Reading Lee Sargent’s QuitYourDayJob blog on Friday the 13th (His post on the Top 5 Horror Flicks ) gave me this idea to just blurt out on what this day represents in Indian cinema. Nothing. And if you thought Indian cinema can be scary, I would say, YES for all the wrong reasons. Scary when it is least meant to be, and when we start discussing at length of all the scares that Bollywood (or more so, its step sister/ illegitimate child, the B-grade Bollywood or what we’ll call as Bbolly) has offered in all our growing years of watching cinema, we have had more laughs and eyes filled with tears while we rolled on the floor pointing our fingers (the index one) at the makeup peeling off from the lady’s ..umm..face while Viju Khote runs through the corridor lit in red light. I can still vividly remember almost each and every cliche that scary movies had to offer in those days when satellite TV was yet to invade our lives. The local cinema theater (here called Gopinath, dedicated to the many bunked tuition classes ) was the one which offered the best of entertainment as titillation was a complete no no on the only existing National TV network. The posters used to bear the best that the movie had and names that would bring any Ekta Kapoor serial to shame (in sheer length).e.g. Paapi Gudiya Ka Insaaf (The justice of the Sinful Doll, a nice take on Chucky). But then, there were the short and sweet ones too.Veerana, Kafan,Saamri, Darwaza and many more of that legion fall into this category. So by now, you must have almost got the idea that what I’m gonna talk here is all about the deep shit scary stuff, not the ones with Vidya Balan singing “Aami Je Tomar” or Urmila Matondkar being exorcised. What’s happening here is that we discuss the many rules that have ruled Bbolly Horror, rules like Black Hairs and Wet White Saris, Smoke,Rapes and Shakti Kapoor,not necessarily in that order.
Rule no 1: We have to begin with the name. Shakespeare said,”What’s in a name?” Little did he know that centuries later, we would call him “Hilti Hui Nashpattee” or even change the first half of his last name to a 3 lettered word ending with an X. Anyway, the point is, the name plays a very vital role in the product placement. Names like Bhoot(ghost) or Pretaatma (similar meaning) just won’t work in Bbolly. Bbolly demands for graphic explanation. Best example is the latest flick at Alankar cinema: Bachke Rehna Zara Bhoot Bangle Main (Stay alert in the ghost house). Other popular Titles include: Pyaasi Padosan (Thirsty Neigbour). Sorry that was not a horror flick. We have many names named after Havelis and Mahals and Bunglows.But the ones which make it to my list are, Khoon Ki Pyaasi Dayan (The Lady Ghost who is Thristy of Blood) and Haveli Ke Peeche (Behind the Mansion). Other formats include description of timelines (Bees Saal Bad, Sau Saal Baad etc. 20 years later, A hundred years later etc )
Corollary to Rule 1: If name is to be kept short, set the mood right.
Ask the Ramsays. They know it best when it comes to naming movies after ambience/environment.
Start with the sound, go for the building, then a specific room and then doors. Next add an adjective.Ghungroo Ki Awaaz, Daak Bangla, Tahkhana,Guest House,Darwaza,Bandh Darwaza.(The sounds of the Ghungroo, The Bunglow, The Dungeon, Guest House– that you got, The Door, Closed Door) That’s what I meant!!
Rule no 2. Heroine who is to be possessed/reborn/killed/raped…reborn again should be willing. No Bbolly Horror movie is complete without its perfect seductress. And if she does not fit in the sari, she must be Guddi Maruti . But our main protagonist (I would never call her the heroine) must have a shower scene of her own and she should not feel self conscious about it. Her white sari should proudly represent Tide Ki Safedi and her eyes should speak her underlying lust…of blood.
Corollary to Rule 2: To the witch, there’s a bitch. The main protagonist is the one who is troubled and perhaps haunted/possesed by the raped soul. And well , the plot demands a lot of other useless women (who originally couldn’t be turned down because the producer had to return back their favor) who are not as comfortable in a white sari. So what happens to them. They get killed in the lift, in the swimming pool, in the bus and oh yes, on the bed,in the middle of ..you know what. They start feeling uneasy , what their faces give is an expression that bears the proximity to acute constipation. And all of a sudden Mr.editor replaces her face with a layer of blended flour and egg yolk, with lumps. And the Oscars for Best “Make Up” goes to…
Rule no 3. Rape scenes choreographed by Ranjeet. Ranjeet’s resume reads 250 rape….attempts. 15 successful onscreen rapes. He owes all 15 of them to the Bbolly flicks. Coz, typically when he tries to loot the izzat of the Heroes’ sister, the Hero would beat the crap out of him just nanoseconds before the endurance limit of the blouse is about to be hit. But things are different in Bbolly land.Ranjeet is at ease and he plays by his own rules. It doesn’t matter if the ghost is gonna come back to avenge her rape. It is pretty normal. In fact, Mr.Ranjeet feels blessed as the one who is the genesis of the Bbolly scary story.
Corollary: Other unsuccessful attempters. Deepak Parashar -best remembered as the other guy in Nikaah ( that Salma Agha film with Dil Ke Armaan Aaso song, yeah the nasal tone and the red lips), or if you don’t wish to go back that far, he did a daily soap called Swabhimaan (written by Shobha De and directed by Mahesh Bhatt) and played the role of Mahen Malhotra. Now Deepak’s resume reads:- Work Ex in Bbolly:
- Loyal to the heroine until she gets raped and dies.
