Kannan Iyer’s “Ek Thi Daayan” comes with a disclaimer – that the film is neither promoting nor encouraging any superstition, and that (wait for it) it does not intend to stereotype women as daayans (Hindi for witches). The latter bit had the audience in splits, including yours truly, because ask the men, especially the hubbies, and they’ll have a different story to tell. Jokes apart, “Ek Thi Daayan” is producer Vishal Bhardwaj’s foray into the other world, a lift in this case, that acts as a dark passage down to hell. Each building has one and in it resides its evil dead residents.
So believes its protagonist, a young Bobo (played superbly by Vishesh Tiwari). Of course, the elders shrug it off as wild imaginations, and Bobo alone is left to prove that the new woman (Konkana Sen Sharma) in his widowed father’s life (Pawan Malhotra) is a daayan, whose name is Diana (nice effect). The film, through hypnosis, helps Bobo the Baffler (magician essayed pretty well by Emraan Hashmi) connect the dots and make sense of his past and the present.
Iyer spooks the hell out of us with his scary atmospherics, abysmal dark corners, that eerie lift, nightmarish nights casting sinister shadows, and a very witchy Konkana. She puts the daayan in Diana, and sends a chill down our spines with her snake of a plait, those stone-cold black eyes and ashen look. She makes the other ladies, Huma Qureshi (who plays Tamara) and Kalki Koechlin (as Lisa Dutt) look like novices in front of her. In fact, we don’t know why Koechlin was in the film in the first place. That is where Iyer loses a grip on his ‘horrific’ plot. Till the interval, our hearts were in our mouths.
The children, Tiwari who plays a young Bobo and Sara Arjun as his sister Misha are outstanding. The music by Bhardwaj and Clinton Cerejo is powerful and haunting. If only the story by Mukul Sharma (also Konkana’s father), had more of those old wives witch tales and Iyer had carried on the film with the kids and daayan, keeping the plot as terrifying and murderous as possible, “Ek Thi Daayan” would’ve been a gripping and frightening fare.