Amid all the conversations on biopics, women-centric movies etc, a less feted genre has been quietly expanding its base in Bollywood. 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 Bollywood stars such as Anushka Sharma, Huma Qureshi, Parineeti Chopra, Ajay Devgn, Tabu , Abhay Deol, Rajkummar Rao, and Shradhha Kapoor. Reportedly, filmmaker Sangeeth Sivan, who works in Malayalam and Hindi cinema, is also making a supernatural movie.
Talking about the trend, trade expert Atul Mohan says that the horror genre, which at one point was synonymous with Ramsay Brothers, was low on budget and had its own audience. Things began changing with Ram Gopal Varma’s far more sophisticated horror movies, Kaun (1999), Bhoot (2003), and Naina (2005), all starring Urmila Matondkar.
Mohan says, “The fact that there’re many films back to back now, and that, too, starring popular actors, is interesting. 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 move 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, and it’s boring to portray a living character in each film. You should keep doing a different thing. I think I’ve represented the ghost community well.”
Trade analyst Omar Qureshi feels that horror can never go out of fashion because “people enjoy watching spine-chilling horror films over popcorn”, whether at home or at the cinema. “Two things that are key to such films are background score and special effects — or people will end up laughing,” he adds. Voicing a similar opinion, Farhaz Haider, director of Nanu Ki Jaanu, says, “Horror films deserve a realistic treatment, or else how will it convince the audience? I’ve tried giving a realistic touch to the [plot], so viewers feel connected.”
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 that I’ve made have actually been love stories. I’ve seen that films minus good human drama never do well,” he says. Bhatt’s film 1921 releases next, and the predecessor, 1920, did well because of the “intense emotional drama”, he says.However, Vikram feels that top actors are still wary about the horror / supernatural genre. “I think most of them aren’t comfortable with the genre. Actors think that horror is more of a director-writer medium. Also the genre is not the flavour of the season for critics, and actors prefer avoiding films that might be bashed by critics. Even though supernatural is one of the most successful genres, they don’t see that,” he adds, The Hindustan Times reports.