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Why such a low rating?
'Aks' is probably one of the most underrated films. For years, it only remained in the good books of critics, because the mainstream movie goers rejected it straight away. Now 'Aks' didn't get the respect it deserved because of few things: 1. It's a supernatural drama (not masala) film. 2. It doesn't waste a single minute in things like upbeat romance and so on. Yes, there is romance, but Mehra has handled it differently. 3. The first half is fast but the film loses pace in the 2nd half and becomes more drama-oriented. 4. Strong performances by seasoned theater actors got less attention from glamour seeking audience. Yes they needed something that 'sells' in the market. Now, the plot!

The film begins with Budapest, the capital of Hungary, where the Indian Defence Minister (Amol Palekar) is being escorted to a safe location by his security chief Manu Verma (Amitabh Bachchan) and his fleet. Amol tells Manu that he thinks security personnel are like machines as they have to work round the clock and always remain on high alert. We see that Defence Minister being spied upon and someone from a distant building is waiting to shoot him (The day of the jackal? Remember that?). Fortunately, Manu senses the danger and asks the fleet to take another way. Moments later, we see Manu going to Amol's room. Amol gives him a confidential floppy containing the names of all the suspects, who are plotting against the government and want to kill good leaders of the country. After taking the floppy, Manu draws a silencer equipped gun and shoots Amol point blank. Manu rushes outside and we see him finally getting to a lonely place, where he gets rid of his false heels and a heavy latex mask. We see that it's not Manu, but Raghavan Ghatge (Manoj Bajpai), a ruthless contract killer, who is in Budapest on an assignment to kill the Defence Minister. Despite hard trials, the real Manu fails to locate the killer.

Raghavan returns to Mumbai and is given a contract to kill the Prime Minister (Mohan Agashe), who is also a popular leader. Manu is restless, because he couldn't carry out his responsibility properly. He meets his old colleague Pradhan (Kamal Chopra), a highly experienced cop. They both try to locate the killer unofficially and take help of an old (and now wheelchair bound) gangster Hanif Kasai (Virendra Saxena), who now works as a police informant. Hanif tells them that the killer is Raghavan. Pradhan finds that Raghavan frequents a club called 'Topaz Bar' to meet his girlfriend Neeta (Raveena Tandon) from time to time. He also comes to know that Raghavan lives with his close ally Narang (Vineeth Kumar) and his mentally retarded but full grown brother Mahadev (K.K. Raina), who has unusual calibre of making excellent latex masks!

Time goes by and another gangster Yeda Yakub (Vijay Raaz) is killed by Raghavan. Pradhan finally goes to 'Topaz Bar' to nab Raghavan, but Raghavan is bit too clever and shoots Pradhan, killing him in the process. A desperate Manu finds a bleeding Pradhan and vows to arrest Raghavan. Findings show that Raghavan usually goes to meditate in a nearby jungle and races with the wolves! Manu doesn't know that Raghavan also knows black magic. Manu along with his team of trained commandos, goes to the forest to nab Raghavan, but Raghavan kills all the commandos one by one with sheer brutality. After a close encounter with death, Manu finally subdues Raghavan and takes him along. Manu asks Raghavan to tell the names of all his clients, who are plotting against the government, but Raghavan doesn't reveal anything. Manu even promises him life sentence instead of death penalty if he revealed those names, but Raghavan is determined.

On the day Raghavan is being dragged to the gallows, he snatches a gun from a police officer and tries to kill Manu, but Manu shoots him and Raghavan dies. This is where the actual story begins. Raghavan's spirit possesses Manu and forces him to kill all those who mistreated or deceived him. Possessed by Raghavan's spirit, Manu begins to act like him and goes deranged. He shoots Narang, who double crossed him, kills two RAW agents, brutally rapes his wife Supriya (Nandita Das) and then kills Justice Balwant Choudhary (Pramod Moutho), who issued Raghavan a death penalty. A doubtful Supriya comes to know that Manu is possessed by the vengeful spirit of Raghavan and seeks help of her spiritual Guru (Salim Ghouse), who tells him that spirits also follow the course of nature and can be defeated during total solar eclipse, when their powers vain out.

Finally on the day of total solar eclipse, Manu uses his will power to drive away Raghavan's spirit, but the spirit now possesses a junior police officer Arjun (Abhimanyu Singh) thus asserting the essence of Bhagwad Gita, which states that a soul is immortal and nothing can destroy it.

Aks can be interpreted in many ways. On the spiritual front, it validates the existence of good and evil spirits. On the entertainment front, It disappoints. Films like 'Aks,' 'Samay - 2003,' 'Gehrayee - 1980', and 'Raat - 1992' are actually made for serious audiences, who don't have qualms taking non-spicy food. If you like the hazy world of spirits and reincarnation, then you may give 'Aks' a try. It's a good combination of horror and thriller, but again, this combination has gone very artistic here. The use of drumbeats to build up the atmosphere and a continuous feeling of 'Aks' being a theatrical show rather than a full fledged movie, is really impressive. The drums also bring some hypnotic touch to the scenes (Remember 'Scalps - 1983'?) and remain with you for a very long time. I watched it 15 years ago, but can still play all those scenes in my head effortlessly. Overall, a great effort by Mehra, not in terms of family entertainment, but for those who are 'mystery-horror' buffs. Good one!


The last best horror film of the early 90s
'Raat' was released in the early 90s, precisely in 1992. The early 90s were the time when the substance of horror was nowhere to be found in the horror films. Unlike Ramsay films, 'Raat' wasn't a B- movie. Yes, it had low budget, yet the actors like Rohini Hattangadi, Revathi, Aakash Khurana, Anant Nag and Om Puri save it from being a B-movie. I watched it in 1992 when it was released in several cinema halls. Thanks we didn't have multiplexes then, else the collections would have been less. 'Raat' is all about a decent setup, tricky camera work and horror. Fortunately, this is far better than any other horror movie released in the late 80s and early 90s. People would say that Ram Gopal Varma got into horror soon after 'Bhoot - 2003,' but the truth is that his love for horror is well reflected in his early creation like 'Raat' that haunts me even after 22 straight years. 'Raat' is about belief vs disbelief and known vs the unknown. Let's have a look at the plot.

Mr. Sharma (Aakash Khurana) has just shifted to a new house located in a posh suburban area of Hyderabad. He lives along with his wife Shalini (Rohini Hattangadi), daughter Manisha aka Minnie (Revathy) who is in her late teens and grandson Bunty (Atit), who is the son of his deceased daughter and elder sister of Minnie. The house is elegant and the Sharmas are happy with it. Minnie is happier than everyone else because the house next to hers belongs to her fast friend Rashmi (Jaya Mathur). Minnie lives a carefree life and loves spending quality time with her college mates like Deepak (Sushant) and Rashmi. Minnie is having a silent affair with Deepak and both of them want to keep their profile low.

