Beyond Dobaara: Bollywood's best horror films from Bhoot to Phir Wohi Raat

Abhishek Srivastava

May 31, 2017 17:49:40 IST

It’s strange that Indian cinema celebrated its 100th anniversary a few years back, but when it comes to quality horror films, the few it has churned out, can be counted on finger tips.

Call it bankruptcy of ideas or sheer disdain towards this genre or average money-spinners at the box office, the fact remains that such films are few and far between.

But with Dobaara: See Your Evil hitting the marquee this week, it won’t be a bad idea to flip the annals of Bollywood and go down memory lane with the few quality horror genre we have witnessed over the years.

From L to R: Stills from Phir Wohi Raat, Gehrayee, Bhoot and Raat.

Gehrayee (1980, Dir. – Aruna Vikas)

Gehrayee was made in 1980 by director duo Aruna Vikas (Aruna Raje and Vikas Desai) on a modest budget. It was a true blue horror and it created flutters when it hit theatres. The film followed the ‘indie path’ and paid a very subtle homage to the famous Chipko movement of the 70s. The taut film, centered on the theme of black magic, ensured that the horror effects created were noticed by one and all.

It was Padmini Kolhapure’s debut film with Anant Nag as lead. This film had none of the blood-dripping ghastly masks or a woman draped in a white sari amidst dense fog. All it had was pure tension and a sinister plot to propel the proceedings further. This was also the year when films like Qurbani, Shaan, Karz and The Burning Train were the staple diet for cinegoers. Gehrayee was like a breathe of fresh air.

Phir Wahi Raat (1980, Dir.  – Danny)

Interestingly, another quality horror hit screens the same year as Gehrayee: Phir Wahi Raat. The film minted 2.80 cr at the box office, which for the time, is a lot of money. Rajesh Khanna and Danny were the main players of the plot. Rajesh Khanna plays the role of a psychologist. The plot does involve an old mansion towards the climax but the horror was a far cry from the Ramsay variety. It was also Danny’s first and last directorial venture.

The background score of RD Burman too helped in creating the right amount of thrill, suspense and horror though the same cannot be said about the songs. Though this film might seem dated today, Phir Wahi Raat was a brave and interesting attempt nonetheless.

Raat (1992, Dir. – Ram Gopal Varma)

Raat was directed by Ram Gopal Varma at a time when the very name spelled freshness, innovation and was a force to reckon with. Raat also marked the beginning of RGV’s tryst with the horror genre that continues till today.

The film again had none of the known faces from Bollywood; all it had was few powerful actors. Strange things start happening when Revathy’s family relocates to a semi urban area. The film enters top gear the moment Revathy takes the walk from the bust stand to her parent’s new home. The camera follows her as the second person and soon after there is a sequence of a dead kitten.

The murder of Revathy’s best friend and an attempt to murder Revti’s boyfriend follow next and they all lead to build up the tension and horror in the process. Watch out for the scene when Revathy is enjoying a flick in the company of people and when the camera slowly zooms out from her face. That RGV it seems is lost forever.

Bhoot (2003, Dir. – Ram Gopal Varma)

It’s Ram Gopal Varma again and this time it was the facial expressions of the actors, which did the trick.

Bhoot was India’s first quality horror which showed the location of the ‘ghost’ in a high-rise amidst the hustle and bustle of the Maximum City. The impact of the film was so powerful that it made people believe for a while that ‘ghosts’ too can have their haven in an urban jungle apart from cobweb infested old mansions. Urmila was a revelation when possessed by the spirit. Ajay Devgn as her helpless husband brought out the trauma. But the best performance for creating fear actually goes to the camera department in this multistarrer horror flick.

RGV used tricky angles which none could imagine. I still remember watching the press show of the film at Famous Studios when a colleague of mine fell off the chair because of sheer panic and tension.

Kohraa (1964, Dir. – Biren Nag)

Kohraa starring Waheeda Rahman and Biswajeet had its inspiration from Daphne du Maurier’s novel Rebecca. But to put things more bluntly it was a shameless copy of Alfred Hitchcock’s Rebecca.

The film moves to a mansion after Waheeda Rahman and Biswajeet are married. It’s at the old mansion that Waheeda Rehman learns of Biswajeet’s first wife who suffered death in mysterious circumstances. The film then explores Waheeda’s quest about the first wife after she encounters a supernatural experience. The black and white tone of the film still ensures that the film is not to be watched alone at night.

Updated Date: May 31, 2017 17:49 PM