Nawazuddin Siddiqui plays an abusive husband and a violent ghost in Aatma, Suparn Verma’s third movie after the duds Ek Khiladi Ek Haseena and Acid Factory. Siddiqui’s Abhay is so devoted to his daughter Nia (Doyel Dhawan) that he wants to make her as “undead" as he is.
Abhay kills anybody who criticizes his darling daughter but reserves his ire for his wife Maya (Bipasha Basu), who dared to divorce him before his death in an accident. Since Abhay is omnipresent and omnipotent, he could very well have finished off Maya and her mother (Shernaz Patel) the day he enters their apartment and messes with their knife collection, but in the interests of rolling out a 96-minute movie, he takes his time.
Meanwhile, Maya’s mother consults a priest (Darshan Jariwala), who prescribes a talisman that has the power to repel Abhay’s progress. Like Ram Gopal Varma’s Bhoot, Aatma aims for Hollywood-style economy and smoothness in storytelling, but ultimately has to pander to local beliefs for the sake of closure.
Despite the goriness of some of the deaths, the movie is never anything but good-looking. Cinematographer Sophie Winqvist bathes the proceedings in washed-out and cold tones, while Sukant Panigrahy’s production design includes a wonderfully gaudy television set encased in animal fur. The movie has some convincing scares, largely aided by an insistent background score that cues scaredy-cats to shield their gaze. Yet Aatma is strangely bloodless and un-moving despite the healthy body count. The spirit is more than willing, but the story treatment is weak.