Varun Thakur discusses Shaitaan Haveli — his homage to B-grade horror movies of the '80s

Anvisha Manral

Jan,13 2018 17:34:51 IST

On the totem pole, B-grade horror movies are pretty low for the average Bollywood buff. However, they carry a strong sense of nostalgia and recall value for people who grew up watching films by Ramsay Brothers despite the tacky visuals and cringe-y ghosts.

One such fan is actor-comedian Varun Thakur, who is also the creator of the Amazon exclusive show Shaitaan Haveli. His unabiding love for the 'horrex' genre has now transposed into a tribute of sorts. The eight-episode show went live on 5 January and was shortly deemed a true-blue entertainer, even by people who in all likelihood would not think twice before panning a horrex film from the 80s.

Varun Thakur

Varun Thakur

After finally realising his Shaitaan Haveli dream, which he first saw at the age of 15, Thakur speaks to Firstpost about putting Varun, the creator of the series, before Varun, the aspiring actor, and more. Excerpts from our chat:

How did Shaitaan Haveli come about?

I was sort of getting stagnated with stand up and sketches so the idea of doing a series hit me. I was initially writing Shaitaan Haveli as a film but I found out that Amazon was looking to make a series, which is when the writing team, comprising Chirag Mahabal, Kautuk Shrivastava and Karan Agarwal, came in. We fleshed out the story from a one-liner and that's how the Shaitaan Haveli was born.

How did you manage to convert a film script into a one suited for a series?

Today, the important thing about writing is series is that every episode needs to have a cliffhanger because people want to 'binge' the show. Apart from that, the subject matter had to be something that nobody had done before. Currently, nobody is doing a throwback in the Indian market. With that, I needed to have a series whose title would instantly make people laugh and I found that in Shaitaan Haveli. I would tell someone the title of the show and they would laugh. So that were the core ideas, for writing for a series.

Any specific reason why there are references to contemporary pop culture in Shaitaan Haveli?

Absolutely. I knew for a fact that if you are 25 and above, you would relate to the show more because growing up, you at least knew these movies existed and what they represented. But the bigger challenge was to make sure that the millennials (18 to 25), who form a big chunk of my audience, understand and relate to the series as well. This is precisely why there are references to Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (there is a love triangle involving a chudail), Game of Thrones and Andaz Apna Apna. Despite being a homage to the horror movies of the '80s, the show is set in the present so as to incorporate these references.

How did you manage to replicate those films so well?

Everything that you see in the show is intentional and ironical. There's a campiness to the series because the genre that we are paying homage to, is very campy. We have deliberate continuity jumps in the series. In one shot, my hair is short and it's unusually long in the next; different people are holding the same lantern in different shots; there's blood coming from different sides of my face in the same scene, because these jumps are very much there in those horror movies too. Therefore, due to  these nuances and obviously, a lot of current references, the feedback that we've gotten so far, not just from viewers above 25 but also the younger lot, has been positive.

Many viewers have have found Hariman (another character) to be the show stealer. How does Varun, the actor feel about this?

I knew for a fact that whatever story we write and whatever roles we flesh out, until and unless I don't fit a character, I won't be it. At one point of time, I was toying with the idea of making Vicky Malhotra (a popular character he plays regularly during stage shows and on social media) a part of it. And since it's my show, I could have easily gone ahead and done that but I didn't. The primary task was to get the cast right. Although yes, it's my show and I am trying to launch myself but if it were needed for me to not act in Shaitaan Haveli, I wouldn't have put myself in it. Despite Hariman being at the centre of the series, I got to do all my herogiri in the series — fought zombies in slow motion — it was quite fun.

Shaitaan Haveli is now available on Amazon Prime Video India.

Updated Date: Jan 13, 2018 17:34 PM