Ever since the Sharmas shifted to this new house, Minnie is having nightmares, where she finds herself being chased by some unknown entity that ultimately gets her. Scoffing at her own silliness, Minnie dejects the idea that something might be fishy. She even suffers from episodes of delusion where she finds herself all alone even when surrounded with her friends in actuality. Rashmi's grandmother, who had been living in the very next house is surprised how the Sharmas decided to move into this house because she thinks (or knows?) that the house had a bad past and is home to an evil spirit. Minnie's delusions take a bad turn one day, when she decides to go to a nearby picnic spot with Deepak on his birthday.

During their trip Deepak gets an idea that something is abnormal with Minnie as during a fit of delusion, the color of her eyes change and she behaves as if her senses are being ruled by some unknown entity. The episodes come and go in a jiffy but gradually intensify. Minnie even kills Rashmi in a fit of delusion and the investigating officer Tej Sapru is mysteriously trampled under a truck. Rashmi's death mystery remains unsolved. Shalini begins to smell a rat too but Mr. Sharma doesn't believe her. One night, Minnie attacks her father thus giving him a reason to believe that something strange is lurking in the vicinity. Mr. Sharma considers it to be a psychological problem and brings home a shrink (Anant Nag) but Shalini is advised by Rashmi's grandmother to seek the help of Sharji (Om Puri), a renowned exorcist. Sharji's findings reveal that an evil spirit (Sunanda) is living below the house and needs to be warded off to save Minnie's life. How Sharji, Deepak and Shalini work together to save Minnie's life forms rest of the story.

'Raat' reeks atmosphere and is intense at several places. Revathi is brilliant and truly convincing in her efforts. Deepak doesn't have much to do, but his role is still an important ingredient of this flick. Even after 22 years, I would like to thank Ram Gopal Varma for his ingenious and flawless direction. One shouldn't forget Bunty as well, because he literally owns some of the most memorable scenes, especially the ones related to his dear cat. Aakash Khurana's effortless acting is smooth and natural as always and Om Puri shines in his brief role of Sharji. I don't consider 'Raat' as a family entertainment, because it's not made from entertainment perspective but still remains a horror drama that is rude and truly chilling. As Sharji says, ' When we light a lamp, a certain area around it is lit. This illumination is just a deception, because the areas where light doesn't reach are still dark and hold so many secrets that can only be understood in the light of paranormal wisdom. We need to be prepared to fight this darkness, else it will consume us.' I guess this statement details everything about 'Raat' and the thought that might have provoked Ram Gopal Varma to produce and direct it.

Alag Alag

Alas! Alag-Alag couldn't save Kaka's dwindling career!
The year was 1985 and Late Rajesh Khanna was no more a superstar. Yes, he had projects but none of them were powerful enough to revive his career that was on a downward slide. The quartet (Samanta, Pancham, Kaka and Kishore) had come together again to create a magic, but as time would see, Alag-Alag couldn't become more than a musical hit. During the early and mid-80s the art cinema was at its peak and films like Garm Hawa, Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron, Tarang, Ardh Satya etc. were actually sketching a true portrait of the Indian society. Alag-Alag is very-very filmy, I mean it misses something that could connect it with the paradigm of real world. The story is a simple tale of two individuals, who start off bickering but end up loving each other. The film portrays their struggle and how they manage to get over all the obstacles to ultimately attain their 'Zindagi Ka Maqsad' (Life's Goal) that unfortunately changes twice or thrice in 3 hours. The good thing about Alag-Alag is that it's loaded with memorable and lingering songs and is also very nostalgic. I watch it whenever I like to take a trip to the mid-80s, when films used to be so stress busting comical creations. Ah! The Wonderful 80s.

Neeraj (Rajesh Khanna) is an aspiring singer, who comes to Mumbai hoping to make it big in the music world. In Mumbai, he lives with his friend Karim (Deven Verma), who assists him in his hunt for opportunities. Even though Neeraj is talented, yet none of the music directors want to give him a chance as a playback singer. He sings for the common people living in the neighborhood and is admired by all.

Chandni (Tina Munim) is an innocent runaway village belle, who has come to Mumbai to find a suitable and rich husband for herself. Neeraj and Chandni come across each other and keep fighting over trivial issues. Fate takes Chandni to Dr. Pratap Rana (Shashi Kapoor), who is a successful doctor and lives in a palatial house. Dr. Rana is a widower and Chandni due to her sheer innocence, wants to chance upon him. However, Dr. Rana looks upon her as his daughter.

One day Neeraj is discovered by a successful actress Sarita (Bindu). Neeraj thinks she could help him getting a chance to perform, but Sarita is actually obsessed with him and wants to pull him into a live-in relationship. When Neeraj comes to know of Sarita's amorous intentions, he severs his relationship and goes back to Karim. It's there he realizes that he only loves Chandni and wants to begin his life with her.

Chandni is blessed with a melodious voice and Dr. Rana wants to teach her urban mannerism. For this he sends Chandni to Begum Zaidi (Gita Siddharth). On the other side, Neeraj finally gets his long awaited chance to become a playback singer. He makes it big in the world of music and then his 'Zindagi Ka Maqsad' shifts to Chandni. He follows Chandni to Begum Zaidi's house and vows to 'kindle the flame of love' in Chandni's heart. Despite denying earlier, Chandni finally realizes that she loves Neeraj and they thus come on the same note.

Chandni wants to go to Dr. Rana and Neeraj decides a spot to meet once she is back. When Chandni goes to Dr. Rana, she finds him on deathbed. Rana dies soon after wishing Chandni a happy life. Now we see that previously Neeraj had a rift with his billionaire Dad (Subbiraj) that led him to Mumbai. He rejoins his family and is now a billionaire too (Wish I were lucky too!). Neeraj wants to meet Chandni but meets an accident that turns him mute (I never knew that injury on vocal chords is a psychological problem. Wonder how they made it up!).

When Neeraj doesn't show up, Chandni is left all alone and homeless. To hide his inability, Neeraj begins to avoid Chandni. Feeling that she has been ditched by Neeraj, Chandni's 'Zindagi ka Maqsad' shifts towards realizing the dreams of now deceased Dr. Rana, who wanted to see her as a successful singer. Neeraj helps Chandni in realizing her goals unbeknownst to her, because now Neeraj's 'Zindagi Ka Maqsad' is to establish Chandni as a successful singer. He begs a great music maestro Mirza ji (Om Shivpuri) to groom Chandni. Well, you see Mirza ji and Karim both live in the same house....Oops this was a goof!

