Ahead of the release of his next in the genre, 1921, Vikram Bhatt talks about the role of music in Indian horror films and what can add to the spook beyond special effects.
How do Indian horror films differ from films from the genre in Hollywood?
Music has been an integral part of all our films. Even more so in horror as the haunting melodies became a sort of signature for those films, be it Raaz (2002), Bees Saal Baad (1962) or Woh Kaun Thi? (1964). These tunes are almost always connected to a love story. But Hollywood films are genre specific and they don’t bring in many elements into it.
Horror films are often commercially successful. But can they make it to the Rs 100-crore club?
Raaz 3 almost made it — it collected Rs 80 crore. But we should not look at success in those terms. We cannot ignore the money invested into the film. For instance, Raaz was made for Rs 4.5 crore and earned Rs 22 crore.
Don’t horror films here seem repetitive given that most of them revolve around vengeance?
Unfortunately, we are limited by our finance structures. Aliens (1986) had a fair amount of sci-fi. But we cannot afford to use such elements and fall back on the archaic way of doing things. It does take away a chunk of what we can do.
Apart from the plot, what do you feel is the most important element for a horror film?
The audience has to feel scared for the character. Sometimes, our stories are so wafer-thin that viewers don’t care for the characters. When this happens, horror doesn’t work.
How has technology helped in evolution of the genre?
Special effects are important but the more you use them, lesser the fear factor. When things are too outlandish, they stop becoming identifiable. These effects should be used to enhance reality as opposed to creating an alternate reality.
Is your next, 1921, going to be along the same lines as 1920 where you merge period with horror?
Absolutely. Together, it makes for an exotic combo. 1921 is a story of music and love. It is a love story first and then a horror film.
Personal favorites from the genre?
Several. Roman Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby (1968) and Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining (1980) and William Friedkin’s The Exorcist (1973) are all cult films. From our industry, I liked Bees Saal Baad. Raj Khosla did some fabulous work in this area.