Ek Thi Daayan Movie Review By Taran Adarsh

Ekta Kapoor has earned the title of a prolific producer, attempting films on varied subjects in a relatively short span — biopic [THE DIRTY PICTURE], gangsters [SHOOTOUT AT LOKHANDWALA and ONCE UPON A TIME IN MUMBAAI], horror [RAGINI MMS], laughathons [KYAA KOOL HAIN HUM and KYAA SUPER KOOL HAIN HUM], realistic [LOVE SEX AUR DHOKHA]… the enterprising producer now adds yet another genre to her remarkable repertoire: Supernatural thriller. A genre that’s intimidating as well as thrilling.

Do ghosts/spirits exist? What about black magic? Is it a myth? Does it really work? Last year, films like RAAZ 3 [a fading actress indulges in black magic to settle scores with an upcoming actress], TALAASH [the spirit of a dead woman kills the perpetrators of the crime] and more recently, AATMA [the fight between a woman and her dead husband over their child] took the spectator into the world of aatmas and spirits. EK THI DAAYAN may come across as yet another fare that talks of ghosts/witches, occult and the likes, but it is, perhaps, the first Hindi movie that presents witchcraft most realistically. Also, it’s one of the most eerie experiences to unfold on the Bollywood screen.

Our country is pierced with superstitions, fallacies and erroneous beliefs. We have heard tales of witches. Myths such as daayans can be good looking, their feet are turned inwards, their power lies in the plait [choti], so on and so forth end up making the spectator believe in stories surrounding evil, paranormal, supernatural and mystical powers. EK THI DAAYAN makes you react to the rituals/practices that have existed since time immemorial, but, I’d like to elucidate, it does not glorify the practice. Intense and scary, EK THI DAAYAN is positioned in today’s times and the folklore of a witch, integrated smartly in the screenplay, makes it a fascinating cinematic experience.

Bobo [Emraan Hashmi] is India’s leading magician. But unknown to even his girlfriend Tamara [Huma Qureshi], Bobo’s life is falling apart. His constant hallucinations leave him with no option but to seek psychiatric help. Going through hypnosis, a terrifying story about his childhood surfaces involving a sinister power called ‘Daayan’, who has not only destroyed his family, but also promised to return to haunt Bobo.

Bobo chooses to ignore it and move on with his life. Just when his career and love life is at full throttle, enters the irresistible Lisa Dutt [Kalki Koechlin]. Bobo is convinced that she is the daayan. But is she, really? Or is he just losing his mind?

There is something out there that is inexplicable, that is beyond the realm of human comprehension that EK THI DAAYAN taps grippingly. First-time director Kannan Iyer steps forward to offer something radically different in this genre and for those who believe in daayans — even those who don’t — will take to the plot instantly because Kannan’s storytelling is lucid and graspable. The flashback portions in the first hour are noteworthy, with Emraan revisiting his childhood. At the same time, Kannan ensures that there’s a love story running parallel to the main story, besides integrating the mandatory songs in the narrative, thus steering clear of being labeled ‘dark and dry’ in the process.

Thankfully, EK THI DAAYAN is not the standard horror fare and the storyteller does a volte face in the concluding reels. The suspense — when it unravels — is sure to hit you like a ton of bricks. However, the film tends to get a bit predictable at this point and the pacing too slows down soon after the interval, but the scare quotient and the twist towards the final stages more than compensate for the shortcomings.

Living up to the reputation of coming up with a qualitative musical score, Vishal Bhardwaj delivers a soundtrack that’s seeped in melody. ‘Yaaram’ is the most endearing track [and hugely popular too], while ‘Kaali Kaali’ and ‘Totey Ud Gaye’ are catchy compositions as well. In keeping with the mood of the film, the DoP [Saurabh Goswami] keeps the frames dark, but he ought to know that the [dark] tone can prove to be an eyesore at times. The visual effects [Prana Studios] are top notch. Background score [Clinton Cerejo] deserves special mention. It adds to the spooky ambience.