Alag-Alag had scope, but only if it were released in 70s. By early 80s, the audience had adopted a new taste for action films and family dramas. There were so many young and promising faces to challenge an aging Rajesh Khanna. Mithun, Rishi Kapoor, Jackie Shroff, Anil Kapoor, Sunny Deol etc. had a list of successful films behind them. Rajesh Khanna had hits and semi-hits like 'Souten,' 'Avtaar,' and 'Kudrat,'yet I won't say he was fit for Alag-Alag. He looks too old and his wardrobe doesn't suit him. I mean, he looks funny with those costumes when he tries to throw his jaded charms acting like a young boy that he surely wasn't. I guess Shakti Samanta had to cast him as a hero because Kaka produced the film. Samanta should have disagreed with Kaka just the way Mahesh Bhatt did while directing 'Naam,' for which producer Rajendra 'Jubilee' Kumar asked him to give the part Sanjay Dutt was playing to his own son Kumar Gaurav. Time told that Bhatt was right, else 'Naam' would have been a fiasco. Desipte a simple story line with so many unprecedented events, packed with funny twists and turns, 'Alag- Alag' is still a strong representative of the 80s, so you can watch it too in case you are a hardcore fan of Rajesh Khanna (like me) and need to take a quick trip to the 80s.

Alibaba Aur 40 Chor

A wonderful journey to the age old classic cinema
I seldom review 'fairy tales' because of their speculative nature. Such tales usually take me to an imaginary world for an hour or two and when their effect fizzles out, I realize that it didn't work on me as it should have. However, this isn't the case with 'Alibaba Aur 40 Chor' released in the year 1979 or 1980. It was a collaborative effort between India and USSR. It was a film directed jointly by Umesh Mehra and Latif Faiziev. The duo would also direct 'Sohni Mahiwal' in 1984, yet another milestone with evergreen songs. Since 'Alibaba Aur 40 Chor' is a 3 hour film, we would better look at the characters and their parts in this film.

1. Fatima (Zeenat Aman): She is the daughter of an old and rich merchant (Madan Puri), who is not only a businessman but also the inventor of explosives! When his caravan is raided by 40 thieves, headed by the dreaded Abu Hassan (Rolan Bykov), Madan Puri and his aides try to stop them with explosives. Successful to some extent, the aides finally break down under the might of Abu Hassan, who takes Fatima and his dad captive and confines them both in an underground cave. Madan Puri is forced to make explosives for the thieves and Fatima is given charge to arrange stuffs for making bombs. In course of time, Fatima discovers that her dad committed suicide and is left all alone to avenge his death. With the help of Alibaba (Dharmendra) she finally manages to grab Abu Hassan.

2. Alibaba aka Ali Bin Yusuf (Dharmendra): He is a resident of Gulabad (a fictional town located in a fictional Islamic State of Baharistaan) and a wastrel. He loves to spend time with his beloved friend Hamid. Alibaba is concerned about the wellness of Gulabad and wants to serve the people of his community. Time takes turn when Alibaba's mother (Sofiko Chiaureli) asks him to look for his father Yusuf, who is a trader but hasn't returned to Gulabad in the last 40 years. Alibaba's journey takes him to Baharistaan where he finds that the current ruler Shah Alam Parvez (Pinchoo Kapoor) has been deposed and killed by his commander-in-chief Shamsher (Prem Chopra). Alibaba rescues princess Marjina (Hema Malini) killing Shamsher in the process and they both join a caravan that's heading to Gulabad. He meets his long lost dad Yusuf in the caravan, but the happiness is short lived when Abu Hassan and his men attack the caravan and Yusuf is fatally wounded. Ali vows to slay Abu Hassan and his men, not really knowing that Abu Hassan is mightier than what people have ever known about him.

3. Qasim (Zakir Mukhamedzhanov): He is Alibaba's elder brother. He is an industrious businessman and runs a store in Gulabad. His greed takes him to Abu Hassan's hideout, where he enters using the magical spell (Khul Jaa Sim Sim) but forgets it at the time he's about to leave. Abu Hassan and his henchmen discover Qasim hiding under the pile of dimes and quarter him. His corpse is hung inside the cave but Alibaba recovers it and gets it sewn by an experienced tailor.

4. Marjina (Hema Malini): She is the daughter of Shah Alam Parvez and the princess of Gulabad. First Alibaba rescues her from Shamsher and then from a lecherous merchant Mustafa (Frunze Mkrtchyan) when he is about to sell her in the slave market. Marjina becomes Alibaba's trusted friend and lover and helps him in devising a plan to track Abu Hassan down.

5. Abu Hassan (Rolan Bykov): Abu Hassan is the dreaded chief of 40 thieves. He is cruel, mean, cunning, courageous and a great actor. When I say actor, I really mean it. Rolan Bykov needs a standing ovation for his part. He has literally lived the character of Abu Hassan on screen. He portrays two different characters in the movie, who are not only one and the same but also exactly opposite. Either ways, he has justified his part and plays it fairly well. His dialogs are menacing, his humors are vengeful, his personality, his turban, his eyes, his looks and everything about him is sinister and the manner he magically transforms from one character to another is miraculous. The way he scolds his henchmen and makes them run like rats tells a lot about Abu Hassan's excellent commanding persona. I am so much in love with this man. He has sidelined all the other actors and meets success in making a special place in the viewer's mind.

Even though 'Alibaba Aur 40 Chor' has considerable differences from the actual '1001 Arabian Nights' yet it is no boring and is capable enough to take the viewers in the old Arabian world where Merchants, Caravan Raiders, Magicians, Qaazis, Haakims and such unique figures used to exist. The part of Abu Hassan has been well handled. The original '1001 Arabian Nights' doesn't have Abu Hassan in it, but here Mehra and Faiziev introduced him and thanks that they did. This is indeed a fine example of classic cinema and the lovers of classic cinema would appreciate it. I also appreciate Javed Siddiqui for penning down dialogs that are in simple Urdu (unlike Razia Sultan, Mughal-e-Azam, Sikandar-e-Azam and some others) and it is also 100 times better than other films with Arabian backdrop like Ravikant Nagaich's 'Thief of Baghdad-1977' and 'Shabnam - 1964'. The songs are fresh and soothing. Overall, a complete family entertainment.


And you thought vampires live only in the West?
This was again a new experiment in everyday horror. Under the shade of various strange horror films of the west, the Indian directors like the Ramsays' and several others began looking for better ideas. 'Bhayanak' is perhaps inspired by several 70s western horror flicks, but successfully carves its own identity. I watched this one years ago with my uncle at a local theater and recollect getting goosebumps and hiding my face behind my uncle's shoulders whenever a creepy scene was thrown. This is just one straight great delivery by S.U. Syed, who lost his mind in course of time. His another flick 'Saat Saal Baad' that was a shameless copy of Friday the 13th (1980) shows that Syed was caught in a downward spiral.

