Around the release of Ragini MMS 2 in 2014, someone clever in the film’s marketing department (I think) coined the word Horrex – that is horror and sex ka adhbut mishran. This was the best descriptor for the film, which stars Sunny Leone playing a version of herself. Ragini MMS 2 has a film-within-a-film scenario. Sunny plays a former adult film star who gets the role of the original Ragini who may or may not have murdered her boyfriend in the first film and is now in a mental asylum. When Sunny’s character asks her director if she can meet the original Ragini to prep for her role, he retorts with one of my favorite dialogues ever – Yeh porno se Rituporno kab ho gayi?
I was remembering all of this while watching IT Chapter Two. The film is a sequel to the 2017 horror blockbuster about teenager friends in small-town America who must battle an evil clown named Pennywise. Both films are based on the bestselling novel by Stephen King. I saw Chapter 2 in a packed hall on Sunday evening – clearly Pennywise has a lot of fans. But this film needs its own catchphrase – something smart that combines horror and comedy. Horredy maybe? Because more than being afraid, I was laughing. Chapter 2 has a few terrific actors (Jessica Chastain, James McAvoy and Bill Skarsgard as Pennywise among others) and a few terrific jump scares (one involves a leper from the first film) but mostly it’s silly and gory without being ghoulish. The many creatures that Andy Muschietti throws at us are dazzling but by the time a severed human head sprouted spider legs and started pacing around the room, I was exhausted. In one scene, designed of course to be scary, the entire hall cracked up. The film was fun but not in the way the makers intended it. I’m all for low-rent horror. And I scare easy. But It Chapter Two failed to spook me. I will say though that it made me, yet again, appreciate the delights of communal viewing. Few things can match the joy of a full theater laughing in unison!
Laughter brings me to techie-turned-directors Raj and DK. The two have a singularly original funny bone – their films (Shor in the City, Go Goa Gone, Stree as writers and producers) have a delicious and dark streak of humour. They are back with The Family Man, an Amazon original series with Manoj Bajpayee playing Srikant Tiwari, described as ‘middle-class guy and world class spy.’ I’ve only seen the first episode, which isn’t enough to judge a series but what I saw was crackling. Manoj is, as always, first rate as the hapless Srikant who is battling routine domestic issues (surly teenage children, khatara car, home loans) and terrorists. Of course the family doesn’t know that the mild-mannered, beleaguered Srikant is actually a kick-ass intelligence operative. The dissonance between his private and professional life make The Family Man fun. It was also fun to chat with Raj, DK and Manoj about creating the series, a large chunk of which was shot in Kashmir. Incredibly, they got permission to shoot at Srinagar airport – the first film in 33 years! You can see the interview on our YouTube channel.
I’m traveling next week so I’ll be out of action. But I’ll report back soon after, with more stories from the Bollywood trenches!