Emraan Hashmi nails his character. He carries the film on his broad shoulders, bringing plenty of soul to his character. This is amongst his finest works, undoubtedly! EK THI DAAYAN marks Konkona Sen Sharma’s tryst with the horror genre and given her acting experience, she delivers a terrific performance yet again. After portraying the part of a small-town girl in her first two films, Huma Qureshi exudes coolness and confidence in this new avatar. Kalki Koechlin looks perfect for her part, but her character tends to get a bit confusing towards the final moments.

Pavan Malhotra is first-rate yet again. Rajatava Dutta [as Emraan’s doctor] is remarkable. Bhavesh Balchandani, the child artist, is alright, but it is another child artist, Vishesh Tiwari [portraying the young Emraan], who delivers a super performance. The child artist portraying Vishesh’s sister is simply adorable.

On the whole, EK THI DAAYAN is an imaginative and appealing supernatural thriller. The film is placed in a relatable world, with myths about witches expertly intertwined in its absorbing screenplay, something which a spectator can effortlessly identify with. Exceptionally novel and attention-grabbing, it’s a first of its kind. Watch it for the sheer novelty it puts on display in its genre!

Rating: 3 And Half.


  1. I.One 10 years ago

    Will watch this movie tonight and will post my review. It’s been more than couple of years since I posted an early movie review.

  2. Serenzy 10 years ago

    Looking forward to it I.One


    Aryan, Sputnik,
    Post as many prominent reviews of ETD as you can.

  3. Syed imran 10 years ago

    Hope the movie is scary nd engaging as claimed by taran adarsh…going to watch it tonyt in dubai

  4. sputnik 10 years ago

    EK Thi Daayan Rediff Review by Raja Sen – 3 Stars

    Ek Thi Daayan is a smartly crafted and a highly original film, writes Raja Sen.

    I never quite understood that old saying about witches having feet the other way around. Does it mean that their feet are backwards (toes to back, heel to front) or does it mean that the left foot is in place of right foot, like hurriedly discarded flip-flops?

    Not knowing specifics, however, didn’t keep me from knowing the lore. The supernatural fascinates us all, with children often more drawn to the ideas of the fantastical because they gullibly (and willingly) believe, yes, but also because they are steered away from dark and morbid imagery, imagery deemed inappropriate for them. So naturally it becomes something worth eavesdropping, whispering, finding out about.

    Kannan Iyer’s Ek Thi Daayan, based on a short story by Mukul Sharma, avoids the usual set of Bollywood cliches about tanktriks and shraaps — all that bhootiyapa, if I may — to introduce us to fear through a child’s eyes.

    The line, between what we actually believe and what is conjured up by the feverish imagination of a young boy desperate to believe in legends, is blurred very effectively, and that is what makes this film so cleverly creepy, so intelligently eerie. It is, in many ways, a children’s film populated with grown-up scares. And for this originality it deserves applause.

    The mood is set with the opening disclaimer, one that assures us that the film isn’t intended to promote witchcraft. Okay then. The opening credits are seriously old-school, bassnotes thumping through faded green images of Bombay with Rekha [ Images ] Bhardwaj singing a song that wouldn’t be out of place in Mahal.

    Emraan Hashmi [ Images ] plays Bobo The Baffler, a highly successful stage magician in this fictionalised version of India [ Images ] where stage magicians can actually be successful. Like I said, old-school.

    He’s a spiffy enough conjuror — one of his big tricks even involves a switch between twins, as seen in Christopher Nolan’s The Prestige — but visions of his past peskily get in the way.

    It is a traumatised past, he concedes to his girlfriend sketchily, before confiding in a hypnotherapist instead. This leads us to a flashback which lasts through the first half of the film, and makes for pretty riveting cinema.

    We first meet young Bobo aged around 10, in checked trousers and with an Afro. His kid sister, Misha, is hopefully devoted to him. Their names sound like they’ve come straight out of a Russian children’s book, and their story is as intriguing: Bobo pores over an old leathery tome about witchcraft and is convinced their elevator is haunted, and Misha laps up everything he says.