Bhayanak begins with a beautiful woman (Ranjeeta) being manhandled by some goons outside a local cemetery. The goons are interrupted by a police inspector (Mithun). Since Mithun is not in his police uniform, the goons take him for a nerd and try to scare him away from the scene. Mithun beats them mercilessly and saves the girl. The girl has no relatives and is new in the town. Mithun and Ranjeeta come along on the same note and begin dating each other. Soon they decide to get married and settle down. It's not very long when Mithun is transferred to another town (Mangalpur?). Promising his newly wed wife a quick reunion at Mangalpur, Mithun leaves for his destination. Few days later, Ranjeeta receives a telegram from Mangalpur. She comes to know that unable to pick her up, Mithun has asked her to come to Mangalpur all by herself. Ranjeeta takes a bold decision of going to Mangalpur, but on her arrival finds that Mangalpur is a desolate town with strange people. She decides to continue her further journey by foot, but ends up at a large wilderness where a strange Tonga is waiting for her. Bewildered by the reigning silence of the wilderness, Ranjeeta decides to board the Tonga but goes helpless when the Tonga takes her to a creepy grove, where she is murdered. When Mithun comes to know of her arrival and later death, he decides to investigate the matter. Ranjeeta's corpse is devoid of blood and this looks strange to Mithun. With a special permission from his superiors, Mithun begins to look for the clues. His investigation ultimately leads him to the deranged family of Thakur (Nilu Phule), who with his brothers lives a secretive life. They say that those who tried to sneak into his Haveli were never seen again. Whenever Thakur or his family members are out on streets, they are barked upon and chased by the street dogs. Something is seriously different about this family that happens to have a plan of exploiting their victims for a common but highly sinister cause.

Bhayanak has a crispy storyline with several twists. What begins like a typical Mithun film becomes grimmer and darker minute by minute. This film has a subtle amount of atmosphere and that too at a mediocre budget. I guess they found a story that was nifty enough to demean the budget. Nilu Phule, Om Shivpuri and the other roughnecks need an honorable mention here for their shares. Although Bhayanak is inspired by western vampire tales, it has been molded uniquely to impress the local audience. This is certainly S.U. Syed's first and last best film.


Deserves a watch
Be-Shaque was released in 1981, the golden age of horror and thriller. I remember, my uncle would listen to Be-Shaque songs on his gramophone before heading to office every morning, and I enjoyed the tracks like 'Haseen Haseen Wadiyon' sung emotionally by Anwar and a pleasant duet 'Preetam Tum Mere Rahoge Sada' by Suresh Wadkar and Usha Khanna while I played with my cousins. Recently the film got aired on a movie channel at an odd time slot. Since I wasn't sleepy and the following day was Sunday, I decided to give it a try. Here is what it's all about.

A woodcutter Lakkhi (Mohan Choti) is out in the forest to collect some woods. He witnesses the murder of a wealthy youth Shyam Sunder (Vinod Mulani) and decides to break the news in the village. He gathers everyone and takes them to the murder spot. He is bewildered to see that what was Shyam Sunder's corpse moments ago, has now miraculously changed into a dead bear. The police arrive and begin investigating the case. The police officer (Suresh Chatwal) has no clues about the murder as he only manages to scrap some samples of human blood from the site of incident. The inspector questions Shyam's widowed step-mom Nirmala (Sonia Sahani) about Shyam's lifestyle, but gets little help from her. Nirmala tells him that Shyam was fond of hunting and was more of a rolling stone. Her daughter Roopa (Yogeeta Bali) is a loner and loves to spend most of her time roaming in the fields and woods with Khokhu (Master Prakash), the son of Nirmala's old and trusted servant Gopal (Amrish Puri). Nirmala is secretively involved with Mishra ji (Jalal Agha), a wretched and cunning neighbor. Mishra usually sneaks into Nirmala's palatial house at night so as to keep his illicit affair with Nirmala a secret.

Some days after the murder, we meet Prakash (Mithun Chakraborty), who has just arrived in the village for Shyam. He meets Nirmala and tells her that he owes some money to Shyam and has come all the way long to return it. Nirmala is suspicious about Prakash, but has nothing against him. Soon Prakash and Roopa begin meeting each other and Khokhu becomes their trusted messenger. Gopal doesn't like Prakash and always keeps an eye on him. We also come across an abandoned house at the outskirts of the village, which is believed to be haunted. Nobody knows who sealed the house and why. As the mystery deepens, we see various hidden facets of the entire story. Here, something is not as it seems to be.

Be-Shaque boasts lush cinematography, and a murder mystery set up in the backdrop of rural India surely deserves a watch. Kashinath has showcased his directorial abilities accurately. Mithun and Yogeeta (the real couples) are nice on screen and go quite amicably. Amirish Puri, Mohan Choti, Jalal Agha, Sonia Sahani and above all Shakti Kapoor need an honorable mention for their shares. The sharpest edges of this thriller cum murder mystery are the locations and versatile acting by all the characters. During the early 80s, the common theme of murder mysteries revolved around urban locales, where a masked killer would continue to murder hapless victims to satisfy his/her sinister urges. Here we don't have a masked assailant with a drenched raincoat and a mean nifty hat or a cheroot to pronounce the killer's vicious identity, but rather a very simple and easy setup. Be-Shaque has a plenty of atmosphere (Ah..Did somebody say 'Gehrayee'?) and the simple lifestyle of the village-men has been used as a deadly cover-up. You always bet on the simplicity of the village-men. A clumsy person is labeled 'Desi' sometimes. Now here, you've got to face the same Desi stock that is far clever than your imagination (Oh..Did somebody say '2000 Maniacs?). As far as I am concerned, I never grew up beyond the early 80s. Be-Shaque has a complex plot, but the director knows to put it simple. Overall Be-Shaque can be watched for its lead pair, bunch of versatile actors, melodious songs, lifelike cinematography, active plot and atmosphere. Oh...Did I cover everything?


The odd one out!
The beginning years of the 90s were most traumatic for the B-horror genre of Bollywood. Attempts were made to return the audience to the old school of horror but these attempts only fueled the sense of hate among the audience for the Ramsays, who were once liked by the horror buffs for their originality. I really don't understand what went wrong with the Ramsay brothers that they failed to maintain their originality in the early 90s. They tried to make their film as shocking as possible with a limited budget in hand. The resulting films, which were usually rip-offs of highly successful American films, failed to do any good to them as they all turned into a big fiasco. Previously, The Ramsays used to copy few jack-in-the-box scenes from certain Hollywood films but as the time went by, they said yes to complete plagiarism. Films like 'Aakhri Cheekh' and 'Mahakal aka The Monster' are the living examples of plagiarism which never helped the Ramsays reclaim their lost position in Bollywood.

'Mahakal' is 'A Nightmare on Elm Street - 1984' rip-off but those who've already seen this Wes Craven masterpiece will be left with frowning faces once they have watched this piece of trash. The main storyline comes concurrent with ANOES with few exceptions where Ramsays have tried to improve it. Ha ha, they thought they were improving the original version but we know what they came up with. If anyone of the Ramsays is reading my review then please note that by making 'Mahakal' you've only insulted yourself and not Wes Craven. Wes Craven made a masterpiece which was hellish and freaky in every sense and was packed with guts and gore. Including dance numbers and infantile comedy doesn't give 'Mahakal' an advantage over ANOES.

