Life Lessons from Desi Horror

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Life Lessons from Desi Horror
Life Lessons from Desi Horror

On the day of the dead, heed the wisdom contained in …. horror movies. Specifically: Hindi horror. Why? Because they’re rooted in the world we have around us. 

For example, if there’s one thing that generations of Hindi movies have taught us, then it is the importance of religious accessories, a.k.a talismans. At all times, ensure you have a figurine of a deity or a piece of religious iconography to ward off monsters. Jury’s out on whether your “I’m a feminist” badge works in terms of a talisman since practical, on-ground experience suggests it will attract as many monsters as it wards off. As a general rule of thumb: Just respect women. You don’t want them to pull a Stree or a Bulbbul and kill you in righteous fury. Hindi cinema is also all about encouraging financial jurisprudence, which is why so many horror films show you the catastrophic consequences of investing your money in old mansions and generally spooky-looking real estate. Take that advice, stop eyeing that haveli, and consider mutual funds. Side note: If everyone in the town is warning you that the house you’re about to move into is haunted, maybe don’t ignore their advice. 

These are but the basics. Here beginneth the commandments to survive in this mad, bad world, courtesy desi horror movies. Consider yourself warned before you venture forth this Halloween because you never know what’s lurking around the corner. 

Do not cue imaginary romantic background music when a chudail is charging towards you to kill you. 

If a self-respecting chudail is trying to intimidate you, the least you could do is oblige her by feeling terrified and scrambling to run away. It’s only the morally right thing to do. 

This was clearly not the modus operandi for Kattanni (Varun Sharma) from Roohi (2021), who is inexplicably turned on by Roohi’s (Janhvi Kapoor) witchy alter-ego, who has cracked skin, dead eyes and blood dripping from her lips. When she first reveals herself to him (in a dark forest in the middle of the night, mind you), growling and snarling in rage, this man has the audacity to stare at her with a moony smile on his face. We’re not trying to be lookist here, but the film plays romantic music as she slowly stalks towards him, presumably to kill him in horrible ways. Later, as his friend thinks of plans to get rid of the chudail, Kattanni is instead bent on seducing her. In his defence, the mudiya pairi’s one goal in life is marriage, so maybe his idiotic plan could’ve worked in some capacity. Still, if you find yourself in a situation where a witch is coming for your blood, have the good sense to check your (male) privilege and take the woman’s issues seriously.

If the real estate is in Mumbai and cheap, AVOID. 

This is a basic horror survival rule, but cheap real estate in this city should especially let your guard up. While it is true that finding a place to stay in Mumbai can be a monumental challenge, let films like Bhoot (2003) and Purani Haveli (1989) remind you that the suspiciously-low priced real estate comes with the possibility of a possessed spouse or watching a Neanderthal on psychedelics chasing the people you love. 

Which leads us to our next point - do not sign blank cheques. Imagine our horror when the protagonist of Purani Haveli heedlessly signed a blank cheque once she was mildly cajoled by her uncle. He does that under the pretext of buying an old, creepy-as-hell Haveli, but only ends up spending half of the amount, and uses the rest to do aish (partake in hedonism) with his evil wife and her brother. Also, this uncle was clearly unreliable, because not many people love to have a sprawling graveyard within the purview of their house. Do not underestimate the importance of financial literacy. 

Have higher standards, especially when it comes to husbands.

Ajay Devgan’s character, Vishal, in Bhoot was very unhelpful for a large chunk of the film and constantly brought up his own educational qualifications as a way to dismiss her. Swati (Urmila Matondkar) was acutely distressed by the haunting in their house, but he didn’t pay attention to her and was instead patting himself on the back for being rational. She’s having visions of a lady in black who was murdered in this house, he’s laughing at her — how’s that for unsupportive behaviour? 

Look, we’re not telling you to not be sceptics. We’re all for critical thinking and people getting an education. However, constantly mansplaining your wife’s situation to them, laughing at her expense when she is traumatised, and telling her that she is “pagal” (mad) as a joke, waves so many red flags that the marriage in Bhoot begins to look like the colour of the video of ‘Dhindora Baje Re’. 

If your photo looks weird, move out.

Long before we realised filters for photographs were evil, Manohar from 13B: Fear Has a New Address (2009) noticed that when he clicks pictures inside the threshold of his dream home, they look… weird. There are many obvious signs that their house is haunted, but the strange pictures had to have been the last straw for Manohar. Instead of packing his bags, he embarks on a paranormal quest. Helpful tip: Before committing to a mortgage, click a few photos to make sure your dream home isn't haunted. That way, you can just back out if your pictures look odd.

Investigate which god needs to be invoked for the exorcism.

One would hope that the afterlife is free from religious divides and one should, of course, do everything in their power to avoid being possessed in the first place (prevention is better, and less exhausting than cure). However, if you or your friends cannot escape the clutches of an evil spirit, do a background check of said spirit, paying particular attention to their religion when alive. Arjun from 1920 (2008) makes the rookie mistake of getting a priest to perform an exorcism because Lisa (the possessed) is Christian. There is an obvious logical fallacy here. The aim of the exorcism is to rid the body of the evil spirit — it should therefore be targeted towards the spirit, and not the body. And the spirit in this case is immune to The Lord's Prayer (“Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name…”) because he was once a gent named Mohan. To be fair, the only effect the Lord’s Prayer is likely to have on a devout Christian is to make them anticipate a meal, but that’s a separate point. The key issue here is research: Do it religiously. 

Let the Strange Doll be if you don't want to be possessed.

Imagine you’ve just moved into a new house and everyone you’ve met so far is being awfully cagey about the murderous history of the flat. That’s what Swati (Matondkar) encountered in Bhoot. Then she finds a strange doll on one of the shelves. This should raise hackles and eyebrows. Instead of chucking the doll, she starts carrying it around with her even though this doll has “ghost” written all over it. (In what planet is that straggly orange hair and blue eyes rolling upwards supposed to be cute?) Of course, it turns out that this doll belonged to a child who had been killed in that very house, and Swati’s interference sets a chain of spooky hauntings into motion. Learn from Swati: Next time you see a creepy, unidentified doll, mind your own business and just leave it there. 

Keep a bottle of water at your side table at night.

Before going to bed at night, take a moment to ensure your bedside table is stocked with water bottles and snacks so that you don’t have to go wandering around the house because you’re feeling thirsty or need munchies. Wandering around a house in the middle of the night is a surefire way of making it haunted and that in turn means jumpscares in your near future. Again, Bhoot is an example of what not to do: Swati goes downstairs to the kitchen to drink water, ominously shadowed by the ghost of a woman in black. It was a moment that made people scream in theatres and have left many with a longstanding aversion to mirrors. So yes, avoid leaving your bedroom to drink water in the middle of the night. This has the added benefit of not making you need to make a trip to the bathroom, which is potentially even scarier.

If your pet doesn't like a house, why are you buying it? 

The perks of having a pet include boundless love, endless snuggles, and a built-in ghostbuster  — because no evil spirits will haunt a home when there's a pet on paw-trol! Manohar's life in 13B could've been as breezy as his wise neighbour’s (Mr. Kamdhar) if he just had a pet. Mr. Kamdhar's furry companion not only saved him from spending an afternoon in a haunted house but also helped unearth the secrets of the past with some serious digging skills. Manohar was a little slow on the uptake, but he finally got himself a dog. Moral of the story? Don't be a Manohar, be a Kamdhar.

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