Aval director Milind Rau: 'Siddharth and I did not want to dilute horror with comedy'
If your heart is still racing from the two-minute trailer of Siddharth and Andrea Jeremiah-starrer Aval, the upcoming trilingual horror film (to release as The House Next Door in Hindi and as Gruham in Telugu), you would believe it when its director says the film will offer audiences a one-of-its kind horror experience.
Coming from an industry (Kollywood) that has conditioned audiences to silly, senseless horror-comedies over the years, Milind Rau, in an exclusive chat with Firstpost, explains the film was born from the sheer passion to make a truly authentic horror film. “We wanted to do it like how it’s done in the west. The way we’ve treated Aval is we have avoided all the clichés that we’d not want to have in a horror film we see; things that we usually make fun of. Our presentation will set it apart from the usual films in the genre.” And going by the visuals in the trailer and the impact it has left on the audiences, his words can’t be any truer.
Talking about the evolution of Aval, which is slated to hit the screens on 3 November in all languages, Milind said, “Siddharth and I have been horror buffs since the time we worked as assistants to Mani Ratnam sir on Kannathil Muthamittal. While Siddharth went on to become an actor, I worked with sir on four projects over seven years. At one point, both of us connected and decided that we should work together and this happened even before Siddharth started work on Jil Jung Juck. When we decided to join hands, the most obvious choice was to make a horror film. We wanted to create a different horror experience and not dilute the experience (by adding comedy) for the sake of entertainment.”
Milind strongly believes there is an audience for genuinely scary horror films and he backs it up with numbers of some of the biggest horror grossing films in India. “One of the biggest horror hits in India has been The Conjuring 2, which collected over Rs 60 crore across all languages. Annabelle: Creation minted around Rs 26 crore from India. Siddharth and I watched the first day, first show of Annabelle and the theatre was packed. There is a huge market for horror in our country. Agreed, it’s still coming of age but it definitely will grow over the next few years.”
Explaining how Aval will be different in style and presentation from the usual crop of films in the same league, Milind says they have been influenced by Korean and Japanese horror films. “I’m talking about the films such as Ringu, Ju-on: The Grudge and A Tale of Two Sisters. Then, there are also classics like The Shining and Rosemary’s Baby. There are a lot of things that we like about these films that might have influenced us in our writing and might be there in the film in terms of tropes. As the master of contemporary horror, James Wan has been a huge influence on us. He’s been very successful in bringing back horror in a big way. The way he stages his jump scares makes him easily the best in the business.”
Milind feels the world of horror has changed, thanks to the evolving audience. “When you revisit the classics today, you feel they’re good but not really scary anymore because we as audience have evolved. With Aval, we’ve tried to make it more contemporary but at the same time there’s a classic feeling in terms of way the horror is presented.”
The film was shot simultaneously in Hindi and Tamil and has been dubbed in Telugu. On the need to make it in three languages, knowing it is going to be a painstaking process, Milind said, “Since Siddharth is a pan-Indian actor and the kind of product with certain finesse we dreamed to achieve, it made economically more sense to shoot in two languages and release it in three. We saw it as a safe bet.” However, he adds that it was only possible because he was collaborating with someone he was in sync with work-wise. “Siddharth and I complement each other really well. We have been friends for so long and we know our horror very well. There were no clashes of ideologies as we had a clear intention as to what we wanted to achieve.”
The film, produced by Siddharth in association with Viacom 18 Movies, marks Milind’s directorial debut and he is naturally thrilled. Not many know that Milind had already directed a Tami film called Kadhal 2 Kalyan which, for various reasons unknown, is yet to see the light of the day. Unfazed by the past and the annoyingly long wait to get another film made, he said, “I’m just looking at the positives. This film is ready and we are hitting the screens on 3 November. I’m happy that we have made something that we are really proud of and satisfied with in terms of quality and what we had set out to achieve.”
On a concluding note, Milind reveals what also makes Aval special is that it is based on a true story. “The fact that it’s based on a true story makes it even scarier. The core of the story has happened to someone we know. It’s something that struck a chord with us and it all started off from there. I believe this is what will make the horror experience even more eerie for the audience. Of course, we have dramatized things cinematically around what really happened but the core idea is based on a true story.”