It takes a special bone to be a Bollywood fan and talk about the horror genre. One should start the conversation by first apologizing to the genre on behalf of every Indian filmmaker who exploited it, to do something deliriously different and outlandish. Horrex is a genre in India, if you know that, sigh. In the midst of all this is the Ramsay Brothers, a very ambitious and highly influential Veerana, who hit the big screens in 1988.
Director: Ramsay Brothers
Available in: Youtube
Now I know that the first thought would be, why would a millennial child recommend to the audience to see a movie from 1988, when the technology is now superior? The answer is in the question. Ramsay Brothers managed to scare their audience at a time when the technology was not really advanced. When makeup looked like makeup, and well, pointy lingerie was, honestly, Bollywood’s favorite motif. I hate the last one though.
So let’s go back in time. It’s the year 1988, Bollywood is now beating the chest and obsessed with the full-blown discovery (by then) of the horror genre. The fact that ’88 itself had 5 horror movies and the next three years 9 is proof. In short, we were ‘experimenting’. So what made a movie like Veerana stand out in those 5 other movies that had Rajesh Khanna and Mithun Chakraborty in two? And Veerana doesn’t have a big star for your information, except Kulbhushan Kharbanda.
It was the Ramsay brothers who took inspirations and used them to create a story that is more visual than verbal. Veerana’s cinematic language was in her visuals rather than on paper. Of course, it took the path that now seems basic and ‘just another aspiring horror drama’. But think about it, we were still exploring and a large part of the population of this country lived in that landscape. For them, it was seeing Gully Boy set in a world they know, except that Safina is a ghost in this one.
Veerana is loosely adapted from Vampyres by Jose Larraz. The movie, of course, has the hint of black magic, and also the poorly choreographed fight sequences. But what stands out are the colors, the decorations, the frames, the light and the use of music. One has to really admire the hard work that the witch shows on the screen. It was not a time when prosthetics were so advanced that the actor wearing them could move his face. It largely depends on the camera that makes it look scary. And the brothers make sure they do.
Take a scene, for example. There are numerous animals that are referenced in the movie. A photo frame has a dog. Hinting at possible bad news, the camera zoom into the frame and lights highlight your eyes – spooky vibes achieved! You don’t need high-level resources to induce terror, and this movie is a shining example.
I will not deny that there is eroticism, objectification of women and also of men to some extent. That is problematic and needs to be addressed, but that does not mean that it invalidates the products. Try watching Veerana, an experimental film that paved the way for many others.
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