Bollywood’s tryst with horror films has had its share of ups and downs over the years. However, horror films these days have a different story to tell. We trace the coming of age of this genre which seems to be back in vogue.
In 1949, Indian filmgoers were introduced to the concept of reincarnation with Kamal Amrohi’s Mahal, which had Ashok Kumar and Madhubala playing the lead roles. Although it wasn’t a horror film in the conventional sense, it did had a supernatural twist to it and for that alone Mahal is credited as the first horror film made in India. It’s been more than 60 years since Mahal released and the horror genre has had its share of ups and downs — right from being extremely scary to outrageously hilarious.
Today, the tone of horror films has changed considerably and the focus is primarily on ghosts who lurk in the dark to spook unsuspecting characters and when you add a little bit of sex, VFX and cutting edge sound effects, it turns out to be a perfect recipe for a horror film.
From the days of Kamal Amrohi’s Mahal to Bees Saal Baad, a 1962 superhit film directed by Biren Nag, the themes explored in horror films were more or less similar in the first couple of decades. Revenge was one such common theme which was an integral part of films like Gumnaam, Bhoot Bangla. Madhumati, directed by Bimal Roy, is based on the theme of reincarnation and it’s considered to be one of the most influential films in the genre. While most horror films made till 1960s featuring top stars enjoyed a tremendous fan following, the genre took a new turn with the arrival of Ramsay Brothers in the 70s. Do Gaz Zameen Ke Neeche, directed by Ramsay Brothers, was a game changer in this genre and the film dabbled with zombies. Jaani Dushman, a cult horror film directed by Rajkumar Kohli, featuring Sunil Dutt, Sanjeev Kumar, Shatrughan Sinha and Jeetendra became one of the highest hits of 1979.
Despite such big hits, the genre lost its sheen in the 80s and most horror films had a liberal dose of sex and cliched plots. Ramsay brothers continue to churn out umpteen number of films and few films like Veerana and Purana Mandir became big hits. In early 90s, RGV made a big splash with Raat which was quite spooky. The film which resurrected the genre was Vikram Bhatt’s Raaz which released in 2002. The film’s success inspired two more highly successful sequels in the past 10 years. On the other hand, RGV became fascinated with the genre and delivered films like Bhoot, Phoonk among many others. Of late, filmmakers have found a way to add a new twist to this genre. Ragini MMS was quite a bold film. Thanks to the success of few such films since early 2000s, horror films have found a new set of audience and producers like Mahesh Bhatt and even Ekta Kapoor have come forth to produce horror films.
This year, there are at least three horror and supernatural thrillers lined up for release including Ek Thi Daayan, Aatma and Ragini MMS 2. Horror films have come a long way indeed and how!