Bollywood is taking supernatural seriously
A mid the conversations in Bollywood on biopics, women-centric movies etc, a less feted genre has been quietly expanding its base. There’s a steady stream of horror/supernatural films that are a far cry from the near-comical ghost movies of the 1980s-90s. While the past year saw Phillauri, Dobaara: See Your Evil, and Golmaal Again, this year’s list has 1921, Pari, Nanu Ki Jaanu, and Stree. These are fronted by major stars such as Anushka Sharma, Tabu, Ajay Devgn, Shraddha Kapoor, Abhay Deol, Rajkummar Rao, Huma Qureshi and Parineeti Chopra.
Trade expert Atul Mohan says that the horror genre, at one point, had been low on budget, with its own audience. Things changed with Ram Gopal Varma’s sophisticated films, Kaun (1999), Bhoot (2003), and Naina (2005), all starring Urmila Matondkar.
Mohan adds, “In the recent past, one or two films in this genre would have A-listers, such as Shah Rukh Khan in Paheli (2005), Akshay Kumar in Bhool Bhulaiyaa (2007), or Kareena Kapoor in Talaash (2012). I think a lot of them are doing this now because actors are ready to go beyond masala films and regular love stories.”
Anushka Sharma, who played the ghost Shashi in Phillauri and will be seen in Pari next, said in an earlier interview, “It was fun to play a non-living character, because normally we play characters that are in the flesh... I think I’ve represented the ghost community well.” Pari producer Prernaa Arora feels that “horror films are gaining popularity in India”.
What makes a horror film tick? For trade analyst Omar Qureshi, “two things that are key are background score and special effects”. Farhaz Haider, director of Nanu Ki Jaanu, also believes, “Horror films deserve a realistic treatment, or else how will it convince the audience?”
For filmmaker Vikram Bhatt, known for his brand of horror films — the Raaz series, 1920 (2008), and Shaapit (2010) — supernatural films still need drama. “The supernatural films I’ve made have actually been love stories. I’ve seen that films minus good human drama don’t do well,” he says.
I think a lot of them are doing this now as actors are ready to go beyond masala films. ATUL MOHAN ANALYST
Top: A still from the film, 1921; Above: Anushka Sharma and Rajkummar Rao are doing films in the horror genre