Post R aaz and 1920, you expect an enthralling horror film, with chills aplenty, from Vikram Bhatt. You presume his third horror film Shaapit would be even more scarier than his earlier works, mainly because Bhatt is now a seasoned player, as far as this genre is concerned.
Shaapit also makes a startling promise in its adverts - 'Warning: Extremely frightening'. Now that's quite a tall claim, isn't it?
Scary movies made in Bollywood, generally, have two stories rolled into one film: The past, when the wrong was committed and the present, when the past comes to haunt the young couple. Coincidentally, both Raaz and 1920 followed this concept and so does Shaapit. Only this time, the story dates back to 300 + years and then comes back to the present day.
The unspoken and unwritten rule for horror films is simple: They ought to scare you at the right places and also, the culmination ought to be the best part of the story. Shaapit succeeds in giving you those jhatkas at several points [there are some genuinely chilling scenes] and the culmination to the tale, although a bit lengthy, keeps you involved in the proceedings.
Final word? With Shaapit, Vikram Bhatt raises the bar for horror films made in India. Full marks to Bhatt for making that one kick-ass horror thriller, which easily ranks amongst the best in this genre in terms of plot, setting, technique and performances. Go, get scared!
When Aman [Aditya Narayan] proposes to Kaaya [Shweta Agrawal] and as soon as Kaaya wears the engagement ring and the couple drives off together, their car takes a spin and bounces off the road, almost killing both of them.
When Kaaya's parents [Murli Sharma, Nishigandha Wad] hear about their daughter's accident, they rush to the hospital to find an engagement ring on their daughter's finger. Distraught, the father explains to the young couple that three hundred years back, their family had incurred the curse of an angry Brahmin and that curse did not allow the daughters of their family to be married.
Aman meets Pashupathi [Rahul Dev], the master of the ways of the spiritual world. Pashupathi tells Aman that in some cultures, there was a belief that a generational curse worked much after even the person who had uttered the curse was dead because, it was believed, that an evil curse when uttered stuck to an evil spirit and the spirit then became the keeper of the curse and it was the duty of that evil spirit to make the curse come true generation after generation.
Aman asks Pashupathi if there was a way to destroy the spirit and get rid of the curse. Pashupathi tells him that there was a way, but it was filled with peril. If he sets about to hunt and destroy a spirit, then the spirit would also know that it was being hunted. Aman tells Pashupathi that he would fight for his love... and so begins their journey.
Vikram Bhatt merges the past and present beautifully. The explanation offered at the very start - a spirit continues to safeguard the curse for centuries - is something that Indians, generally, would relate to.
A number of sequences bear the unmistakable stamp of this refined storyteller - Vikram Bhatt. Sample these...
*While returning from a late-night party, Shweta watches an old woman sleeping in the middle of the road;
*Aditya's efforts to get a particular book from the library;
*Aditya and Shweta's encounter in a dilapidated cinema hall;
*Shweta waking up in the middle of the night and not finding Aditya, Rahul Dev and Shubh Joshi in their respective beds;
*The interaction with the maharaja's soul;
*Shubh Joshi going back in time;
*The entire climax sequence.
On the flip side, the portions depicting Shweta slipping into coma and her subsequent revival towards the end looks formulaic. Ironically, Shweta continues to wear the engagement ring in a chain [in the neck], even while in coma, which would've made it easier for the spirit to eliminate her, but it doesn't. Also, Bhatt and the writers should've established in a sequence or two about the step-wife of the king vowing to take the angry Brahmin's curse forward, since both were different stories.
Yet, despite the minor hiccups, Bhatt keeps you hooked to the proceedings. Those looking for chills, well, Shaapit has it in plenty. Also, his storytelling is super-stylish. Chirantan Bhatt's music is tuneful, although one misses the haunting tunes of Raaz and 1920. The background score [Raju Rao] heightens the impact of the chills. Pravin Bhatt's camerawork is eye-filling. Dialogues [Girish Dhamija] are appropriate. The production design [Rajat Poddar] is excellent, especially the set of the palace. Special effects are amongst the best we've seen in Hindi movies. Costumes [Rahil Raja] are in sync with the demand of the characters.
Aditya Narayan is a show-stopper. It's hard to believe that someone can be so natural in front of the camera in his very first outing. Given the right roles, there's no stopping this bundle of talent. Shweta doesn't really get the scope. Besides, she is sidelined in the second hour. Rahul Dev is wonderful, underplaying his part with restraint. Newcomer Shubh Joshi oozes tremendous confidence. A fine actor! Murli Sharma and Nishigandha Wad are decent. Natasha Sinha excels.
On the whole, Shaapit is truly a scary movie, which comes across as a worthy follow up to Raaz and 1920. If you are a fan of ghost stories, Shaapit should be on your list of 'things to do and watch' this weekend. Go for it and be prepared to be spooked!
Directed by - Vikram Bhatt
Starring - Aditya Narayan, Shweta Agarwal, Rahul Dev