- Made Love to Ghost in disguise
- Unsuccessful attempt at killing the tantrik coz it was meant for the Hero, played by Navin Nischol.
(I know I’m just flashing names from here and there, just to paint a very stereotype picture. But what the heck! You know you’re enjoying this)
Rule 4. Viju Khote dies first. He has to. He is the official guniea pig when it comes to ghosts. When the ghosts are out in their experimental mode, and kinda discovering their talents and skillsets, they know where to go. Viju Khote it is. And how? Easy. Disguise as the seductress in a wet sari (Producer shouts: Where is the rain machine?). Ring the bell. Mr.Khote opens his door. Editor cuts short the conversation. Next scene. Viju Khote running in the corridoor which has red lights on. Special credits to the lights department to have disguised the AATA (flour batter) to be some kinda lump of flesh.
Corollary : A shower scene before Viju Khote’s death drama. So, does he die in peace?
Rule 5: Sound Department Hoshiyaar. (Alert Sound department)
Broken Window Panes, Wooden Doors with rusted hinges, and the shaky beds in the Haveli. Sounds like that condom ad. Forget the shaky beds, and you have the trademark ambience created. Include the rustling leaves of autumn, the candles that get extinguished by the winds and the chandelier’s that tingle. Not to forget, if the ghost was a dancer ( some Ramsay movies were elaborate on characterization),there could be Ghungroo Ki Chhan Chhan as well. Last but not the least, when our ghost walks, there’s the mind numbing operatic background score of a lady singing in her falsetto, apparently for the last time ( because as legend has it, the Ramsays killed her, so that she wouldn’t record it for someone else).
Corollary: Candles, Paintings, Scrolls, Curtains,Torn Saris, Stuff written on Bricks, Screams (how could I forget that), Basins and Bathtubs, White Porcelain overflowing with Red Liquid posed as Blood.
Rule 6: The perfect cast.
Part 1: The prelim group to be killed within the first 15 minutes of appearance. Typically this group consists of the young legion of Bollywood who couldn’t make it when they grew. e.g. When Master Mayur became Mr.Mayur, he landed with a role when he has to go for a picnic.Torrential rain and sudden vehicle breakdown forces him to put up for the night in an “Anjaan Haveli”, (the unknown Mansion) oh of course with her girlfriend (or sometimes may be not, it’s all complicated , to many ifs and butts). And then you have joining him for the second round of khoon kharaba, another group which we’ll call Part 1 beta.
Part 2: The watchman of the Haveli is an RJD supporter,(an Indian Political Party-Rashtriya Janata Dal, which has the election symbol of the Lantern) coz he never leaves without a 1968 model lantern. Little do the viewers know, that he is secretly associated with Part 3 of the cast.
Part 3. The tantrik and his petdemon. The tantrik is a cross between Baba Ramdev and a Reggae Singer. He is typically bald and the circumference of his gut is directly proportional to the height of his Pet Demon. The Pet Demon has a height greater than 6.5 feet, and a facial structure which has close proximity to a homo erectus. This demon is particularly used to tease the lady ghost but more than often gets killed by the Hero.
Part 4: The good guys and the Hero. The Hero has only one mission. Save his girlfriend from being possessed/ Kill the Lady Ghost/ Free her tormented Soul. He takes help from he Local Tantrik until he discovers his evil plans ( of making the lady ghost marry his demon and have a happy ending). He then goes to the police only to be laughed off (By police we mean Jadhish Raj, who else).And then, last but not the least the Father from the nearest Church who protects him with the Cross. This actually proves Rule 7.
Rule 7: Ghosts are Dharm-Nirpeksh, as in secular.
It doesn’t matter if the lady who died to become the ghost was named Rajni or Razia or Rachelle. Makes perfect sense that she is shit scared of the Holy Water as she is scared by the Holy Koran or the Bhagvad Gita, or even the Hanuman Chalisa. More than often, she is brought to justice by the tri-force of the Holy Books and add to that the Holy Cross and Hanuman Chalisa chanting.
Corollary: Tantrik chanting is always in Sanskrit. Words like Chamunda, Swaaha are mandatory and a Yagya as well.
I know this list is not exhaustive, but wel I have tried to cover almost all that I can remember as of now, at 2:49 am . I will try and be back with a sequel ( more like a Band Darwaza to a Darwaza). And if you are getting inquisitive about what happened to the Ramsay Bros. (India’s answer to Coen Bros. No, it is not Abbas Mustan), they have been making all those Friday Night TV horror stuff, saving costs of Eastmancolor Processing and well , invested it in a movei they made after a long long time. The movie was called Dhund:The Fog. I call it Jhund: The Fock. It stands nowhere close to their absolute classics like Samri, Tahkhana and my favorite: Veerana. It is indeed good to know that none of these names carried the English Tail explaining the tale. Thank God it was Veerana and not Veerana -the Wilderness.(Special Mention: Veerana features Hemant Birje as the Hero, best known as the Bollywood Tarzan who romanced Kimi Katkar as the Bolly Jane.) By the way the comments section is open for you to shout,Hail VHS.
(Sad story to wrap up. Gopinath, the local cinema , is now redone as a marriage hall. Eventually , it lost its audience to the Web 2.0)
Image Courtesy: HotSpotOnline Desi Horror