With Prosit Roy’s Pari just around the corner, one can’t help but get excited about an authentic Indian horror film – one that promises genuine scares. With only a few good films to boast of in the genre (if you exclude the cheesy Ramsay oeuvre), the Anushka Sharma production might just be the shot in the arm that Indian horror needs.
In other industries, horror is considered one of the most profitable genres. Think of franchises like the Conjuring, Insidious, Annabelle, etc. The low production budgets and creative approach to storytelling ensure high returns and make it an excellent business model. Paranormal Activity had a production budget of $15,000 and grossed over $193 million worldwide.
Having said that, in our limited number of horror films, there have been a few gems and this may be a good time to revisit them. The following films are all available on YouTube.
Shankar played by an elegant Ashok Kumar returns to his ancestral home in Allahabad, only to be haunted by a woman singing soulful songs in empty rooms and lifeless corridors. This disrupts his marriage and gradually takes him on a perilous journey. This moving story of love and reincarnation was one of Bollywood’s earliest forays into horror. The haunting ‘Aayega aanewala’ cemented Lata Mangeshkar as a playback superstar. Kamal Amrohi made his directorial debut and a teen Madhubala became a huge sensation, all due to this little gem. In fact, the British Film Institute has listed it as one of the ‘10 great romantic horror films’.
BEES SAAL BAAD (1962)
This Hemant Kumar production was an admirable adaptation of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Hound of Baskervilles complete with foggy backgrounds and haunting songs in the dead of the night. It introduced Bengali star Biswajeet who went onto become one of Bollywood’s most charming leading men of the 60s. Shakeel Badayuni’s lyrics and Hemant Kumar’s classic compositions provided instant hits like ‘Kahin deep jale kahin dil’, ‘bekarar karke humein’ and ‘zara nazron se kehdo ji’. Biren Nag’s riveting direction, excellent performances and the gripping story gave Bollywood one of the biggest hits of that year.
A family of four individuals move into a house which is rumoured to be haunted. Soon, horrific things begin to occur to each member. The lead (played by Revathy) starts experiencing nightmares and hallucinations. The exquisite camerawork was used expertly to achieve a shocking effect. The actors were unknown faces and the director was a young Ram Gopal Varma, and yet the film worked. The ‘RGV horror’ brand was established through this film.
This last spot was a toss up between the first entry of the Raaz franchise and Bhoot, another RGV film. And in all honesty, RGV’s ode to The Exorcist was definitely a better horror film. Bhoot was genuinely scary when it came out and still stands the test of time. The skilful use of sound was effective in creating a gripping, atmospheric horror film. Urmila Matondkar was outstanding as a woman haunted by a ghost. The stellar ensemble cast included Ajay Devgn and Nana Patekar.