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On the ghostly trail: A look at the lighter side of ghost stories of Bollywood

Bollywood has given us many ghostly tales, some scary, some ‘sexy’ and some downright hilarious. Filmmakers have let their imagination run wild as far as the dead and the afterlife are concerned. We look at the lighter side of the sssh-tory

Ghost films in Bollywood first tried to gain sympathy, then moved on to being downright hilarious and are now more practical and err... somewhat domesticated.

Tia Bajpai in 1920: Evil Returns
Tia Bajpai in '1920: Evil Returns'

Ghosts that remember
Popular in films of the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s (read: 'Mahal', 'Bees Saal Baad' and the likes), these were heroines-in-white who would die and turn into ghosts, instead of being reborn. Their only mission was to get back to the man they loved in their previous life and scare the hell out of him.

In Vikram Bhatt’s films, 1920 Evil Returns, Tia Bajpai plays a possessed girl who wants to reclaim her love
In Vikram Bhatt’s films, '1920 Evil Returns', Tia Bajpai plays a possessed girl who wants to reclaim her love

A prototype scene: In the middle of the night, only the hero can hear a soulful song in Lata Mangeshkar’s voice emanating from somewhere in the distance. He gets out of the house and the next moment, he finds himself in the middle of a thick jungle following a vision in white.

Bhoot Returns was a 3D horror film made by Ram Gopal Varma
'Bhoot Returns' was a 3D horror film made by Ram Gopal Varma

The apparition wears her long hair open, and is sometimes equipped with a burning candle. She also looks sad, really sad. The hero has to show that he is perplexed but is also in the mood to help her out of her misery. But then she disappears now and then and reappears on a swing or some such random place, to coolly continue with the next para of the sad song.

A still from the Ramsay Brothers’ film, Veerana
A still from the Ramsay Brothers’ film, 'Veerana'

The foolish hero spends the night anxiously looking for the woman who’s here one minute and absent the next. Talk about some women not being able to make up their minds.

A poster of the horror-hit, Purana Mandir
A poster of the horror-hit, 'Purana Mandir'

Bhatt films’ sexy ghosts
Mukesh Bhatt produced 'Raaz' and 'Raaz 2', and then Vikram Bhatt carried the horror lineage forward with '1920', 'Haunted', and other similar films. The Bhatts like their ghosts to belong to the scantily clad, sexy variety. Most of these horror and sex films worked well at the BO.

A prototype scene: The hero and heroine are embroiled in hot, intimate scenes with a lot of kisses thrown in and the “ghost” is watching them from a distance.

The cult Ramsay movies
The Ramsays, who can be easily called the horror papas of Bollywood, gave us a series of successful films which might have not evoked fear but nevertheless managed to entertain big time with their generous doses of sex, masala and action. Ramsays weren’t sexists when it came to ghosts. Their ghosts were both male and female, whereas most other filmmakers preferred women ghosts.

Prototype scenes:
1. A semi-nude lady is taking a shower in a big, isolated house with all its doors thrown open, and the ghost is just about to strike her.

2. A group of youngsters or a couple in love get stranded in a jungle and knock on the door of a big, eerie-looking bungalow. Even as the background music reaches a deafening crescendo, an old, ugly housekeeper with a bad hair day opens the door. He has a menacing-looking lantern in his hand.

The really scary ones
Say what you want about him, but no one understood ghosts better than Ram Gopal Verma. Films such as 'Raat' and 'Bhoot' only reiterate this. Remember that theatre scene in Raat or that truly scary one in 'Bhoot', when Urmila Matondkar catches Barkha Madam staring at her through the bedroom door when she wakes up? Brrr….

Give us more of these
We would love to see more sublime versions of ghosts like the ones Dimple Kapadia and Hema Malini played in Gulzar’s film, 'Lekin'.

Recent versions
In recent times, the ghost has become mild and kind with Amitabh Bachchan playing the benevolent 'Bhootnath'. Ekta Kapoor’s Marathi-speaking ghosts in the films, 'Ragini MMS' and 'Ragini MMS2', however, continue to be menacing and destructive.

Disappeared into thin air?

These girls played ghosts and then vanished from the film scene:

>> Malini Sharma, who played the ghost in 'Raaz'.
>> Barkha Madan, who played the titular ghost in the film, 'Bhoot'.

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