Archana Puran Singh who along with Navjot Singh Siddhu has been criticized by many for her meaningless laughter plays the lead part in 'Mahakal'. She often dreams of a man with long steel fangs who attacks her in dreams. Archana usually wakes up with cuts and bruises she gets during her struggle with the monster in her dreams. Her family and friends try to console her, but Archana is the destined prey of this monster who won't leave her unless she has been laid to rest forever.

I guess this part clearly coincides with the original ANOES but whatever has been trashed out apart from the above plot is clearly an additive and a foolish contribution to the original version. If they want to make a rip-off they should first learn to create an effect on the viewers. I don't say that films need a good budget to be effective. Films like 'Gehrayee', 'Raat', 'Red Rose' etc. didn't have a heavy budget but their effect can be felt till date. All you need is a good plot, good actors and expert direction. I won't recommend 'Mahakal' to anyone who has already watched the original A Nightmare On Elm Street', because 'Mahakal' is simply a comedy of errors.


Horror.....No! Suspense thriller....Yes!
Mohan Bhakri aka Mr. Sleaze was a director overburdened with lame ideas that he used to call a 'film'. 'Cheekh' was released in 1985 and saw a run of just 3 days in our nearest cinema hall. It wasn't the case that the locality where I lived in was a crowded place, packed with people who tend to be movie buffs. On the contrary, my hometown was close to any hamlet where people loved to watch whatever ran in the cinema hall. So, what went wrong with Cheekh? It's certain that it didn't live up to the expectations of the local film goers. Cheekh was billed as a horror film, but it wasn't one. It was a thriller film with a tint of slasher genre. The idea is, Cheekh failed to beat the other films of its time because the swarm of B-graders made it look like any other Bhakri film and people had a common idea of letting it go by. However, this wasn't the case. Cheekh is not only interesting but also moves well once it comes to the point.

Cheekh begins with Thakur (Madan Puri), the cruel village landlord and womanizer, who claims every village belle for himself. It seems he rapes every bride in the village and earns the anger of dominated villagers. The villagers, however, are too docile to protest against the evil landlord. On one such bad day, Thakur rapes another bride before the very eyes of a young kid. The kid watches it all and swears to exact revenge some day.

Days go by and Thakur grows old. He has a daughter Deepa (Deepika Chikhaliya), who is happy-go-lucky kinda girl and remains in her own world of imagination. Once a sculpture artist named Sunil (Javed Khan) saves her from local goons and Deepa falls for him. She takes Sunil to her father, who is now invalid and is on wheel chair. Since Thakur lives alone, he wants Deepa to get married with Sunil and requests Sunil to shift in his palatial Victorian era mansion. Sunil accepts this offer for he loves Deepa very much.

Few days later, Deepa's friend Nisha (Madhu Malhotra) arrives in the mansion. Nisha is a crystal ball reader and claims to know the fate of everyone around her. As few days pass by, we meet Rohit (Raza Murad), who has come here for Nisha. The viewers may guess that Rohit and Nisha are in a kind of relationship and know each other closely. Nisha interprets some messages she gets from her crystal ball, and tells Deepa that a bad omen is imminent. A few nights later an unknown assailant pushes the disabled Thakur down the staircase where he meets a grisly death. As the police has no idea about the killer, they ask everyone to stay there unless the killer is apprehended.

Deepa is restless and is usually calmed by Sunil. They decide to stick together and face the situation as it comes. One night Rohit is accidentally killed by Deepa and Sunil, when they are playing with a fake gun. The two don't understand how it happened. Sunil, being an artist embalms the corpse with POP (Plaster of Paris) and puts it in between his other artworks. Deepa and Sunil decide to keep this a secret and begin finding ways to get rid of this problem. One evening, a girl (Neelam Mehra), who looks like a forced journalist comes to the town looking for her brother Rohit. She secretively files a complaint at the local police station about the strange disappearance of her brother. However, her arrival doesn't remain a secret as the killer soon finds about her and mercilessly kills her. As the mystery deepens, the trio (Deepa, Sunil, Nisha) begin to lose their nerves. They must act fast before the killer redeems the opportunity to kill them.

The story had enough scope, but possibly due to lack of finance Bhakri couldn't develop it well. The locations are eerie and the cast is not bad but surely they all have a label called 'B's' stuck to their faces. The ending is tricky and shocking and the moment it comes, it connects the viewers right with the prologue. This film is bit difficult to find, but I've heard that some DVD companies have refurbished the original VHS version and have attempted to revive this decent little gem. Thanks to their efforts.

Wohi Bhayanak Raat

Alas! This wasn't a sleeper hit as Talwar expected it to be.
Ha ha, I remember I was watching 'Wohi Bhayanak Raat'. Damn it, Vinod Talwar didn't even show a little sense while behaving like a copy cat only to steal most of the elements from Tom Holland's 1985 comedy horror cult-classic and a sleeper hit 'Fright Night'.

What the heck! Rakesh Bedi (The dumb litterbug) assumed Evil Ed Thompson's role. Can't even compare the talents of Stephen Geofferys and Rakesh Bedi. Though the latter never went gay!

Kiran Kumar (The unholy Pathan) dressed up as a Vampire with long fangs and ghastly face. I think Chris Sarandon would shoot himself after seeing his legendary character of Jerry Dandridge being spoiled in such a ruthless and insensible way!

Rohan Kapoor (Who nobody likes except for the fact that he is the son of seasoned multilingual singer Mahendra Kapoor) takes the role of William Ragsdale and plays 'Charlie Brewster'. Ah..come on! Gimme a break!

Yunus Parvez (The fat man of Hiroshima) plays Rody McDowall's character of Peter Vincent, the GREAT VAMPIRE KILLER, who hosted 'FRIGHT NIGHT' show! Yunus tries to look sensible and genuine in all the ways but fails to do so. Instead somebody rapes him in the middle of WOHI BHAYANAK RAAT. Surely, the moment Yunus got raped, the night would have become WOHI BHAYANAK RAAT (or The Same Terrible Night) for him.

Neeta Puri plays 'Amy' in this movie. I can't even think about putting Amanda Bearse and Neeta Puri under the same scale. She has struggled hard to throw her charms onto the viewers but I feel that all her efforts went in vain.

Despite being a shameless bastardized and an ugly version of Fright Night, Wohi Bhayanak Raat has some features of its own and some of the scenes were quiet intense and capturing.

P.Chandrakumar had already adapted 'Fright Night' in his 'Bungalow No. 666', but as the lovers of Bollywood B-horror may know, both the adaptations were lame and bad in their own right. I really feel sad about the fate of Bollywood horror in the late 80s and early 90s. People who have an affinity to the North American and Italian cinema may reprimand directors like Joe D'Amato and Jesus Franco for bringing out the nastiest horror films, but I assure you all that directors like Vinod Talwar, Mohan Bhakri, Jeetu and R. Mittal are miles ahead of the West, when it comes to idiocy.


