Saturday, March 23, 2013

Aatma is a hokey and hacky film

Aatma, starring Bipasha Basu alongside the next big thing of Bollywood, Nawaazuddin Siddiqui, hit the theaters worldwide this morning. Directed by Suparn Verma, who is making a movie after a hiatus of four years from the shameful Acid Factory (2009), attempts one of the hardest genres for Indian cinema in Aatma - Horror. The number of times we have failed in the horror genre is excruciatingly phenomenal, much of it can be thanked to the genius of Ram Gopal Varma. Aatma did not get the right word out before its release, except for a mildly spooky trailer and one delectable song, Aaja Nindiya. And sadly enough, the film itself turns out to be succinctly half baked. Some shiny spots, but predominantly a waste nonetheless!

At a stingy runtime of less than 100 minutes, Aatma is found to be pretty stingy in chills and thrills too. Supernatural thrillers do inherit a bunch of leap of faiths, but Verma's reprehensible writing falls flat as it becomes a victim to banal gimmicks and imbecilic conventions of the genre. Not everything is allright in the life of a single mother, Maya Verma (Basu) as her daughter, Nia (Doyel Dhawan) talks to her father, while no one can see him as he has been dead for some time. A troubled past haunts Maya as the future beckons with an increasing number of supernatural events at their once-wonderful abode. An excitingly interesting premise is what Aatma sets up in the first 20 minutes as the reels start rolling with many characters jutting in and out or being murdered mysteriously. Much of the first half runs smoothly, despite being low on scares, and one of the ebullient portions of this dull affair is the backstory that the family has. Oh how one wishes Suparn had dwelt a tad bit more on those portions! 

Post interval, the film dips and sinks in a deep ocean with barely anything unpredictable unfolding on screen or any edge of the seat racy moments that jolt you out of slumber. Unambitious, to say the least. Much like the problem plaguing last week's Jolly LLB. Yet, the latter had much else to boast about. Unfortunately, Aatma wheezes under the weight of the genre with only half an attempt. Despite wasting a plot with potential, I never got bored during Aatma and the unintentional hilarity has been kept under check to a large extent by Verma and his team of seasoned supporting actors. I do wish that the film was a scare fest that heralded in a largely needed revival of the genre and belied the naysayers, just because its idea wasnt as chronically stupid as most other horror movies. Produced by WideFrame Pictures and not picked up by any big studio, Aatma lacks the market backing that most films do get. Most technical aspects are fairly average and adhering smugly to the formulaic standards of the genre. 

As biased it may sound, I am a huge fanboy of the talent of Nawaazuddin Siddiqui. I personally believe that a better actor, and I mean lead actor, has not stepped in the industry in many many years. I must admit that it maniacally disturbs and hurts me to see that his mammoth potential was not utilized to its capacity in Aatma. Watch him in the two scenes where the backstory plays out and you thats the breakthrough sequence of the whole film. We needed much more of him in here. Bipasha Basu starts off on a drone tone but eventually does fairly well, being much acquainted with this genre. Though never offering something path-breaking, she is as good as she can get. Doyel Dhawan, the child artist, brings a rare innocence and spookiness in difficult scenes and one must commend her for that. Shernaz Patel offers some unintentionally hilarious expressions in few scenes but whats harder to digest is that she has more footage than Nawaaz. Most other actors, Jaideep Ahlawat, Darshan Jariwala and Shiv Subramaniam do not show stand out. The brilliant Tillotama Shome is wasted in an inconsequential role.

On the whole, Aatma hails from a powerful plot idea but the execution leaves it hokey and hacky. It has taken a bad start at the Box Office and I do not expect a turnaround either. Sigh, can someone please make a good Indian horror movie that doesnt get paralyzed? 

Rating - 2/5

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