New Delhi: Director Kannan Iyer's 'Ek Thi Daayan' has once again brought back the word 'daayan' into focus. Witchcraft might have become an obsolete word in the urban dictionary but the rural landscapes are going to take many more years to get rid of this term and its implications.
Occasionally, we do see and read about females killed in the name of being evil witches, so when a mainstream Bollywood production house decides to make a film based on the cult of 'daayan/chudail' (witch) then the audience gets confused about the makers' stance on cultural myths.
It's natural and obvious that the producers of the film will be concerned about the commercial success along with the critical success. This situation is expected to create a situation where the story writers would face a dilemma about the image of the 'daayan'. You may find some spoilers about the film from here on, so we suggest you to watch the film first and then return to this article.
The pioneers of horror genre in India wanted the viewers to believe about the unnatural sexual prowess of witches.
Since the beginning of Hindi talkies, we have been seeing characters calling more vulnerable female characters as 'chudail'. The contemporary society provided the cultural base to the word 'chudail/daayan' by adding more fictional attributes to these imaginary creatures.
Soon, filmmakers realised the importance of glamour and this prompted them to weave the net around 'Pyaasi Chudail' or 'Kunwari Chudail'. The pioneers of horror genre in India wanted the viewers to believe about the unnatural sexual prowess of these witches. Anecdotes featuring extraordinarily beautiful witches alluring kings and landlords gained prominence as they were thought to be more volatile against such magnetism. The fictional account of some of the prominent land owning families fanned the imagination more and witches became a more powerful and evil form of women who were infamous for breaking homes.
This concept changed slightly during the 1990s when greed for money replaced the love for lust. Witches were transformed into psychologically disturbed women by now but the essence of their existence remained the same, they were still the personification of wild and untamed charmers.
'Ek Thi Daayan' is different form the previous witch films in its tone despite using popular fables. The mystique around the 'daayan' in this film is the amalgamation of popular ideas and their derivatives which results into a story that a majority of spectators want to see without being challenged about their beliefs.
Vishal Bhardwaj and Mukul Sharma's story is going to take forward the legacy of their predecessors but in a more dignified way. However, the audience will soon decide whether 'Ek Thi Daayan' gives a new dimension to the popular interpretation of the term 'daayan' or not.
Konkona Sen Sharma