WoW! What a Witch!
Hatyarin aka The Perilous Witch was released in 1991, the beginning days of the 90s, where Ramsays' had lost their battle to the directors who were making horror films in a shoestring budget. The Ramsay family lost the fame it once held in the heydays of Bollywood b-horror. Now the horror genre was like a marooned boat awaiting the mercy of a great boatman for further directions. Now I won't say that crap directors like Vinod Talwar, A.K. Misra, Mohan Bhakri and several others didn't try to get control over the boat. They did, but unfortunately proved to be dumb navigators. They surely directed a few films, but in the lines of Hollywood cult horror films and you can make a guess why they weren't able to customize it for the local audience.'re right, THE BUDGET and LAME ADAPTATIONS!

However, Vinod Talwar is not as dumb as I always thought him to be. His film 'Hatyarin' proves this. I may put it a cut above his other films like 'Raat Ke Andhere Mein' and 'Wohi Bhayanak Raat'. 'Hatyarin' has some decent acting, double entendre comedy, slick plot and it moves ahead with over-the-top energy and has some memorable songs. I specially remember two duets 'Kaise Buddhu Anari Se Pyaar Ho Gaya' and 'Bheeg Ja Barsaat Mein' sung soulfully by Shabbir Kumar and Alka Yagnik. Thanks to Naresh Sharma for these soothing tracks.

The film begins with 3 friends Kailash (Ajit Vachchani), Shambhu (Sudhir Pandey) and Vishambhar (Raza Murad) who are business partners. Shambhu lives with his 3 children Gudiya, Anita (Amita Nangia), Raju and his nephew Baldev (Shiva Rindani). Kailash lives with his daughter Jaya (Jaya Mathur) and Vishambhar lives with his daughter Kavita (Sri Pradha). Anita is engaged to Inspector Ravi (Deepak Parashar), while Kavita is engaged to Vicky (Javed Khan). On the day of Guidya's wedding, something ill happens and we see Gudiya being mesmerized and finally taken on a chariot to a sacrificial lair by a widow (Jamuna) amidst dense forest. As soon as Gudiya wakes up from trance she calculates that her life is at the mercy of Jamuna. Jamuna sacrifices Gudiya near a tomb where an evil Tantrk named Kamlakh is morbidly asleep. Cut to the wedding scene, Gudiya's newlywed husband is anxiously waiting for the moments of intimacy, but little does he know that someone who is on the bed wearing Gudiya's nuptial costumes is none other than a hideous witch, who pounces upon the poor man and instantly kills him. Nobody knows what happened to Gudiya. A few days later, Ravi discovers Gudiya's corpse near a heath and calls upon Shambhu, Kailash and Vishambhar to identify her corpse. The trio arrive but Ravi couldn't connect Gudiya's death with anyone of them. Anita is in love with Ravi and wants to get married with him. Vishambhar and Kailash are both troubled by Guidya's death, but they have nothing to calm themselves down. Then, more murders occur. Baldev, Jaya, Jaya's husband (Rana Jung Bahadur), Shambhu, Raju and Kailash they all get killed one-by-one. It seems their family members are facing the wrath of a witch who has returned from the hades for a grim payback.

'Hatyarin' is energetic and flows swiftly. The budget is out of question but yes the death scenes are astonishing. Vinod Talwar has directed this film with all his might and I think this was the best he could give to us till date. The witch is butt ugly and I think her one glimpse may spoil your days together. Despite being Vinod Talwar's film, I suggest you go for it, because it would certainly give you a fascinating return on your investment.

Aakhri Cheekh

A Reminiscent of Wes Craven's 'Shocker'
'Aakhri Cheekh' was released in the year 1991 and by this time, the Ramsays' House or Horror was falling apart. Like a gambler, the Ramsays' were motivated once again to make a film on the lines of Wes Craven's 1989 film 'Shocker'. Well, plagiarism isn't a new tool for Bollywood. Many directors and storytellers we see now have achieved their fame with it. Now, it all depends on their 'adjustments' that bring the tale down to the Indian B-horror standards. This practice has given birth to several blatant rip-offs like 'Mahakaal (1993)', which was a flagrant rip-off of Wes Craven's 1984 cult-classic 'A Nightmare on Elm Street'. Then there was S.U. Syed, who forgot his directing abilities when he shamelessly copied Sean S. Cunningham's historical 'Friday the 13th'. Then we have another impersonator called Mohan Bhakhri, who tried hands with Tom De Simone's 'Hell Night (1981), and Stan Winston's life-threatening creature feature 'Pumpkinhead (1988)'. Vinod Talwar and P. Chandrakumar belittled Tom Holland's 'Fright Night (1985)' by copying the original stuff in such a hate worthy manner that you should never watch Talwar's 'Wohi Bhayanak Raat (1989)' and Kumar's 'Bungalow No. 666 (1988). Unfortunately, 'Aakhri Cheekh' is no different from the ones mentioned above.

Four friends Vijayendra Ghatge, Javed Khan, Deepak Parashar and Anil Dhawan and not just pals, but also business partners. They are known for their collective professional decisions and truthfulness towards one another. However, life tests them when they fall prey to a malicious ghoulish black magician Surendra Pal, who is after Vijayendra's sister Sri Pradha. The magician is notorious for luring young virgins to his lair, whom he later sacrifices before his demon god. The men happen to get Surendra arrested and prove his crimes before the court. The court instantly decides 'death by electrocution' on him. Tied on the electric chair, Surendra warns everyone about his return from the Hades. Little do the guys know that Surendra has a detailed plan of wreaking havoc on their families. How the men unite against all the odds and defeat the dark forces forms rest of the story. The film boasts on bold scenes by B-grade showgirls Poonam Das Gupta and Neelam Mehra. Kanwaljit as a government doctor and Sujit Kumar as a sanely priest need a mention here for their contribution to this trash. Then we also have Vijay Arora as a high-profile advocate, who has a short presence, and Kamal Kapoor with his 'Sadhu' attire closely resembles an Indian hobo. There are few jack-in-the-box scenes that were done well. The background score is bouncy and different from the ones used in the previous Ramsay films.

By the late 90s the real horror had vanished from the so called horror films. Ramsays' could never touch the zenith they did with 'Dahshat', 'Hotel', 'Do Gaz Zameen Ke Neeche', 'Veerana' and 'Darwaza'. They tried hard to ignite the almost extinguished fire of horror with trash productions that didn't really have a production value. Had they invested on good actors, they could have made a memorable horror film in the late 90s and even now. The Ramsay films had a touch of original during the early 70s and 80s, but unfortunately they didn't give out a single cult-hit in the 90s that could hold a candle to their amazing creations. This is a sleazy film with the swarm of B-graders or so called Bollywood backbenchers, which has nothing new to promise. If you've already seen Craven's 'Shocker', better avoid this one.


