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This one had me burst out laughing right at the beginning. No, not because like most Hindi horror movies it too ends up making mockery of a good genre, but because of the disclaimer that precedes the movie- something to the effect that the movie doesn’t support the stereotypical portrayal of women as witches or “daayan”. I mean really now ! However, as an afterthought, considering what a volatile society we are, the fear of the producer that it may have some women’s lobby up in arms against such a ‘derogatory’ portrayal of women, seems quite genuine. Hence the disclaimer. Honestly though, if I had to waste my time protesting against something so inconsequential, I’d do so by making a movie called “Sab Hain Pishaach” – “All men are wizards/warlocks”, assuming that a male witch is called a wizard or warlock. An eye for an eye and a wizard for a witch! Humph !!

Enough of inanities. Coming to the movie..it’s not bad per se. I mean at least it had the potential to be a fairly decent horror flick, a genre that has been totally abused in Bollywood with funny, grotesque masks and flying bodies and  furniture. Sadly this one too falls in the trap albeit after resisting it for long. The wicked step mother as a witch is an old staple of English fairy tales though I can’t recall anything similar in our own desi folklore. “Ek Thi Daayan” plays beautifully on it mixing the psychological with the supernatural. Set in familiar urban setting, it brings alive for the viewer, the child’s fear and imagination. Whether it’s the little child’s psyche playing up or is the step mother really a “daayan” remains at the core of the movie. Not only does the movie intermingle the psychological with the supernatural, it also mixes up western concept of the devil with our very own “shaitan” and “paital lok”. “666” as a symbol of the devil is a staple of Western thought which is here juxtaposed with “churails” with their feet backwards and power in their “chotti”( hair braid). As God is one, so is devil I guess, desi or videshi !!

Emraan Hashmi  as Bobo the Baffler ( What’s with the name?) seems baffled enough to do justice to his role. Konkona Sen Sharma dons the saree prettily enough to seduce you and at the same time send a shiver down your spine, at least occasionally. Kalki is however wasted except for the song “Yaaram”, which is Gulzar at his simplest yet one of the best, transforming mundane “akhbar ki sab surkhiyan” and “laptop” and “phone” into something mesmerising. Huma Qureshi is well..just there.

Sadly however the movie falters nose diving into the staples of Hindi horror flicks. While the first half manages to bring you to your seat’s edge, the second half just makes you want to sink right in and doze off. This was a story with tremendous potential to play on the eternal good vs evil conflict as much at a psychological level as the supernatural. The supernatural aspect however takes over and that too in a very clichéd way. At the end of it, all that I want to do is grow my hair really long and see if any evil power resides in my “chotti” as well !