August 19, 2008

Whys No One Scared?


Jo darr gaya must have been watching a Hollywood scary flick. Or so the perception goes. Fluffy romances, high-glycerine dramas and comedies are right up Bollywood's street, but for recall and financial value, Indian cinema is perceived to have lagged behind Hollywood's really scary movies in the horror genre.

But now, with two darr-inspiring movies coming up soon, DT figures out if the horror genre has come of age in tinsel town.

Can Bollywood really scare audiences?

Industry-wallahs differ on whether scary Indian movies have worked in the past. While some feel that there is a vacuum where horror movies are concerned, others say that it's unfair to dismiss the whole genre in entirety.

"I think it's a myth that the Indian film industry hasn't come out with interesting and successful horror movies," says filmmaker Kunal Kohli. He argues that it's unfair to write off Indian horror movies as a genre. "Bhoot was a hit, and so was Raat. Ram Gopal Varma has made good movies in this genre. I strongly feel that Indian filmmakers have given audiences a dose of horror, and audiences have liked it. Yes, if we are to compare it with the West, the movies that we could have made better in this genre haven't been that good. But to write it off completely would not be fair."

Scriptwriter-turned-director, Abbas Tyrewala, who also wrote Darna Mana Hai, feels that there is an audience for horror films in India, but Indian cinema hasn't been able to cater to them. "The horror genre hasn't been doing well in India because we have been too busy aping the West," he says. "Indian cinema has enough to explore when it comes to horror. We have to customise it and make it realistic. Even if it's fantasy, we have to bring an Indian element into it. It isn't over-ambitious to expect Bollywood to come out with good horror flicks, but we have to start giving the audience something to get scared of! I remember - when I was watching a scary movie once, a long time ago, I saw this man who was trying to sit apart from the rest of the audience. He wanted to sit alone because he wanted to get scared. So there are people who love to get scared and we will have to cater to those people."

Actors Sameera Reddy and Chunky Pandey, who have worked in horror films, agree with Abbas. "When it comes to successful horror flicks, most people would think of Bhoot. But I agree that in this genre, it's hard to immediately think of many films that have done well. However, it's not as if filmmakers haven't tried. We are still an evolving industry and comparisons with the West should be treated as positive criticism. I have been a part of Darna Mana Hai and it certainly was an effort in the genre," says Sameera.

Chunky also says that Bhoot was a bit of a standard bearer for new age horror flicks in Bollywood, but there's a lacuna that needs to be filled in the genre. "It's important that we experiment, more than ape, foreign horror movies. I love watching horror movies only if they can really scare me. Making a horror film is also an art. I am doing a cameo in a movie called Click, which is a horror movie," he says.

'There is no such genre'

Ram Gopal Varma, the director of Bhoot, is coming out with another horror flick, but he dismisses the perception that the horror genre is jinxed at the Indian BO. "I don't believe that there's a genre that works. We make 50 love stories - they don't all work. The film works if it's been made well. If a comedy film works, people follow the trend and make more comedies. Tomorrow, if a horror film does well, you'll see more horror movies too," he says. "I can't think of too many horror films that are being made in Bollywood. Horror is a difficult genre, these movies need a high degree of technical expertise to evoke fear. If you don't do it well, you can end up making a C-grade film like Khaufnak Raat or Pyaasi Aatma."

Vikram Bhatt, who is making the other scary flick that's coming up, seconds that. "There was a phase in the film industry when horror films were synonymous with B or C-grade films. Hollywood makes 10-12 good horror films every year and they yield the greatest returns. It's not about rubber masks anymore," he says. "Raaz and Bhoot worked well, but ultimately, it has to be a good story. Regardless of the genre, if you have a bad script, the movie will not work."

But why do we like to get scared?

Psychologist Dr Samir Parikh makes a distinction between the kind of thrill that comes from watching shows like Khatron Ke Khiladi, and that evoked by scary films. "The thrill of fear is meant to make people challenge their fears. When the audience watches a common person do a stunt, they generally put themselves in the contestants' shoes and feel an adrenaline rush. It's like overcoming their own fears," he explains. "Horror is an exploration of the dark side of fantasy. That also excites people. However, it's important to remember that it's fiction. Anything that scares us in the horror genre is not for us to want to live with every day. But the thrill of fear makes us feel like achievers when we go through it or when others go through it."

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