For most of us, Bollywood is all about mushy, fairytale romances ending on a happily ever after note. In recent times, however, the industry has been experimenting with a variety of genres, especially horror, which had long been treated with disdain. While an increasing number of filmmakers seem to be realisising the potential of a haunting, the market for scary movies largely remains untapped. On the occasion of Halloween, we track the scope of the spooky genre in India.
Scream and shriek
Last year, Anurag Kashyap-led Phantom Films tied up with international production houses, Blumhouse Production and Ivanhoe Pictures to exploit the horror genre. Now, Neeraj Pandey and Shital Bhatia have launched Friday Fearworks which will produce only freaky movies. They believe the film category has a lot of offer in terms of scripts and concepts. “The market has always been there, but hasn’t been utilised to its capacity. The return on investment (RoI) in this genre is much larger than conventional big starrer films. Even in overseas market, 'Conjuring' and 'Insidious 2' had bigger RoIs than 'Iron Man 3' and 'Prometheus'. In Bollywood, films like 'Raaz' and 'Ragini MMS' and its sequel have been extremely successful.
Sunny Leone in 'Raginni MMS 2'
The youth has always been attracted to horror movies and watches them irrespective of the cast,” says Shital.
He believes the genre has a bright future with many filmmakers and production houses trying to tap into it. “Steadily, we will come up with more horror films to match Hollywood. We have the technology at hand, and with creative concepts, we can do great work. In fact, we are planning to make two to three horror movies every year. Our first film, 'Missing', stars Tabu and Manoj Bajpayee which will release next year,” she adds.
Much needed change
Filmmaker Vikram Bhatt, whose name is synonymous with scary movies, believes that makers should be creative enough to satisfy the wants of today’s audience. “We have an Indian idiom of horror. There is love story, songs mixed with supernatural elements. But, lately that has also stopped working because the multiplex audience is demanding the American kind of horror films. They don’t want songs or drama. So, we are working on giving our next, Raaz Reboot a new look. There will not be any unnecessary scene or songs,” he says.
The director feels that big stars and producers look down on horror films, affecting its rise: “Big stars don’t want to be scared of anybody and the heroine doesn’t want to look ugly. Many directors, too, don’t want to work without big stars and production houses won’t back them as they don’t get good returns on satellite. If these things change, we will create better horror films.”
The face of fear
Unlike many actors, Bipasha Basu has associated herself with spooky films time and again and will be seen in a new TV show, 'Darr'. She has, in fact, earned the ‘Bollywood horror queen’ title. “I choose films because of the human drama, the plot and my character. My last few films have been in the horror genre where I have got the opportunity to play exciting characters. I see a great scope for this genre to grow. As and when we make more films with better production values and actors, there’ll be an upgrade in the genre.”
A still from Ram Gopal Varma's 2003 film 'Bhoot'
Manoj Bajpayee, who pairs up with Tabu for 'Missing', says nothing but good content excites actors to take up a film. “If I am approached with good scripts, I will happily do horror films. The genre is exciting since it allows an actor to attempt a range that he/ she may not have achieved before,” he adds.
Trade folk feel there is a loyal fan base for horror, but support of A-listers is required to improve the current scene. “Ajay Devgn-starrer Bhoot did well at the box office and like him, we need good actors to explore the genre. If stars show interest, producers will invest and the collections will go up with higher screen space,” says distributor-exhibitor Akshaye Rathi.