New Delhi: The first look of Kannan Iyer's debut directorial venture Ek Thi Daayan has been revealed and the impressive star-cast of the film is on a hunt for eyeballs. Last year saw Bollywood coming up with hugely successful Raaz 3 and 1920 - Evil Returns while Bhoot Returns failed to scare the audience, however even these films were not at par with some of the better horror films made in the past.
Who is the ghost:
From Raj Khosla to Ramsay Brothers to Vikram Bhatt, mainstream Hindi filmmakers find it difficult to give a proper dimension to the shock value of a mysterious character, which most of the time turns out to be the butler of the house. This lack of aura further leads to a fascination for blood and gore which more or less kills the empathy for such a character which could have emerged as the 'ghost on a mission'.
The time and place of the psychologically disturbing character defines the existence and motive of it. There was a time when people used to cross a dimly lit jungle on a tamtam (horse-cart), but the era has been changed and thus the space in which the ghostly spirits are operating should be changed accordingly.
Time and space:
Ram Gopal Varma tried to establish the loneliness of urban life in Bhoot and it worked but the same style couldn't work in other films. Loud background score can provide momentary shock but it won't produce the same effect as The Shining because of the characterisation and the slow tempo of the film which was needed to make it grow on the spectators.
Voyeuristic camera is satisfactory but the subject it is catching should have a philosophy. The filmmakers are afraid of going against the popular notion and thus the sacred vermillion and the cross are still the ultimate salvation. The films should also reflect the changing mindset of the society towards the religion and traditions.
In Bollywood, the horror genre doesn't enjoy the same kind of respect like romance or action which prompts the filmmakers to amalgamate horror with erotica. Further, our filmy upbringing pushes us to think that only erotica can be followed by horror.
Editing cuts can be helpful in presenting a film properly but it couldn't be a very important part of a horror film's planning. The philosophy followed by the filmmaker affects the outcome of the product and here the Hindi film directors need to understand the difference between vampires, werewolves, zombies and psychos. Remember 'Psycho' worked chiefly because of the style and philosophy of Norman Bates.
Repressed emotions are integral to horror stories and we have been seeing it in films such as The Exorcist, Silence of the Lambs, Rosemary's Baby, Veerana, Do Gaz Zameen Ke Neeche and Bhoot. Our filmmakers fail to associate a strong motive to the ghost's deeds. Of course, a unique style is more required to create an ambience but the viewer would be compelled to assimilate the chain of events in the climax and then he will think whether the turn of events was justified or not. The film would lose its relevance in case of a negation.
Some of the popular franchise like Saw and I Know What You Did Last Summer bank upon the niche audience base which Raaz and 1920 are also trying to do but the engaging capacity of the Hindi films depends too much on the sexuality of the females portrayed in these films. Here we find only black and white characters while films of other genres are frequently showcasing grey characters. Raaz 3 was a good attempt in this regard but conventional dialogue writing and the evolution of a 'hero' obstructed it from becoming a genre defining film.
The depiction of effervescent feminism needs to be carefully tackled; mere victimisation is not time friendly I guess.
The theories propagated by earlier films such as Frankstein and The Wolf Man have taken a new shape in Hollywood, thus the Hindi film industry also needs to have a re-look at its 'bhootiya' content. Leaning towards the modern set-up and associating it with the utilitarian approach of a film might help here. Dealing with the glaring issues of a secluded city life may add more values to the on-screen drama.
Stereotypes are inevitable in horror films but they shouldn't be made obvious, a film's predictability hampers the attention span. Moreover, a ghost can always be understood as the sixth sense (Talaash!), RGV's Darna Mana Hai had such stories.
One good thing about the trailer of Ek Thi Daayan is the abundance of female characters. All three women, Konkona, Kalki and Huma, can bring out three different sides of feminism and this can increase the film's value.
Retrospection wouldn't be a futile exercise as there is a lot of money to be earned. Raaz 3 grossed close to Rs 90 crore, an unprecedented amount of money for a horror film. There is definitely a class of the audience which can help a good horror film in becoming the first Rs 100 crore horror film in India. And, who knows, horror may become the genre of the day in coming years, and then the visionary producers would find it tough to stop counting the money.