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Horror is the current flavour

SREEDHAR PILLAI

The box-office these days seems to be ruled by the supernatural.



FEAR IS THE KEY? Dark Water

Horror movies are the latest trend worldwide. From Chennai to California, horror runs the gamut this year.

In "Chandramukhi," Rajnikanth plays a psychiatrist who uses witchcraft to drive away the spirit that has entered the body of his best friend's wife! "Chandramukhi" is the remake of the Kannada film "Aapthamitra," which will be completing a one-year run in a Bangalore theatre this August!

In a recent film, Urmila Matondkar plays a blind woman who undergoes corneal transplant and gets back her vision but gets more than what she has bargained for as she starts seeing unfriendly ghosts around!

In the Karan Johar produced "Kaal," Ajay Devgan plays a ghost who is on a killing spree.

Year of ghosts



Naina

And in Hollywood they say 2005 will be the `year of ghosts' as 25 films in the horror genre will be released this year.

Some of them like "Ring-2," "Amityville," "White Noise," "Boogeyman" and "Hide and Seek" have already hit the theatres. These days, horror films are less about blood and more about fear and suspense.

According to Vikramjit Roy, Head of Publicity, Sony Pictures India, "I think there is a huge audience for horror worldwide. A film like `Naina' that we distributed had a huge audience of women and the film made Rs. 7 crores from the Indian box-office which is pretty good."

In India, horror films no longer rely on wailing banshees and women in white to send shivers down your spine but rather work on evoking the fear of the unknown. The days of Ramsay brothers and their `Purana Mandir' type stories replete with deformed monsters and half clad women are outdated.

The genre has been made respectable in India by Ram Gopal Varma.

Ramu made "Raat," Ramsay type supernatural thriller, some years ago, followed by "Kaun" and later ``Bhoot" which rewrote ghost story format.

His brief to Urmila Matondgar for ``Bhoot" was — ``I am reworking the horror story in reverse order. The audience must not only be scared of you but also scared [of] what will happen to you. You must not give the audience a chance to relax."

Ramu says that "Bhoot" became a trendsetter as he was able to break the stereotype images seen in earlier ghost movies like creaky gates enveloped in fog, a woman in white, hair loose and walking with a candle!

Adds Ramu: "I wanted to create horror where it is least expected and `Bhoot' worked because of it." Today there is a very big audience to watch ghost films churned out by Varma's film factory directed by his assistants like "Darna Mana Hai" and "Vaastushastra." Later in the year two more films are being readied, like "Amavasi" and "Darna Zaroori Hai."

Small budget



Ananthabhadram

The biggest advantage in the Indian context is that the horror movies can be made in the Rs 3 to 6 crore budget and you don't require big stars.

Mahesh Bhatt has proved it with "Raaz" a rip-off of "What Lies Beneath" a huge domestic hit. Since then Bhatt has been on the spook trail and today's multiplex audience loves films in the horror genre.

Says Swaroop Reddy of Sathyam Cinemas: "Horror films in any language take a good opening depending on the content of the film. The audience is looking for gripping moments and scary scenes." Remember that when Shah Rukh Khan played a friendly ghost in love with Rani in "Paheli," the film failed to work!

Noted cinematographer Santhosh Sivan is directing a Malayalam film "Ananthabhadram" about ghosts, spirits and black magic. The film has the Bengali beauty Riya Sen along with Pritviraj and Manoj. K. Jayan playing an evil tantric.

Meanwhile in the U.S., the biggest horror movie of the year is "Dark Water" which is releasing today, its opening in India scheduled for next week (July15).

This film is directed by Walter Salles and has Jennifer Connelly playing a mother who has just got custody of her daughter after a bitter dispute.

She is holed up in a run-down apartment fearing her former husband but she and her daughter are targeted by the ghost of a former resident of the house.

The film is a remake of the Japanese horror specialist Hideo Nakata's film "Hongurai Mizu No Soko Kara."

Japanese invasion

Now Hollywood is flooded with horror remakes of Japanese and Taiwanese films. It all started with "The Ring," a ghost thriller which was a remake of "Ringu," which grossed nearly $150 millions in the U.S.

Last year, another Japanese film "Ju-On" was made as "The Grudge" another big hit. Now Tom Cruise Production Company is remaking "Jian Gui" as "The Eye."

But Indian directors are smarter as it has been already been made in Tamil as "Athu" and "Naina" in Hindi!

The meeting of East and West already means good business but definitely not good movies.

The horror films are short on story and big on scares as they try to succeed.

At the same time, the small screen in India is also flooded with stories on the supernatural.

The 10 to 11 p.m. slot on almost all regional channels have serials on witchcraft, the occult and other typical Indian supernatural phenomena. Suddenly horror has become the hot genre of entertainment worldwide.

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