(Last Updated on : 08/08/2014)
Indian horror films form one of the most interesting genres of Indian commercial cinema. But simultaneously, it is also true that this particular genre is the least explored one. Although filmmakers like Ram Gopal Varma, Mahesh Bhatt
have dealt with Indian horror films yet much remains to be done. Mostly Indian horror films are direct copied or inspired from Hollywood films, but recently the trend has shifted. Many filmmakers are developing new concepts in this genre, supported with high production values. Some comedy horror films are also being made in the Indian film industry.
for the first time dealt with the theme of avenging spirits in his film Madhumati
. The film was widely accepted. After that several filmmakers have explored the horror genre. Mahal, Who Kaun Thi, Bees Saal Baad, Noorie and others have been successful to rouse the element of fear.
History of Indian Horror Films
The earliest horror films in Indian cinema revolved around themes of reincarnation and rebirth. Basically they were mostly stereotypical ghost stories. The attempt was not to scare as much as to give the love story a new dimension. The most famous is probably Kamal Amrohi
's debut film Mahal. Starring Madhubala
and Ashok Kumar
the film is a complicated ghost story, which sees Ashok Kumar moving into an abandoned mansion with a tragic history. It is also immortalised by Madhubala's beauty and Lata Mangeshkar
's first major hit song 'Ayega Aanewala'. Atmospherically photographed in the German expressionist style appropriately by the German cameraman Joseph Wirsching, the film is heralded as an all time classic.
Indian Horror Films in 1970s
With the supernatural being a popular theme, most horror stories revolved around spirits trapped in the mortal world. There was the odd attempt at making straight up horror films as well. In 1976, Nagin, featuring Sunil Dutt
, Reena Roy, Feroz Khan
, Kabir Bedi
and Mumtaz made everyone take notice and was a huge success. Nagin follows the bloody revenge of a female shape shifting snake, against a group of people who killed her mate. The film was a major success and was followed by another successful horror film in 1979 - Jaani Dushman. Once again Sunil Dutt, Jeetendra, Rekha and Reena Roy returned, as did director Raj Kumar Kohli. The versatile Sanjeev Kumar
joined them as the cursed creature.
Indian Horror Films in 1980-90s
The 1980s saw a qualitative change in the type of horror films being made by Bollywood as most filmmakers began remaking famous horror films from Hollywood. In 1980 Padmini Kohlapure played the possessed child in the unnerving Gehrayee. Probably the best of the Exorcist inspired films, Gehrayee has a number of eerie sequences and an uncomfortable atmosphere. In a similar vein, Reena Roy and Feroz Khan starred in Jaadu Tona as the tormented guardians of Baby Pinky who is possessed by a spirit from a nearby Peepul tree
. 1980 also saw Rajesh Khanna
, super star of the 1970s take on the role of a serial killer in the unsettling and original Red Rose.
In 1985, Naseeruddin Shah
reprised the serial killer role in the impressively taut, Shart. Neither film though was particularly well received at the box-office. Rajesh Khanna returned to the horror film genre in the late 80s with the more camp and less impressive Woh Phir Aayegi which co-starred Farah.
However, despite the occasional horror film that had top stars and directors involved, the 1980s saw Indian horror films become synonymous with low budget B-grade movies made by the famous Ramsay Brothers. This family of filmmakers cornered the low budget market and produced horror films for decades. Somewhat unfortunately, it did mean that the horror genre became ghettoised and never really broke out of that narrow mould. The horror film genre continued to remain stuck in a warp which saw films that were made on a shoe string budget, had pathetically awful special effects and repeated all the same people film after film. And yet the films had great entertainment value and at least offered something different from the mainstream.
Starting from their initial horror success Do Gaz Zameen Ke Neeche in 1972, the Ramsay Brothers came into their own in the late 70s with films such as Darwaza and Guest House - the latter famously starring a chopped hand. The 80s remained their most prolific period and brought such hits as Sannata (1980), Dahshat (1980), Purana Mandir (1984), Haveli (1985), Saamri (1985), Veerana (1985), Tehkhana (1986), Dak Bangla (1987), Purani Haveli (1989), Shaitani Ilaaka (1990), 100 Days (1991). Most of the themes revolved around evil spirits and deformed creatures terrorising villages. It was a successful formula and one that was rarely deviated from.
Most Ramsay films utilised the services of an elite band of actors including the thespian Deepak Parashar
, the sirens Huma Khan and Aarti Gupta, and the comedians Jagdeep and Rajendranath. Such was the success of one of the Ramsay films - Purana Mandir (1984) that an immediate sequel - Saamri was made the following year.
Revival of Indian Horror Films
The sub-genre of Indian Horror Films was resumed and revived with Vikram Bhatt's Raaz (2002). The film, although inspired from Hollywood hit 'What Lies Beneath', became an instant box office hit. More horror films were made after that, like Ram Gopal Varma's Bhoot
(2003), Krishna Cottage, Naina, Darna Mana Hai, Darna Zaroori Hai, Click (2010), Rokkk, Raaz 2, Phoonk
, Rokkk etc. Priyadarshan's 2007 smash hit Bhool Bhulaiyaa deserves special mention, as it was a unique take on the horror genre and made proper utilisation of comedy along with a thrilling plot.
Indian Horror Films have attained a new dimension with the release of Ekta Kapoor
's Ragini MMS. The film was presented in a digital video format and became an instant hit upon release. With its gripping plot, Inspired from a true incident and high quality production the film has paved the way for the future of Indian Horror Films. Even Haunted - 3D has also achieved a new level in this genre by using the 3D technology in presenting the film. This film was also much appreciated by the audience.
Other than bollywood, many horror films are made in various regional languages through out the country. These films are generally based on the local culture and depict the local folklores. With the improvement in technology, Indian Horror Films are improving their standard and have attained in international standard.