Movie Review: Aatma


Cast: Bipasha Basu, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Doyel Dhawan, Shernaz Patel

Director: Suparn Varma

IE Rating: **

In the initial bits, Aatma pitchforks us into a nice case of thrills and chills. The mother of a little girl is troubled. Her daughter talks to someone no one can see, giggling conspiratorially. Sinister things start happening around this tiny unit, readying us for a solid spooky session. But Aatma soon begins to unravel in ways that lessen that fear, and leaves us with a film that could-have-been.

No time is wasted in setting up Maya (Bipasha Basu) as a young, beautiful mom conflicted about how to tell little Nia ( Doyel Dhawan) about her beloved father's (Nawazuddin) fatal accident. We are led up smoothly, after the fact, to a man who was abusive and violent to his wife and extra-loving to his daughter. A pesky classmate who bothers Nia is the first to go; a strict teacher is the next: till then the film handles itself well. Some well-executed sequences make you jump. And then the 'aatma' reveals itself, and from there it's all downhill. An old hag hobbles up with a prophecy, a pundit starts conducting a havan, and other predictbles pop up.

The space for little girls with curly locks who cause strange things to happen is a crowded one in movies around the globe. Dhawan is well-used and mostly effective, and is the high point o>f Aatma. Nawaz breaks through in some strongly-performed scenes but doesn't fit well with Basu, who is her usual svelte self, but not really up to the task of yielding to terror. And that, apart from the slack writing, is the film's problem.

With its somber palette and plot-with-potential, Aatma could have been a true scare-fest. But it winds down to being well begun, half done.

... contd.

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