Recent horror films churned out by Bollywood follow certain prerequisites – sex, love story, lip-sync songs, item numbers, and unfathomable twists among many others. These films end up being accepted by the audiences and collect great box-office returns. Surprisingly and to an extent, thankfully Suparn Verma’s ‘Aatma’ comprises none of the above, and yet manages to be more effective than any of those films, which do consist of the aforementioned prerequisites.
‘Aatma’ relies purely on the content and, to a large extent, succeeds owing to clever storytelling, astute direction and remarkable performances.
The plot of the film is quite simple and linear. Maya Verma (Bipasha Basu) keeps her daughter Nia (Doyel Dhawan) in the dark about her husband and the girl’s father, Abhay Verma’s (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) abusive behaviour and untimely death. It is when strange incidents start occurring in Nia’s life (Nia’s classmate and teacher die in mysterious circumstances) that Maya begins to get worried. Soon, she discovers that her daughter has been talking to someone (whom she claims is her father), not visible to anyone else. Her fears come true when she realizes that it’s Abhay’s ‘Aatma’ that’s haunting them and that the maverick wants to take Nia back with him.
The story of the film is very new so far as this particular genre is concerned. It takes the bold step of doing away with typical commercial cinema innuendos and keeps most aspects of the film (screenplay, dialogues, art direction, cinematography, acting etc.) subtle and realistic. There are a couple of scenes in the film, such as the entire sorcerer angle with the religious connection, which seem a bit out-of-place. However, the film manages to do away with most clichés and ends up becoming a compelling watch. The cinematography (Sophie Winqvist) deserves special mention for incorporating the bluish-gray colour tone and imbibing it so wonderfully with the screenplay. Even the background score by Hitesh Sonik accentuates the thrill-factor of the film. As far as the performances go, Bipasha Basu delivers her career-best performance as the helpless mother coping with an abusive relationship, a long-kept secret and the impending loss of her only child. Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Doyel Dhawan too, deliver first-rate performances. Among the supporting cast, Shernaz Patel stands out. Suparn Verma has dared to try something different from the norm. Kudos to the director for this brave and largely successful attempt!
The film is more intriguing than terrifying. Either way, you should watch it!