New Delhi: "Raaz 3"; Starring: Bipasha Basu, Emraan Hashmi, Esha Gupta; Directed by: Vikram Bhatt Sehgal; Rating: **
"Voodoo karle saajna..." If your career starts to slip up, have no fear. Consult God. If He lets you down, consult his nearest rival Satan. Shake hands and even bed the devil, and you have an ally to work on your enemy.
So now we know why actresses in Bollywood can't get along. They are too busy sticking needles into one another's careers to focus on their own. Shanaya (Bipasha Basu), we are told at the outset without wasting time, is a top-notch actress on the downslide. Instead of drowning her defeat in drinks, she decides to smother her nearest rival, the upcoming Sanjana's (Esha Gupta) career, using her director-lover Aditya as a bait.
Writer Shagufta Rafique's screenplay is more of scream-play. The two actresses between them scream their lovely lungs out, as hands pop out of graves to lunge at shapely throats. Mirrors are broken and used to pierce satanic casualties and to track down ghouls which appear only in mirror images.
Just where Vikram Bhatt gets all this information on the dark side of the moon, we will never know. Presiding over the ritual of unmitigated evil is Satan in human form living in a slum that would give Danny Boyle an orgasm, wearing a suit that has seen better days, sitting on a forlorn chair parked in ankle-deep water.
This, I guess, is apocalypse in the other world. Hell, director Vikram Bhatt even throws in two seances where our hero - weak vulnerable ineffectual and uncertain as only Emraan Hashmi can be, enters to save Sanjana who is under a satanic attack.
The jealous Shanaya unleashes what could comfortably be called an orgy of gory violence on the other actress. If this is what the fear of failure does, then success be damned!
The Bhatts have never shied away from demonstrating onscreen brutality in its bloodiest form. "Raaz 3" is their biggest blood fest from the Bhatts after "Murder 2", which I feel, redefined screen violence.
"Raaz 3" is also not for the squeamish. The death of a poor house-help who dares to suggest to Sanjana that she might be a victim of "jadu-tona" (black magic), is particularly gruesome.
Now we know why kitchen staff is so hard to find in Mumbai.
Vikram Bhatt infuses a lot of shock value through the saturated soundtrack which keeps pounding and pelting sound effects, hammering the horror of a young vulnerable actress being destroyed by voodoo until we are left trembling and cowering in our seats. If the anti-satanic rituals don't wake up the dead, the soundtrack surely will.
Esha Gupta as Sanjana, is sincere and stark. She uses some of the horrific moments to soften the blow of the over-blown, like the one in the hotel washroom where she's attacked by scores of insects (a grotesque parody of Alfred Hitchcock's "The Birds") or that tender touching scene in the hospital where she says the best line of the film to Aditya (Hashmi) who has just confessed he has been helping Shanaya in her black magic and offers to redeem his soul by saving Sanjana.
"Ab mujhe bacha kar kya fayda jab mere paas ab bachaane ke liye kuch bacha hi nahin?" Sanjana whimpers.
In truth "Raaz 2" has its moments where horror melts into a kind of full-blown mythological tale. Aditya rescuing Sanjana from death is a clever gender-reversal of the Savitri-Sayavan mythology where the wife won back her husband from Yama, the God of death.
Here Satan in a soggy suit is played Manish Chaudhari who tries to make sense of the mumbo jumbo. It must have taken a demoniacal degree of self-control for the actor not to giggle when his characters challenges Shanaya with, "Tumhein mere saath wohi karna hoga jo ek aurat ek aadmi ke saath karti hai. Hai himmat?"
Get it? Shanaya quickly does.
It's Bipasha who holds together the feverish proceedings. She delivers a full-bodied gutsy performance. Pulling out all stops she plays the devil-woman out to kill competition by hook or by crook, pouring her soul into her character, making Shanaya's desperation her own.It is a brave and fearless performance conveying the trauma of a floundering career.
Every actress fears the competition would overtake her. Some go to the plastic surgeon. Others consult the nearest black magician.
Either way the outcome is inevitable. Evil can't win. At least not in our movies, Vikram Bhatt springs a spook spree that offers viewers the irresistible bait of horror and sex. You wait for the horror to get sexy.
Instead the sex gets progressively horrific. No Satan or its messenger can be as scary as Emraan Hashmi chewing on his two heroines' lips as though he has just relinquished vegetarianism.