    Their single father hasn’t yet, to the children’s delight, gotten them a stepmom. (“Do all stepmoms have to be evil?,” asks Misha. “They can be good,” Bobo concedes, “But they aren’t.”) Except one day the father meets a young lady in the lift, gives her a lift, and soon enough the stepmom void is filled.

    This entire first-half — while sounding like a great backstory for an over-committed barber with highly fetishised ponytail-hatred — is excellent. The narrative is constant, thrilling and filled with tiny detailing, supported by uniformly great acting and sharp, neat writing.

    Hashmi is remarkably comfortable in his own skin and plays the role of an inevitable loner with a compelling masochism. He is the kind of man who will switch the lights off despite being spooked by shadows, and the kind of man women with long-tresses would do well to keep away from. Especially when he has a butter-knife within reach.

    The three leading ladies — Konkona Sen Sharma [ Images ], Huma Qureshi and Kalki Koechlin [ Images ] — are smashing in their roles, and I refuse here to tell you who plays who. Each plays their given role with frighteningly good flair, and each deserves a big hand. Much of that applause is justifiably stolen by little Visshesh Tiwari as the young Bobo, while Sara Arjun’s Misha is irresistibly cute.

    And, as is the norm, Pawan Malhotra (as the father) and Rajatava Dutta (as the whiskey-swilling, tennis playing shrink) are top-notch.

    Cinematographer Saurabh Goswami is challenged by a film that lives too much in the dark, but aside from an occasionally too-shaky camera, he manages much artful framing (my favourite moment is when the kids high-five each other by torchlight.)

    It is as the film winds past the halfway mark that the cobweb appears to stretch past breaking point. There are too many false-scares, terrifying jolts that quickly turn tiresome considering they come from dreams, injected in an injudicious attempt to say boo.

    This is the sort of creep-fest which is better creating an uneasy buildup than at actually scaring the pants off you, and perhaps it should have stayed goosepimply instead of going for the jugular.

    Ek Thi Daayan isn’t a truly scary film — though it will provoke nightmares in the young, and I strongly recommend all parents keep their children away from this one.

    As if losing confidence in the narrative, the film tries to do too much in the second half — with suddenly oscillating variations in tone and mood — but thanks to performances and craft, it chugs along well enough. An ominous character called Lisa is introduced quite inventively into the story, and the film appears to hit the next level when that wonderful Yaaram song takes on a different meaning.

    Alas, it is here that things start to go aground. Clues point so determinedly in one particular direction that they convince us the film must take the other route, merely for twist’s sake, and the climax unforgivably descends into B-movie territory. Suddenly there is too much malarkey and, worse yet, too much talking about malarkey.

    A lot of which makes absolutely no sense. A film that started off smartly restrained sadly ends up cacophonic and, frankly, more than a little silly. By the time the actual end comes around, it’s hard to care.

    Ek Thi Daayan, therefore, isn’t the scariest of horror films. It is, though, smartly crafted, highly original in its approach and a strikingly ambitious effort for the genre. The end is a let-down, but the film remains a fine directorial debut for Iyer. As Bobo tells Misha while giving her a glimpse into subterranean hell, ‘don’t be scared, look.’ “Daro nahin, dekho.”


  5. I.One 10 years ago

    Good review by Raja Sen. As usual I agree with him almost almost everything.

    • Baba 10 years ago

      “As usual I agree with him” you usually agree with raja sen? 😮

      • I.One 10 years ago

        Yes, I have observed this similarity in expressing the views about movie, between me and Raja Sen for quite some time and on most of the occasions. It is not necessary that the views are same every time, but they are, most of the time.

        • Baba 10 years ago

          raja sen is one of the most ridiculed and hated critic in cyber world. it is widely believed when he gives 3/5 to a movie, its bad and vice versa. good to know his views matches with some atleast 😀

  6. sputnik 10 years ago

    Ek Thi Daayan Movie Review by Anupama Chopra


  7. Author
    aryan 10 years ago

    Emraan Hashmi Interview with Komal Nahta

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