Have ghosts taken over Tamil cinema? Decoding the popularity of horror genre in Kollywood

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May,16 2015 13:09:50 IST

by Sreedhar Pillai

The biggest Tamil cinema hit of 2015’s so far is choreographer turned actor and director Raghavendra Lawrence’s horror - comedy Kanchana 2. The Tamil film, also dubbed in Telugu, released on April 17 and is a runaway summer blockbuster. It has grossed over Rs 100 Crore worldwide primarily from Tamil Nadu and Andhra markets.

In the last one year alone there have been 20 or more films in Tamil in the horror comedy genre. Most of these films dealt with the theme of ghosts and other super naturals, laced with comedy. The horror comedy formula is to make the audience terrified and at the same time make them laugh out loud. One of the most successful horror comedies is arguably Rajinikanth 2005 mass masala blockbuster Chandramukhi.

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A Still from Tamil film Kanchana 2. Image from Facebook.

The success of horror comedies in the last few years like Muni, Muni 2-Kanchana, Pizza, Yaamirukku Bayamey, Aranmanai, Pissasu and Darling has made it the hottest genre in Kollywood. In fact AR Rahman’s nephew and young music director GV Prakash made a successful debut as the hero with horror comedy Darling. Now with Kanchana 2 turning out to be a mega hit more horror comedies are already in the pipeline. Demonte Colony is releasing next friday, and it is a horror film directed by Ajay Gnanamuthu, former assistant of AR Murgadoss. It stars Arulnithi, the grandson of DMK supremo and former chief minister M Karunanidhi in the lead role.

Meanwhile, on May 29, the big budget Suriya-Nayanthara horror comedy Masss directed by Venkat Prabhu is hitting the screens. The trailer of the film has become a big hit online and in the end Suriya appears like a vampire with fangs. This has kicked up a great curiosity among his fans. At a recent press meet, Suriya had said: “In Masss I play a character called Masilamani. I will not say it is a horror film, it is a spooky film with some funny moments.”

In the west, horror comedy is a popular genre that works with the youth. But here in India, it's a genre that people of all ages enjoy. Director-actor (Of Kanchana fame) Raghavendra Lawrence says, while speaking about the genre, “Today Kanchana has become a franchise, as family audiences are loving it. I’m planning another in the series, which will start rolling by the end of this year.”

But what made Kanchana 2 such a huge hit ? Lawrence says he writes his script keeping women and children audiences in mind. There is a repeat audience for Kanchana 2, as the film contains hilarious scenes that people would like watch again and again. One such scene is when Lawrence gets bashed by Taapsee Pannu, who is possessed by a ghost. In Kanchana 2, Lawrence also used various get-up’s including that of an old man, and a small girl and the climax redeems all when good ghost triumphs over the evil.

Director Sundar C, whose Aranmanai (2014) was a big hit, is now making Aranmanai 2 with Siddharth, Hansika, Trisha and a variety of comedians. Sundar is married to actress and Congress spokesperson Khushboo, and he says that whenever they have family and friends over at home, it always ends up with a movie at their home theatre.

Raghavendra Lawrence confesses that it is  comparatively easy to make a full-length horror film by building up the fear factor but not so easy doing a horror comedy. "It is easier to keep adding elements of fear to a scene, but to alternate it with humour is not easy. My target is the family audiences and I should be careful not to show any blood or too much violence and even the comedy should be clean.” Today television channels in Tamil and Telugu are also giving top preference to acquire horror-comedy films.

Another major plus for producers making horror comedies is that they do not require expensive superstars to get that opening. Technology and visual effects makes ghosts look real on screen to provide the chills and thrills. If the content is marketed properly creating the right hype, it may work. Even a little known actor can sail through the box-office riding on the horror comedy wave prevailing in the industry. The film can be shot on a set (mostly a haunted house type), and with little known supporting cast of actors. The major expense for a horror comedy is CGI and graphics essential elements required to create the fear and anxiety among the audiences.

At the moment there are nearly 30 films in Tamil in the horror-comedy genre in various stages of production. Murali Ramanarayanan of Sri Thenandal Films, leading producer and distributor who marketed Kanchana 2 says, “ It is the scary season in Kollywood as horror comedy films are working at the box-office especially among family audiences. Horror films are not new, it is been happening right from 1960’s, but back then it had a limited market. Kanchana 2 is one of the few films in recent times which worked big in multiplexes.”

It looks like Kollywood is going to be haunted by ghosts and super naturals for a long time to come.

Updated Date: May 16, 2015 13:10 PM