Slasher with a twisted ending
'Haveli' is a slasher in the guise of giallo, then it's also a payback themed film, and furthermore it's also, if not overly, a decent horror film. The film draws huge references from Italian giallos and American slashers of the late 70s and early 80s. The tale is twisted and delivers where necessary. The horde of versatile actors like Rakesh Roshan, Marc Zuber, Pinchoo Kapoor, Mazhar Khan, Sujeet Kumar et al don't let this film slump in the course of its run. 'Haveli' is quiet atmospheric at places and arouses creepiness. This one is fortunately not a rubber mask monster tale with an insufferable dose of comedy. I am specially pointing out comedy because Ramsays' are notorious for appending useless comedies in their films.

Inspector Shyam (Marc Zuber) is investigating the death of a promiscuous woman and his investigation leads him to 4 men, who are soon heading to Goa. The police Chief (Pinchoo Kapoor) sends Shyam to Goa for gathering clues about the culprits. Shyam reaches Goa with his chatter-box constable Hingorani (Rajinder Nath), who can never shut his mouth. Little does anyone know that Shyam has a dark past. He often laments the murder of his girlfriend Anjali (Aaloka), and curses himself for not being able to save her. He is therefore trying to redeem this opportunity to even out his past failure.

At Goa, Shyam falls for a small time pickpocket Reem (Reem Kapadia) and informally labels her as his assistant. He introduces himself to Reem as Pritam. He does so to hide his identity as a Police officer. Shyam boards a scenic hotel with Hingorani where all 4 suspects are enjoying their vacation. He also finds a certain Kumar Saxena (Rakesh Roshan) there, who is a singer at the hotel's night club. Shyam is waiting to gather evidences against the culprits but before he is able to do so, the culprits begin dying mysteriously at the hands of an unknown stalker. Shyam suspects Kumar of orchestrating all the murders as Kumar or some of his belongings are always found near the dead bodies. As the body count goes up, the mystery grows deeper and deeper and Shyam finds himself racing against a traumatized, shrewd, brutal and wicked killer, who is bit too clever.

The ring leader of the accused is Mazhar Khan, the owner of Hotel. The brutal murders of his friends has made Mazhar lose his mind and he is seeking police security. Shyam tries to take him in confidence to ease up his worries, and promises that he will save him against all the odds, but the question is, will he be able to do so? Beware! A figure is loitering in the dark alleys, art gallery, and secluded cubicles of the Hotel with a razor-sharp knife, a locket and a terrifying mask. Certainly the figure's intentions are vicious and deadly.

There are several factors that make 'Haveli' interesting. Budget-wise, the film looks decent. This one has been shot at the beautiful locations of Goa. Its an irony that the Hotel with more than 100 rooms and several occupants looks desolate and spooky. It looks that the killer has access to everything and is one of the deadliest masqueraders. Rakesh Roshan as Kumar is appealing and his role certainly deserves more attention. The ending is a twist and viewers may belittle themselves for being so goofy all the way. The score is haunting, lingering and superb. The Ramsays' have used a 6-note piano score during the stalking sequences, which has shades of John Carpenter's slasher classic 'Halloween'. Before 'Haveli' Ramsays' had made 'Sannata' in 1981, which was also a quick paced giallo cum thriller. 'Haveli' was one of the numerous failed attempts to revive the dying genre of giallo in India. Well, it is this effort that makes 'Haveli' watchable and enjoyable. Not at par with 'Gumnaam' or 'Teesri Manzil', 'Haveli' still remains a Saturday night classic.

Ajooba Kudrat Ka

Uninspiring and slow.
The year was 1991, when most of the horror plots were exhausted. The last film to have earned money was 'Shaitani Ilaaka', which wasn't as appealing as Ramsays' previous hits. It's then the directors realized that they could make some money by weaving a plot around an unproven legend of 'The Yeti' or 'Big Foot', which lives in the Himalayas. Deploying B-grade actors like Deepak Parashar, Shagufta Ali, Hemant Birje, Beena Banerjee, Anil Dhawan and Goga Kapoor, Ramsays' decided to make a fantasy, action, drama film, in the line of their other horror tales. The movie bombed at the box-office and for many years remained difficult to trace. The plot doesn't have anything to do with horror, but its about the bond between a little girl Sasha and a Himalayan Big Foot.

The film begins with two friends Deepak Parashar and Hemant Birje. Deepak lives with his widowed sister Beena Banerjee and her only child Sasha. Hemant Birje plays a cop or to be more precise 'The Crusader of Law. It so happens that a mountaineer (Sudhir) happens to snap a few pictures of what is believed to be a Big Foot. He passes on those photos to his boss Mr.Don (Anil Dhawan). Mr. Don wants to take the Big Foot with him to the west and make money out of him.

In the meantime, Sasha gets kidnapped by a thug Lala (Goga Kapoor), who then demands a ransom of 500 thousand rupees. We come to know that Lala was busted and jailed because of Deepak and Hemant long back, and is now taking revenge. However, some of his henchmen are not able to live off his expectation and lose the girl. The girl runs about in the snow and finally hides in a cave where the Big Foot lives. At first Sasha faints in horror when she looks at the creature, but the Big Foot is very caring and considerate. He tends Sasha until she realizes that the Big Foot is not as bad as he looks. In fact he is no bad at all! During the course of her stay, Sasha and Big Foot come closer and become best friends. Now the goons are after the Big Foot, and its up to Deepak, Hemant and Sasha to foil their plans. How they do this forms rest of the story.

The film has a fresh story but fails to do good when it comes to direction, script and make-up. The Big Foot doesn't scare and has a face similar to that of a Lion. The cinematography is good, or may be its good because most of the film has been shot at various scenic locations of the Himalayas. Acting wise, the film is okay, but most of the elements are regular Bollywood staple of the late 90s. The songs are surprisingly forgettable and only consume time. Some of the fight sequences have been forcibly induced to make the viewers realize the strength of the Big Foot and Hemant Birje from time-to-time. The pace is slow and dialogs are both loud and cheesy. To be honest, this is not a regular Ramsay horror, if you're looking for one.


Agatha Christie Indianized!
This chiller of a film was released in 1973 and I got a chance to watch it recently. I really feel annoyed to think that I got late by decades to watch it. The film is based on Agatha Christie's play 'The Unexpected Guest'. No wonder B.R. Chopra remained inspired by western storytellers throughout his life as he himself majored in English from Pakistan. This film has gained a devoted cult-following in years and is now remembered for its heavy and sloppy atmosphere, some great performances, great musical composition, and an unexpected ending. Well its not just the suspense that's important here. The film has a dark exploitation undertone that pops-up from time to time whenever Danny and Zeenat are on screen!

On a dark, foggy winter night a man named Chandrashekhar (Navin Nischol) crashes his car and reaches for help at a grand mansion. He finds a woman named Rani (Zeenat Aman) holding a revolver. Rani confesses that she killed her husband Thakur Ranjit Singh (Danny) few minutes ago. Chandrashekhar decides to help the damsel, who is in distress, and desperately needs help. Chandrashekhar combs the room for fingerprints and cleans them all. He then devises a plan with Rani to guise Ranjit's murder as a robbery committed by an unknown robber. The police officer Inspector Joshi (Madan Puri) is suspicious of their story and is all set to unveil the mystery behind this so-called robbery. His investigation leads him to Ranjit's lecherous servant Banke Lal (Deven Verma) and Ranjit's friend Advocate Suresh Saxena (Sanjay Khan), but he doesn't have anything against them. We also see the wise old man of Bollywood Ashok Kumar as public prosecutor Mehta, who is seeking a benign reason behind the murder.

