Photographs: Pradeep Bandekar Ankur Pathak in Mumbai
The lead stars of supernatural horror film Ek thi Daayan -- Emraan Hashmi, Kalki Koechlin, Konkona Sen Sharma and Huma Qureshi -- were present at Film City, in the western suburb of Goregaon in Mumbai, to officially launch the film.
The event, strategically timed at midnight, consisted of a theatrical performance where the harrowed leading man introduced the audience to his three Daayans.
Hashmi then performed an astonishing magic trick, wherein Kalki was lifted mid-air, even as costume-clad men, creepily reminiscent of the Death Eaters from the Harry Potter series danced to the Daayan's tunes.
PIX: Ek Thi Daayan
Inside, gothic paintings laden with lizards were uniformly placed while the centre of all the action -- where later Hashmi would perform the magic tricks with an air of disturbing passion -- resembled a nightmarish stage.
The act that lasted for seven minutes may not be the most skilfully directed one, but the meticulous efforts gone behind the exercise were evident.
More than anything, it managed to convey the essential idea of the film which apparently takes its inspiration from speculative folklore.
'Horror-thrillers make for very gripping stories'
Commenting on her avatar as a Daayan, Kalki Koechlin said, "I think there is a Daayan within every woman. You cannot do anything about it, and perhaps have to live with it."
Konkona Sen Sharma affirmed that Daayan ought to be dangerous yet beautiful. After all, "how else will they catch the men?"
Emraan Hashmi, now a veteran in playing intriguingly complex characters, seemed quite upbeat. "Handling one beautiful woman is difficult enough. Imagine how traumatising it must be for me to manage three."
The film's producer Vishal Bhardwaj is quite fascinated by witches. "I love them, and I believe they make for extraordinary characters. For the longest time, I wanted to make a film on this theme, so when Kanan (director) came along with his script, it worked out very well."
The focus then immediately shifted to a quiet man, who was carefully observing the proceedings. Director Kanan Iyer, who has been an assistant to Bhardwaj as well as Shekhar Kapur, shared his perspective on the universal appeal of the horror-thriller genre. "They make for very gripping stories. Things have an interesting way of connecting, or not connecting. Moreover, the idea of a witch has been a part of mythology for the longest time but there hasn't been a very good film made on it. With Ek Thi Daayan, I want to bridge that gap," he says.
'If a man is Shaitan, the woman has to be a Daayan'
When asked if it is hypocritical of her to portray the Indian woman as morally uptight in her television soaps while silver screen female characters are despicable witches, co-producer Ekta Kapoor replied by saying it depended on the situation.
"If the man shows the qualities of Vishnu, the woman will be Laxmi-like, but if the man is a Shaitan, then the woman will be a Daayan," she says.
Asked how superstitious she is as a person, the TV czarina replied, "See, I don't think I'm very superstitious as a person. To me, they are my beliefs, to you it is superstition. I am a very strong-willed person."
Also present at the spooky occasion were Abhishek Chaubey and Anurag Kashyap.
Ek Thi Daayan releases in April.