Aatma starts being a horror film before it even begins to be a film. Without telling us anything about the characters or showing a bit of the story, how do you expect it us to get scared? Bollywood has churned out several bad horror films lately, to see a name like Nawazuddin Siddiqui along with Bipasha Basu, you expect better. It is a sorry situation when it turns out to be as atrocious as the films we are offered in the same genre. Raaz 3 (2012), which I didn’t particularly like, was also better than this film. Even Nawazuddin Siddiqui couldn’t save it from being a total travesty.
The film isn’t just full of random attempts to scare you. There is an attempt at a story as well. Abhay (Nawazuddin) is dead; we are told he was obsessively possessive of his daughter who is left in the care of her mother, Maya (Bipasha Basu). After the film establishes multiple times that the dead father loves his daughter too much, we are creepily poked with the notion that he wants her dead to spend an eternity with her. Then when we are shown several scenes of him hurting anyone who hurts her. With this, the ghost hurts children and pregnant women and kills them. Further on, he is revealed to have been a wife beater. I’m not trying to be righteous but what kind of a filmmaker shows these acts without being at least a bit sensitive?
Bipasha Basu is the woman in peril. Her daughter Nia (Doyel Dhawan) clearly deserves better parenting. Films like these can only work when you have a good child actor. I’m not belittling her effort but instead holding the director responsible for being unable to extract a performance that is less awkward and patchy. The supporting actors are anything but and bring down the house with their clumsy and awful portrayals. Maybe it is just the laughable dialogues and bizarre situations. Shernaz Patel and Jaideep Ahlawat get the worst of them.
The biggest curse any horror film can get is unintentional humor. There is truckloads of it to be found here. The one where I laughed out loud was when a psychologist is trying to speak to the child and out of nowhere, the child gets up and smacks him across his face.
Aatma is the poor cousin of this year’s recent Hollywood horror film: Mama. Except it’s Papa this time and it’s not a good film in any way. There is just one element in the entire film that is partly scary who happens to be the friendly neighbourhood (but unforunately posessed) Pandit ji. Not exactly original but relatively effective. The only thing the director Suparn Verma gets right is the visual palette of the film. Amongst the black and grey, the blue, violet and pink lend a quality to it that most tacky horror films lack in our country. My question is, what good will embellishment do if you can’t muster up a respectable story to go with it?
The resolution to the story isn’t good or bad. It is simply wrong. Wrong on so many levels. I happen to enjoy horror films purely because they are, in essence, optimistic films. Okay stick with me and hear me out. They are usually composed of a series of traumatic events. Now, these events almost always come to an end, a long ordeal comes to a close. There is always deliverance and emancipation waiting for at least one character at the end. That’s optimism right there. Sadly, the way this film comes to a conclusion, the word ‘liberation’ would be embarrassed of its own meaning. The word ‘sacrifice’ would literally run for cover.
You can tell that Aatma wants to be a film that claims to be better than most Indian horror films. This is clearly a case of a disillusioned spirit.view less