Fully frightening

Each time the Indian audiences are promised a nerve-wracking,nail-biting horror flick,it unwittingly turns out to be a rib-tickling experience—thanks to shoddy make-up,weak screenplay and ear-shattering eerie sounds.

Written by DIPTI NAGPAUL D’SOUZA | Published:February 27, 2009 10:24 pm

Indian film industry is taking baby steps towards making horror mainstream

Each time the Indian audiences are promised a nerve-wracking,nail-biting horror flick,it unwittingly turns out to be a rib-tickling experience—thanks to shoddy make-up,weak screenplay and ear-shattering eerie sounds.

Ironically,despite poor production,the genre has always been a profitable one,managing to recover the low investments. Vishesh Films invested nearly Rs 20 crore in Raaz – The Mystery Continues—making it the costliest horror flick in Bollywood. The returns of Raaz 2 so far touch Rs 45 crore—more than Slumdog Millionaire and the much-hyped Chandni Chowk to China in India.

Taking a cue,Percept Pictures Company,last month launched PPC Horrortainment—a dedicated division to cater to horror film-buffs in India. Horrortainment hopes to release,on an average,three films every year,which will be directed by renowned directors. Their first film Grrr… directed by Priyadarshan is to go on floors in June 2009.

Last year too,saw a decent line-up of similar thrillers,with audience responding well to Varma’s Phoonk and Bhatt’s 1920. But 2009 is supposed to be a turning point as Raaz – The Mystery Continues,after being criticised,was declared the first hit of the year. Coming soon is Big Films’ 13B,which releases next week. The good news is the upcoming films are expected to offer more chills and thrills than the parade of heavily-powdered ghosts in the likes of Vaastu Shastra as the demand for quality is rising with the increasing access to world cinema.

However,horror wasn’t always awful. In the 1960s,it was a part of the mainstream,with superhits such as Madhumati,Woh Kaun Thi and Mahal. It was in the ‘80s that the genre got classified as B-grade when low-budget horror flicks,like Veerana,by Ramsay Brothers defined supernatural thrillers.

The trend continued for two decades till Ram Gopal Varma,in 1992,made his first horror flick Raat,thus re-inventing the genre. Then followed Vikram Bhatt’s Raaz,introducing glamour in the genre.

What we have today for horror may not be at par with the West and may not stand an iota of chance when pitted against Japanese supernatural thrillers. But the industry has indeed matured in its treatment. “The sets aren’t tacky and boulders aren’t made of thermocol anymore,” laughs Mohit Suri,director of the Raaz sequel.

The films these days,he explains,depend on the digital medium. “The camera is the key character in horror movies. In Raaz 2,my actors didn’t wear any make-up; all distortions were created on the computer as were the animals. RGV’s Bhoot,similarly,utilised sound to add that eerie feel,” Suri says.

Bhatt,who is currently working on his horror trilogy Shaapit,insists that it’s equally important for the director to know the technicalities of special effects. “The special effects team virtually made the girl walk backwards in 1920 but we couldn’t have achieved that unless I was sure it could be done; I added it to the script accordingly.”

There’s an attempt to take horror mainstream,with stars like Bipasha Basu,Emraan Hashmi,Kangana Ranaut and Madhavan signing such projects. “It is time the supernatural thrillers join the league of A-list films as horror can be a true test of abilities of the director as well as the actor,” says Madhavan,who returns to Bollywood with 13B.

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