janvi (Janaki Bodiwala) serve as the film’s central horrors, skillfully depicted through eerie visuals and a tense, atmospheric score that leaves viewers on edge. This foray into dark arts as a plot device is both a callback to classic horror motifs and a refreshing departure from typical supernatural fare. Through haunting visuals and a spine-chilling atmosphere, the film invites viewers into a world where the line between reality and nightmare blurs.

The family’s battle against Vanraaj becomes a metaphor for the eternal struggle between good and evil, with each character representing larger archetypes of righteousness and malevolence. Through their interactions and conflicts, the film explores profound themes of morality, sacrifice, and the eternal quest for redemption.

Subtle feminist undertones in Shaitaan

Vikas Bahl’s directorial prowess shines brightly in “Shaitaan,” where the horror genre takes on a refreshing twist by placing its female characters front and centre. In a landscape often dominated by male-centric narratives, the director infuses the film with a feminist gaze, presenting women as active agents in their narratives rather than passive victims of circumstance.

Source: Panorama Studios / YouTube 

Through this lens, “Shaitaan” subverts traditional horror tropes that often marginalise or objectify female characters. Therefore Bahl’s film stands out for its nuanced portrayal of women, who are not merely relegated to the sidelines but are integral to the story’s psychological depth and supernatural intrigue. Unlike traditional horror films where female characters often serve as mere victims or plot devices, Jyothika’s role in “Shaitaan” is integral to the emotional core of the narrative.

Moreover, Jyothika’s portrayal challenges gender stereotypes prevalent in the horror genre. Instead of being relegated to the sidelines, her character takes centre stage, driving the story forward with her actions and decisions. By giving agency and depth to the female protagonist, “Shaitaan” breaks away from the conventional narrative tropes and offers a more nuanced exploration of women’s roles in horror cinema. Here, “Shaitaan” transcends the typical tropes of horror, offering a compelling exploration of how its female protagonists navigate and confront the terrifying challenges they face. By giving voice and agency to these characters, the film not only offers a fresh perspective but also challenges the conventional roles women often occupy in the genre. In doing so, Bahl not only delivers a gripping supernatural thriller but also contributes to a broader conversation about the representation of women in horror cinema.

For those who appreciate horror that digs beneath the surface to expose the emotional and psychological underpinnings of fear, “Shaitaan” can be on their watchlist. In a way, this film cannot be just termed as a scary one; it also provokes thought about the depth of maternal strength and the complexities of family dynamics in the face of darkness. Even though the film cannot be termed as the best, in one perspective “Shaitaan” not only pushes the boundaries of traditional horror but also paves the way for more diverse and nuanced storytelling in the future.

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