Shaitaan, the Hindi version of the Gujarati hit Vash, gets a few things right. The first is keeping the source film out of sight.

Although released in cinemas in 2023 to high praise, Krishnadev Yagnik’s psychological thriller isn’t available on a streamer yet as part of the remake deal. This not only makes it difficult to compare the original and the Hindi reboot, but also puts viewers in the difficult position of giving Shaitaan’s director Vikas Bahl credit that may not be due to him.

Bahl’s recent track record – the web series Good Bad Girl and Sunflower, the movies Goodbye and Ganpat – has been spotty. He has a proven discomfort with coherence and judicious pacing. However, Shaitaan is a mostly smooth chronicle of occult practices severely disrupting domestic equilibrium. Krishnadev Yagnik has a story credit, and is an invisible but palpable presence throughout Shaitaan’s many highs and occasional lows.

Kabir (Ajay Devgn), his wife Jyoti (Jyotika), daughter Jhanvi (Janki Bodiwala) and son Dhruv (Anngad Raaj) check into their holiday home in Dehradun for a vacation. An uninvited visitor turns the dictum that guests are like gods on its head.

Vanraj (R Madhavan) makes the teenaged Jhanvi (Janki Bodiwala) the vessel for his evil designs. Her family can merely watch on in horror as Vanraj possesses Jhanvi body and soul.

Janki Bodiwala in Shaitaan (2024). Courtesy Panorama Studios/Jio Studios/Devgn Films.

Except for a sagging middle portion, Shaitaan is nerve-shredding stuff, especially when Vanraj is in full-blown diabolical pied piper mode. Apart from being a perfectly serviceable movie about a black magic practitioner at work, Shaitaan is also a cautionary tale about domineering men seeking to control young, impressionable women. Vanraj isn’t just a malevolent warlock but an extreme version of your average patriarch.

The basic premise is meaty in itself to allow for suspension of disbelief. The loopholes are kept out of view for the most part, but nevertheless reveal themselves. The ending, which has been lifted from a feted Argentinean movie, undermines the movie’s overall impact.

The curious inertness of Jhanvi’s parents is an underexplored, unsatisfactory element. Shaitaan goes some way towards explaining Vanraj’s sickening grand plan. But the parents, despite strong performances by Devgn and Jyotika, are not always credible as witnesses rooted to the spot, unable to prevent a tragedy unfolding right before their eyes.

Anngad Raaj is wonderful as the smart and sensitive Dhruv. Janki Bodiwala, reprising the role she played in Vash, is the most compelling performer. Bodiwala memorably conveys Jhanvi’s anguish at obeying Vanraj’s demented demands while trying to hold on to her true self. As Vanraj, the aptly cast R Madhavan is smug, sadistic and sinister in equal measure.