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Although director Vikram Bhatt’s approach leans more toward a bludgeon than a scalpel, the film is saved by the beguiling Bipasha Basu as Shanaya Shekhar, an actress so desperate to stay on top that she’s willing to do anything -- up to and including making love to a demon -- in order to curse the career of Sanjana Krishna (Esha Gupta).
Vishesh Films’ releases nearly always make a healthy profit, due to the production house’s skill at keeping costs low and selling their films’ music and satellite rights high, and Raaz 3 will be no exception, in India at least. Overseas Indian audiences are bound to be curious, thanks to Raaz 3’s promise of sex and violence -- Vishesh’s last film was Jism 2, after all -- but even though Raaz 3 is the first Indian film to receive an R rating from the MPAA, its sex is pretty tame and the violence cartoonish.
Like most of Vishesh’s other recent titles, this film, which was shot in 3D, has been released on a limited number of screens outside of India (this review is based on the 2D version).
Shanaya (Basu) has it all: a hot movie career and a devoted boyfriend who happens to be a movie director, Aditya (Emraan Hashmi). But when Shanaya is passed over for an industry award in favor of ingénue Sanjana (Gupta), the older actress is cut to the core. Complicating matters is the fact that the two women are half-sisters, and that they competed for the love of their father while growing up.
Shanaya’s sadness turns to rage; she tracks down a black magician who makes a potion that will make Sanjana suffer, and enlists Aditya to give it to her. But as Aditya becomes closer to Sanjana, he comes to realize that she doesn’t deserve the pain that Shanaya is trying to inflict on her and turns on Shanaya to protect her. This makes Shanaya so furious that she raises the stakes, and all three become caught in a bloody supernatural battle in the zone between life and death.
Although the film is the third in Vishesh Films’ hit Raaz series, and Basu also starred in the first film, it’s not a sequel in the strict sense. Bhatt has made a number of scary movies, but here he doesn’t offer much that’s new or original, relying instead on a blaring soundtrack and standard-issue fright elements such as a crazed clown, buckets of blood and a maggoty corpse on the loose.
The script (Sagufta Rafique) has a few good lines, and the story keeps the viewer’s interest, though the film drags at well over two hours. The swarthy Hashmi, the nephew of Raaz 3’s producer Mahesh Bhatt, does a forgettable job; while Gupta, a former Femina Miss India, conveys an innocent charm.
If there is a reason to see this film at all, it’s to bask in the glow of Bipasha Basu.
Basu was born fabulous — and in this film, she rocks it with fierce black eyeliner, three-inch red-and-orange nails, and a famously toned body which she shows off in some memorable dance numbers (her exercise videos are understandably hot sellers in India). As Shanaya, Basu, no stranger to villainous roles, seems to relish the opportunity to get as bad as she can get, and here, she uses her husky voice and feline grace to great effect.
Do you know the best way to grind a rival into dust? Hard work? No. Perseverance? No. Staying at it? Don’t be naïve. All that is for losers. The fool-proof way to make sure you stay on top is, cue appropriate ghostly sound effects, ‘kaala jaadu’.
Or at least that’s what the desperate Shanaya (Basu) believes, when new heroine-on-the-block Sanjana (Gupta) starts to get ahead. Nothing that friend and lover and director of her films Aditya (Hashmi) can do is enough to console her. Shanaya wants Sanjana out of her way at any cost. And she finds an answer in 'black magic’.
Bhatt’s an old hand at horror, going back and forth in time, doing Victorian and contemporary, and, on occasion, medieval. Here, he sticks to the here and now, making Bollywood the backdrop : the film industry, going by scores of unpublished, ear-scorching accounts, is the place where anything can happen. So we are quite prepared to believe that Shanaya’s bitterness and envy has caused her to come unhinged, and her passes at the guy who hands her the tools for Sanjana’s destruction, lead to a couple of shivery moments in the first half.
The second half goes just the way so many films do : down the chute. Or, in the instance of ‘Raaz 3’, in that ‘in between place which are inhabited by pret-aatmas’. Right there, the little bit of frisson that the film managed to garner vanishes, maybe in that self-same place. Out come all the 'sadhus’ and 'babas’ with their 'mantras’, and the `bhagwaan ki moorti’, and it all boils down to the same old battle against good and evil, borrowing from older horror tropes from here and there.