Not since the Ramsay Brothers brought us such…umm…classics in the 1980s as Hotel, Dahshat, Ghungroo Ki Awaaz, Purana Mandir, 3D Saamri and Purana Haveli has there been such interest in Bollywood in horror movies. The recent successes of movies such as Phoonk with Anu Ansari, 1920 with Adah Sharma and Raaz — the Mystery Continues with Kangana Ranaut, Adhyayan Suman and Emraan Hashmi has led to a new appreciation of the genre whose history stretches back to the ghostly images that underpinned the classic Mahal with Madhubala and Ashok Kumar.
In the 1950s and 1960s, a whole slew of atmospheric, often ghostly movies filled the screen including Madhumati with Dilip Kumar and the extraordinary Vijayanthimala, Woh Kaun Thi with Manoj Kumar and the lovely Sadhana, Mera Saaya with Sunil Dutt and Sadhana again, Bees Saal Baad with Waheeda Rehman and Gumnaam with Manoj Kumar and Nanda.
Interest in horror movies seems to move in cycles, perhaps linked to paradigm changes in special effects and technology, and it looks as though we’re ready to view another cycle over the next few years. Percept Pictures certainly think so and they have set up a whole new division to cash in on the revival. “The idea was to look for visible gaps in the market and work out their potential viability,” says Shailendra Singh of Percept’s new division Horrotainment, “We will make 888, 13, Mumbai, Vehem and also tie up with Priyadarshan on Grrrr…”
Priyardarshan is especially pleased with the work on Grrr, although he has had to adapt to modern sensibilities with regard to filming of the movie that focuses on an angry animal spirit in the rainforest. “Since I can’t shoot with a real tiger, I will have to depend greatly on animatronics,” he recently announced.
Vikram Bhatt, who enjoyed success with Raaz and 1920, is keen to get back into the genre. “After tasting success with Raaz-1 and 1920, I’m definitely keen to complete the trilogy,” he explains. He goes on to explain how the Indian moviegoer is more sophisticated when it comes to horror movies than their western counterparts, “Indians like their horror films to also to have a good inter-personal story. We’re not a nation that just watches slasher films like they do in the West.”
One little gem you might want to watch out for is Vaastu Shastra from five years ago which stars Vicky Ahuja and is pretty creepy. One for the absolute devotee only is the Canadian NRI movie Bollywood Zombies by Maninder Chana. This has a plot which has an angry aunt poisoning the punch at a bridal ceremony which turns the bride, groom and most of the guests into zombies. The spirit of the Ramsay Brothers lives on.