When you market the film with statements like 'If BHOOT scared you, VAASTU SHASTRA will kill you' or 'Warning: The producers aren't responsible for the consequences after watching the movie', you expect VAASTU SHASTRA to scare the daylights out of you.
Besides, with Ramgopal Varma in the producer's seat and BHOOT still fresh in memory, expecting VAASTU SHASTRA to be the spookiest fare from the film factory is a foregone conclusion.
So, is VAASTU SHASTRA scarier than BHOOT? Or was it a clever marketing ploy to lure moviegoers with tall claims?
To be honest, VAASTU SHASTRA is no masterpiece. It's not as scary as BHOOT either. Nor is director Sourabh Usha Narang as accomplished a storyteller as RGV.
But VAASTU SHASTRA does appeal in parts. It does scare you intermittently, a few eerie moments do send a chill down your spine, the sound quality [so vital in a film of this variety!] only enhance the visuals and the mood is just perfect.
Yet, VAASTU SHASTRA doesn't leave you completely enchanted or spellbound. The feelings are mixed after the show concludes. You have witnessed all this [and more] in BHOOT and that's where VAASTU SHASTRA falls short of expectations.
Virag [Chekravarthy] and Jhilmil [Sushmita Sen] are the quintessential made for each other couple.
Jhilmil works as a general physician in a hospital in Pune. Virag is a writer by profession. To complete his new assignment, he requires peace, hence the decision to shift to Shanti Kutir at the outskirts of Pune.
Jhilmil and Virag's son Rohan [Ahsaas Channa] is enjoying the summer break. Radhika [Peeya Rai Choudhuri], Jhilmil's younger sister, also lives with them.
A father engrossed in writing his new book, a mother busy at work and one perceptive child exploring his new house. With no one to keep an eye on him, Rohan ventures into different areas of the bungalow only to notice things - strange occurrences that no one believes.
His parents think that he is lying until the unthinkable happens. And suddenly Rohan's stories seem very real. The family is shattered by three bizarre deaths - first, the maid [Rasika Joshi] is murdered, then Radhika and her boyfriend Murali [Purab Kohli] are slaughtered.
The cop [Sayaji Shinde] thinks it's the handiwork of a serial killer, but is it? Shanti Kutir is no ordinary house - it's a haunted mansion. And the massive unsightly tree in the complex is a symbol of death?
Loosely based on Stanley Kubrick's acclaimed THE SHINING [1980; Jack Nicholson, Shelly Duvall], which was based on author Stephen King's best-selling novel of the same name, VAASTU SHASTRA also reminds you of the Nicole Kidman starrer THE OTHERS [Sush's child playing/communicating with the ghost-kids]. Of course, comparisons with BHOOT are also inevitable [a couple moving into a new house and the strange occurrences that follow!].
Following the trend set by BHOOT, VAASTU SHASTRA also defies the stereotype. The eerie atmosphere is created not by skulls or skeletons tumbling out of the wardrobe, but [cleverly] with creepy situations.
Yes, a few sequences startle you completely. Like Sushmita noticing a dead man outside the window or Peeya walking to her house after a late-night session.
But the problem with the film is that it takes a lot of screen time to drive home the point, testing the patience of the viewer in the process. Some sequences, like Purab and Peeya's love making scene, Purab's subsequent disappearance and Peeya searching him in the mansion, are so long drawn that they mellow the impact that a few brilliantly executed sequences had created.
Even the climax - so vital in a film of this genre - is a downer. It is bound to have its share of adversaries. And the finale - which leaves behind the scope for a sequel - although novel, may not be fully absorbed or gel well with the orthodox Indian moviegoer who wants the evil to eliminate at the conclusion of the story.
Sourabh Usha Narang shows a grasp over technique, with the lighting and camera movements contributing enormously in making the situations look eerie. But the writing [Charu Dutt Acharya] is not half as convincing as BHOOT [both have slightly similar storylines, you could say that!].
A pertinent question that crosses your mind is why do the ghosts take so much time to eliminate those living in the house? There were umpteen situations when each and every character was all by himself/herself and the ghosts had been loitering around, giving cold and angry stares. So, why go on a rampage and kill everyone in the end? Why not before?
Cinematography [Sachin K. Krishn] suits the requirements. The background score as well as the sound quality are first-rate. The visual effects are functional.
Sushmita Sen is competent, enacting her part with flourish. Chekravarthy continues to be stiff. Master Ahsaas Channa is the real star. The child is supremely talented and his expressions at most places contribute to the eerie atmosphere.
Peeya Rai Choudhuri impresses. Purab Kohli doesn't get any scope. Rajpal Yadav goes completely over the top. His character is the weakest in the film. Rasika Joshi is efficient. Sayaji Shinde is not half as convincing as Nana Patekar in BHOOT.
On the whole, VAASTU SHASTRA does the job of scaring you half-heartedly. At the box-office, the film has chances of faring better at multiplexes of metros, especially in Mumbai. But, in some circuits, its business prospects appear bleak!