If you ask me, it is much easier to make an abstract or genre-bending movie, than to make a genre movie. Suppose you are the writer of No Smoking, or even say Peepli Live – you have a completely white canvas in front of you. But a genre movie has its norms, and if you can still evade the pitfalls and keep the audience interested, you have won a major war.
Over the last few years, Indian horror films have become the Bhatt of all jokes. Wildly successful, but extremely unimaginative, the Bhatts have spewed out horror films year after year, even creating franchises like Raaz and 1920. Then there is Ram Gopal Verma, sitting in the dark corner of a park, churning out horror films to scare the country.
Indian horror is a genre of its own. And before moving any further, it is important that we get a clear picture of the Indian ghost.
The Indian Ghost is unique from its brethren across the globe.
The Indian Ghost always has a motive. Revenge. Lust. Correcting a wrong that occurred long ago.
They have emotions, and feelings. Sometimes, like in Haunted 3D, they have to endure human indignities like getting raped. Or may be that’s because in India, even if you’re a ghost, you’re fucked.
Indian ghosts hang out in palaces for years, waiting for the right opportunity to strike, in order to take revenge. There is a single minded focus to their mission. I am sure in the underworld of ghosts, Indians must be taking over the jobs of their counterparts, such is their Zen-like focus to their mission in life.
And it is after years of watching such no brainers that I have stopped watching horror films. Of course, that’s not saying much, since most of the movies that run are horrific in their own way.
With Ek Thi Daayan, what interested me was Vishal Bharadwaj revisiting the horror genre. His debut, Makdee, was a smart film that toed the line between a childrens’ film and a horror flick, and managed to hold its own, considerably.
The other thing the makers did right was in the casting. Hashmi, Kalki Koechlin, Pavan Malhotra, Konkana Sen Sharma, and Huma Qureshi read like a heady cocktail.
Ek Thi Daayan begins like a Shikhar Dhawan debut. Confident, taking huge strides forward, and whacking you out of the ground once in a while. The writers get it bang on. Simply by playing on common sense.
I really find it funny when I see grown ups in horror films seeing something spooky and getting all sweaty and pissy. It’s rare that someone who didn’t believe in ghosts would all of a suddenly do it. The person has watched too many movies, and a general cynicism has set in.
But at childhood, we are all believers. We have our heroes, who bring in the daylight. And lurking behind the shadows, we all had our monsters. The one in the film, or the TV show, or the spooky story that our cousin narrated in the vacations.
With this as their carrot, Vishal Bharadwaj and Mukul Sharma begin on a believable footing. It seems believable that an eleven year old would believe in the dark world of ghosts, especially if he is an aspiring magician – someone whose whole life revolves around make belief.
The premise set, the film chugs on comfortably. Till the interval.
Now, this is the other thing that sucks about Indian films. Why the fuck do we need to have an interval?
In a genre like horror, it is extremely difficult to capture the attention of the viewer, and just when the makers have managed to, you have an interval. You are drawn into a fascinating imaginary world, and the next minute you are ordering a large Coke with popcorn. How does a filmmaker bring back the mood that he strived to create for more than an hour?
And that is the reason why most Indian horror films are diagnosed with the same illness. “Interval tak mast tha, boss. Phir mazaa nahi aaya, yaar.”
Chutiye, mazaa is liye nahi aaya kyunki tu jaake Coke khareed raha tha.
And then, critiquing a genre movie is a different ball game too. How do you rate a genre movie? If you’re walking into a horror film looking to get spooked, Haunted 3D might have done its job well. If you’re looking for a tight, coherent story – may be not.
Ek Thi Daayan attempts both, and in my final judgement, does pretty well.
Go watch the movie, and in the next time maybe, we’ll discuss the climax.
– Hriday Ranjan
Hriday Ranjan is a blogger. In happy times, he likes to eat Maa Gajalakshmi chat. During bad times, he asks for two sukhilas from GupChup waalas. Apart from wryding for the Broken Scooter, he is a frequent writer too. He blogs at heartranjan.