(Continued from Part One)
In the new millennium, director Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra came up with his first film based on an experimental script dealing with the horror genre differently, titled Aks (2001) featuring Amitabh Bachchan and Manoj Bajpai together. But the result was not encouraging enough and same was the case with veteran Raj Kumar Kohli trying to revive his hit formula in Jaani Dushman (2002).
Nevertheless, since the viewers were already ready with a new mindset after watching the world class quality cinema on several international movie channels streaming right into their homes, the change was inevitable and it did come with the success of two path-breaking films namely Raaz in 2002 and Bhoot in 2003. The unexpected hits brought forward two new mentors of horror movies, Ram Gopal Varma and Vikram Bhatt to rule the horror genre for a while. And thus our Hindi Cinema moved forward from the Ramsay era to the new age Ram-VikRam era with the beginning of a new millennium. Here a worth mentioning interesting point is that where Vikram’s Raaz was all inspired from a English hit, RGV’s Bhoot was in fact a remake of his own Raat released a decade before. In other words, RGV was rightly so confident and ahead of the times in his futuristic vision way back in the early 90s and he strongly proved his point well after a decade (in 2003) with the instant success of Bhoot, which was just Raat revisited again with a new backdrop.
So after the initial hiccup, the new millennium began favourably with these two films, followed by many better quality and fresh concept based horror movies directed by some reputed names (including many sequels too), much ahead than those typical, poor, B-C-grade ventures made earlier.
However, there were two other noteworthy points which actually caused this timely revolution in the set pattern followed by Horror movies in India as given below:
Firstly now we were having our own corporate productions houses associating with all the big & famous Hollywood studios for making their next projects, who very well knew how these horror movies need to be made and conceptualized without going into the mode of that cheap B-C grade followed earlier. And secondly, now the ‘essential sex element’ was not there added into the script forcibly, like they used to do before the 90s. As a result, horror movies were now being seen by a wider section of viewers (particularly the young ones) who were coming to the theater both in the smaller cities as well as the metros in big groups of friends and families together.
Hence post 2003, suddenly the genre became hugely viable and a result oriented one for the costly multiplexes too and there were number of horror movies released in the next 10 years as Ho Sakta Hai, Hum Kaun Hai, Eight Shani, Hawa, Vaastu Shastra, Naina, Anjaane, Raaz (Series), 13b, Kaal, Darling, Flat, Kaalo, Darna Zaroori Hai (Series), Phoonk (Series), Shaapit, Agyaat, 1920 (Series), Ghost, Bhoot Returns, Help, Click, Haunted, Ragini Mms, ? Question Mark, Hisss, 3G, Ek Thi Daayan, Aatma & more. But along with this new revolution, the good old Ramsay kind of movies were constantly being made for their particular section of viewers like Aatma, Ghutan, Bachao, Dafan & Khooni Tantrik, which were mostly distributed in the smaller centers and later in the home video market at a very cheap price.
Plus many worth praising thoughtful attempts were also seen, mixing the horror element with a social message or comedy in movies such as Gauri The Unborn (dealing with the female foeticide issue), Bhootnath (talking about family togetherness), Bhool Bhulaiya (featuring traditional heritage in a comic way) and Go Goa Gone (dealing with zombies in a funny manner).
Looking at the dark side of this scenario, a very obvious and relevant question can be asked that ‘How this genre manages to survive, when almost 70-80% of the above mentioned movies are actually flop?”. And answering this valid query I would like to say, that the secret of their survival formula firstly lies in their comparatively low budget of production, which can be recovered reasonably with a proper release (as provided by the reputed production houses). Secondly, their limited publicity campaign more relies on the shock value shown in the promos which can go viral at several points and doesn’t require big number of spots on all the major TV channels like other big films. And lastly but most importantly, the horror genre enjoys a very wide and an ‘always in demand’ kind of market in the home video circle wherein people are constantly looking for the new VCDs and DVDs coming from all age groups ranging from the very young to the very old. And this basically becomes the major (long run) source of returns for the horror genre in particular.
In support of the above statement, there are several examples of films which may not have worked well at the box office or were declared flop, but had a fairly good run (later) in the home video market and are still in demand as the best sellers. Putting it differently the viewers are very much ready and interested in enjoying all those spooky thrills & shocks while sitting in their homes only and that is the reason there are hundreds of 3-in-1 or 5-in-1 DVDs being circulated in the market (with 1 known and other lesser known horror films made in 80s & 90s) released by almost all big and small video companies. Moreover there is a huge market of dubbed Horror films too, featuring both foreign as well as regional scary movies dubbed in Hindi.
Amusingly the astonishing euphoria around these horror movies made before 2000 also influenced director Ashim Ahluwalia to make a dramatic film on this B-C-grade horror & porn film industry called Miss Lovely in 2012, which was also screened in the reputed Cannes Film Festival held in the same year (but hasn’t released yet for some unknown reasons).
On a concluding note, at present ‘The Horror genre” is the only one which can still bring in a decent number of crowds in the theaters with just marginal (quality) publicity and no big star or face value. And this is exactly what I felt while watching few of the recent Hindi horror movies wherein there were more people sitting in its first show itself, than the ones watching a big film released on the same day featuring a well known star. But since we are not really making some good horror movies nowadays, the encouraging initial response gets lost in the subsequent days, resulting in flops which are then immediately released in the home video circuit (to cover their basic cost).
Honestly the thought of writing on this evergreen and one of most favourite genres of film buffs came to my mind while watching the recent Hit English horror flick “THE CONJURING”. Now though it was being shown in only 1 (morning) show in a central Delhi’s famous multiplex, but at the same time it was also the 3rd week of its release quite surprisingly. The theater was almost full of students and viewers in the age group of 18-30 only. They were buying tickets in big groups and the security people were having a tough time searching their heavy carry bags full of books and more. During the screening, every sudden shock at the screen was greeted with loud shouts and each silent moment of the film was filled up with funny comments from any one corner, cheered by all. The young brigade of both girls and boys together were enjoying the scary experience a lot and the movie too had enough to serve their horror hungers well. And this was all happening in the 3rd week of its release, without any major publicity campaign running either on any TV channels, print media or the internet.
The pleasant experience forced me to think that if only our Hindi Film Industry can come up with an exceptionally good horror film on the lines of Bhoot or The Conjuring, then there will be simply no need of spending so much on the publicity or roping in a big star to pull the viewers in. The Indian audience has always been ready to watch a good spooky film without any of the above mentioned support, but we really haven’t served them well with some worth watching Horror films on a regular basis from long. So with a hope that the gap would be filled soon by one of the upcoming directors of our Industry grabbing the opportunity first, I would love to watch one of my favourite horror flicks ‘Purana Mandir’ once again and take your leave.
( Written Expressions - All Rights Reserved - 2013)