If I said to you Bollywood, what would come to mind straight away, well if you are in the same mind set as me then dancing, singing, vivid colours and very little storyline or plot, yes? I thought so. But if I said to you Bollywood Horror, well maybe that’s a different bucket of blood all together. Its an odd thing the Bollywood/Horror, but when you combine the looks and the sounds of what we think of as the more traditional Bollywood production with that of horror we end up with a genre that is very odd indeed. The Bollywood productions are full of light and have to them a joyous atmosphere radiating from them, where as the horror film is dark, shadowy, ominous, and foreboding. So can these elements work when combined, lets have a look shall we. A Bollywood Horror is basically everything a Bollywood production is but it has a sinister or horrific plot.
This combination genre dates back as far as the 1940’s with one of the first productions being Mahal which was released in 1949. Ok, it may not be the most popular genre, but the Bollywood Horror has continued to gain momentum with one movie from 1992 entitled Raat, becoming popular outside of its country of origin. So, let’s start with Mahal, which is a drama, horror, and a mystery all rolled into one, it is essentially a ghost story, but there are little sub plots and twists within the storyline that make this a fascinating and alluring watch.
A lawyer moves into a new house but is unaware that the former residents have died in mysterious circumstances after moving in. He is confronted and haunted by a ghostly looing female figure, who we discover is waiting for the reincarnation of her lover who has died, the women thinks that the lawyer is this re-incarnation, each time she appears the lawyer is filled with a desire to be with her, so it is a ghost story with romantic themes. It is a fascinating movie even if now somewhat dated. But as with all Bollywood productions it has a soundtrack that is also interesting with the central song being a romantic affair entitled The one destined to return will come, which is reprised throughout the film, a deeply emotive and profoundly poetic lyric sung by the then young vocalist Lata and one that helped to make her name. The movie starts out in a stylish and up beat manner which at times evokes the style and the pace of a Hindi Noir film, and too has certain affiliations with better known movies such as The Ghost and Mrs Muir and Gilda. With the central female role reminding me of the grace and the presence of the wonderfully talented Ava Gardner, think of movies such as Pandora.But after a while the plot seemed to lose its way somewhat and went off the boil as it were, the sense of suspense and the sinister being lessened as aspects of the ordinary day to day life and world began to become more prominent.
It was however never boring and remained interesting to the last even if everyone in audience had an idea how it would end. The movie has an interesting and haunting soundtrack which drew from the more traditional styles of Indian music, and I think far outshines the now westernised beat and direction of Bollywood soundtracks these days. As mentioned in the introduction a popular Bollywood Horror is Raat from 1992, its an odd plot but one that manages to keep you on the edge of your seat with effective use of the stedi-cam and also a highly effective and atmospheric score by Mani Sharma which is running almost continuously throughout the movie, this is not the normal Bollywood soundtrack, but is more akin to the Giallo scores of Morricone and Nicolai, with sinister sounding effects and edgy stabs and sounds being utilised to enhance the ever building tension.
The composer making excellent use of strings, woods, and percussive elements, combining these with sharp and jagged electronic sounds to fashion a sinister and heart stopping soundtrack. The movie as I say is a somewhat acquired taste and at times does seem to wander off into various plot changes, but overall, I enjoyed it and I suppose is in essence a possession movie, with the central character carrying out murderous acts without being aware she is doing this. Worth a watch, the score as far as I can see was never released, but it is totally different from any other Bollywood soundtrack I have heard. The opening sequence is particularly interesting because there is no dialogue but the music is perfect in elevating the tense scene and giving an even greater impact. A more recent Bollywood Horror is Dracula 2012, which combines the Bollywood dances and songs with the iconic Bram Stoker storyline, or at least an adaption of it.
It’s a somewhat strange take on the story, as one moment we are moving along with a fairly solid adaptation and then suddenly every so often up pops a song or a dance and even a quite risqué pop video type scene, lots of red and shiny pvc, it is a little confusing in fact it’s a bit of a nightmare, when you dream things that just don’t make sense and jump from one thing to another without any good reason.
The music is by female composer Babith George, but I am not certain whether she provided the orchestral or background score or just worked on the music for the songs? The score itself is rather over the top and does at times suggest that the scene is more exciting than it really is.
No full score album is available but there are a few songs from the movie on digital platforms the opening theme from the movie being one of them, the first credit to appear on screen Music By now there’s a first. The special effects are rather weak also and seeing that it is a 3d production could have been better.
A woman is murdered by her husband and he cuts off her hand, but the hand then has a life of its own and posses the films main character Pinky, who proceeds to take revenge on the mans family and that’s the plot of the movie. Khooni Panja.
This is not the best movie made and I would like to say I found some of it entertaining, but I didn’t, it was in a word laughable and apart from a few minutes here and there I don’t think it can really be called a horror movie. Lots of songs and a few Bollywood dance routines but nothing over the top with a instrumental score that is badly placed and at times out of synch with the action on screen, again the music seemed to be to dramatic when not required, the music is credited to Surinder Kohli and I have to say thankfully there is no soundtrack release.
The next movie is Bhoot Bungla from 1965, it is billed as on of the scariest Indian horror movies and focuses upon a mysterious house which is said to be haunted by ghosts and spirits who spend their time scaring people by singing and dancing, well this is a perfect storyline for a Bollywood Horror, ghosts, ghoulies an old house and dancing and singing. The music is by Rahul Dev Burman who was born on June 27, 1939 in Calcutta, British India. He is known for his work on the movie Sholay from 1975, 1942 A Love Story (1994) and Procession of Memories (1973). He was married to Asha Bhosle and Rita Patel. He died on January 4, 1994 in Bombay, Maharashtra, India. Bhoot Bungla is a mix of comedy, drama, and Horror but not horror in the sense of make you jump out your skin, the emphasise is definitely on the comedy element, and the music also reflects this, with cliched sounds such as musical saw and Theremin being utilised to convey a spooky situation, but mostly just making it even more comical. I found it hard to watch to be honest and the music did not help at all because it was scored at a high volume and jarred with the scenes rather than being subtle and enhancing and supporting them. Well that’s a brief look at the Bollywood Horror. A genre that is quirky to say the least and mostly not scary, but more often than not badly acted and directed in the majority of examples, and I also have to say ineptly scored.