Bollywood Movies

Bollywood home invasion thriller is fun but forgettable

March 9, 20243 Mins Read

In the mixed tradition of home invasion thrillers such as Michael Haneke‘s Funny Games (2007) and Eli Roth‘s Knock Knock (2015), director Vikas Bahl’s Shaitaan has taken a stab at the genre, with decidedly mixed results.

The invaded home in question is populated by a family of four: chartered accountant Kabir (Ajay Devgn), his wife Neha (Jyothika), and their two kids Jahnvi (Janaki Bodiwala; Vash) and Dhruv (Anngad Raj).

On the way to their holiday home in a remote village, they bump into an unassuming-looking friendly stranger (R. Madhavan; Rocketry: The Nambi Effect) who follows them home, invites himself in and threatens their peaceful existence. As the family realise they’re in this for the long haul, they’re forced to confront their wildest fears for any chance at outsmarting him and his borderline inhuman powers of coercive manipulation.

Adapted from Krishnadev Yagnik’s Gujarati horror-thriller Vash, Shaitaan is saddled with a narrative that doesn’t feel original on the surface.

Like most traditional horror films of this ilk, it opens with a creep-inducing prologue, cuts to a quick establishment scene of the primary characters and their dynamic to get you to care for them – boy, do they lay the whole perfect family aesthetic on real thick – and then introduces the antagonist. There’s also the theme of dark supernatural forces that’s been a part many uninspiring Indian horror movies.

It is clear what the film is trying to accomplish but it often stumbles into ham-fisted territory. Still, the cat-and-mouse game between good and evil is engaging enough to keep viewers guessing.

With a stellar performance from Bodiwala, who’s been tasked with the most physically demanding role of the entire cast, there is much to keep viewers engaged until the end.

Among the top brass, while Devgn is unsurprisingly competent, Jyothika is the stand out, portraying a wife and mother completely gobsmacked by the unfolding of events around her whose emotions of rage, fear and haplessness feel natural and terrifyingly relatable.

This is only Jyothika’s second Hindi film since her feature-film debut more than two decades ago in 1998, her performance here has made it clear that her increased presence would help lift the entire industry around her.


Director: Vikas Bahl
Starring: Ajay Devgn, R. Madhavan, Jyothika, Janaki Bodiwala
Rating: 3/5

Madhavan seems to be the only one having fun with the film’s narrative, however. As the antagonist, he’s an excellent and often spine-tingling presence as a sociopathic, almost superhuman stranger who imposes an aura of nightmarish indefatigability.

It’s sad, however, that Bahl and screenwriter Aamil Keeyan Khan fall into storytelling structures that range from cliched to borderline questionable because quite a bit of it – even within the hackneyed narrative – had the potential to make for a memorable thriller.

For what it’s worth, Shaitaan is pretty decent. Much of it is excellently filmed, boasts a rich production design – especially towards its final act – and gets sufficiently stressful. It’s a fun ride, while it lasts. For all its potential, however, it’s disappointing that it wasn’t made memorable enough to be anything more.

Updated: March 09, 2024, 9:11 AM


Director: Vikas Bahl
Starring: Ajay Devgn, R. Madhavan, Jyothika, Janaki Bodiwala
Rating: 3/5

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