As I said, the film has a great storyline and an impressive courtroom argument. This is surely many cuts above regular murder mysteries that oozed out during the early 70s and were heavily inspired by the western slashers and thrillers. I wouldn't call this an indigenous creation, although this has been fully conceived as per the Indian norms. Except that it's based on a borrowed tale, the film revives Christie's play with its murky and hazy atmosphere, plausible performances and bouncy background score. Ravi's music is soothing as always and will live in the memory for the rest of your life. This B.R. Chopra classic is no less than 'Mahabharat' in its own way!


Weird, Bizarre but Highly Entertaining.
'Chudail' hit the theaters in 1997 and I watched it a week after its release. Since it was a B-movie, I didn't have much expectation on the budget, but as a hardcore fan of B-horror, I was dying to give it a try. To my surprise, there were only 25-30 people in the hall, which ensured my thought of 'Chudail' being a disaster horror film. I had a small idea that it was based on Max Rother's short story 'The Witch' and what I was about to see was the Indianized version of Rother's tale. The movie began and minute-by-minute it became so engaging that after leaving the hall, I was dying to watch it either again or find a VCD for home viewing! Finally after 13 years of search, I found this piece of pure gold and now keep it very-very close to me. Here is the plot in a nutshell.

A highly reputed Tantrik Govind Mahadev (Ravi Menon) is invited to a grand Haveli by Sundari (Monali Singh), the daughter of an aging and ailing Zamindar Rajaram. The old man suffers from a trauma that has left the city doctors confounded. Sundari believes that Mahadev could cure him with magical spells. Mahadev begins his ritual but is seriously distracted from his duties after he gets a glimpse of Sundari's inviting cleavage. The two soon deviate and begin quenching their physical needs until Rajaram comes to know of their liaison. Unable to bear this, Rajaram slips off the staircase and dies on spot. Mahadev finds a keen student in Sundari and decides to teach her the secrets of Black Magic that would bestow her with eternal youth. Sundari discovers that Mahadev has attained this eternal youth after sucking the energies of 13 young virgins, but the mean magician would not let Sundari find young studs for herself. Sundari kills Mahadev with a Tantrik dagger and makes Ramu, Mahadev's old disciple, her own assistant. Ramu vows to serve Sundari until death. Sundari begins preying on young males and thus begins her journey to the netherworld on her own. Babubhai, Sundari's neighbor informs Sundari's uncle Gopal (Anil Dhawan) of her wanton and wicked activities. Gopal decides to take the matter in his hands and goes to Sundari but in turn witnesses that Sundari is now an evil sorceress and that he and Babubhai can't stop her without the aid of a holy man. They take a sigh of relief, when Jeet Baba offers his help to stop Sundari's blood lust. Sundari is forcibly summoned by Jeet Baba, who then gets three 9 inch nails hammered into her head thus bringing her down to coma. Sundari's body is then prepared for cremation and is stuffed in a box, but it seems that Satan is still helping her. The scene ends showing Jeet Baba's assistants taking her coffin amidst heavy downpour and thunderstorm, but fall down in a pit that opens all by itself.

Years later, a group of unlikely archaeologists happen to excavate the area, resulting in the discovery of Sundari's coffin and similar belongings i.e. a holy book of mantras and a bottle of sacred oil. Sundari's rotting corpse is rushed to the local hospital as she still shows signs of life! The doctors soon try to expose the reason behind Sundari's sustainability but remain unsuccessful. A crippled Babubhai, now a permanent patient, warns the doctors about Sundari, but it's sure that they won't listen to him. The ambulance driver Johnny is seen blabbering about the shocking discovery of Sundari's corpse at a local tavern and is overheard by Ramu, Sundari's old and forgotten sidekick. Ramu redeems this opportunity by resurrecting Sundari once again, who is all set to exact revenge upon the sanely beings, who ever tried to stop her perilous motives. She soon begins her bloody revenge and kills Babubhai and Gopal. She also begins targeting the archaeologists in order to keep her existence a secret. We also come along with a busty reporter Seema (Poonam Dasgupta), who is on the excavation ground to pen down the incidents, but instead falls in love with a dashing young archaeologist Umesh. Umesh tries to conquer Sundari's might but she is a supernatural and shape-shifting hag who can only be defeated by the means of a mightier holy force. The question is, who will stop this vengeful crone? Is there a way out for her prime targets?

Overall, 'Chudail' is a great entertainer, with doses of Desi horror and unprecedented events. The hospital mayhem scene, where the coffin carrying Sundari makes way on its own and finally flies off, is nicely shot. Some other scenes are equally impressive, for instance, the scene where our Police officer (Prem Kumar) gives lift to a young lady in the the dark of the night, only to be astounded of her reflection in the rear view mirror, then we have a landslide scene, where a sincere archaeologist Mrs. Gupta (Rita Bhaduri) falls prey to the wrath of this abominable witch and is crushed to death under heavy stones and rubble. You must watch it once to believe my words. The cinematography is eerie and captures foggy backgrounds and silent nights in the most subtle way. The cave featured in most of the scenes is discomforting, dark and dusty and gives the feeling of an ongoing excavation. Jerry Amaldev has blended a lot of creepiness in the background music, which works finely and something that would live in the mind forever. The songs composed by Usha Khanna are hummable, but the earnest credit goes to director P. Chandrakumar, who has wisely used producer Gautam Dhariwal's money that saves 'Chudail' from oblivion. In other words, 'Chudail' is a decent horror film with a fresh and tightly woven plot, some great acting and above all a great background score and fantastic direction. This shouldn't be missed at all.

Red Rose

Real Psycho Treat
This surprising little diamond was released in 1980 and its no surprise that it was received coldly. The reason is, It was far ahead of its time. Rajesh Khanna's brilliant performance embellished by the presence of professional actors like Poonam Dhillon, Om Shivpuri, Aruna Irani and Satyen Kappu makes this film precious in all regards. The name 'Red Rose' has a special meaning here, which has something to do with the perverted fantasy (or reality) of a psychopath, and symbolizes the color of blood which has a special role to play in the life of our misogynist. I can clearly understand that 80s was a time of fantasy, action and loud social films, and 'Red Rose' was particularly hated for two reasons: 1. People weren't ready to accept Kaka negatively and 2. The concept of 'misanthrope' and specifically 'misogynist' was unacceptable to the common social standards of a heavily socially-oriented country like India. I don't blame the director or the actors for this, because they have simply made the concept work in an alien country, and the only thing to blame here is the time, which wasn't too favorable for this powerhouse of a movie. In the coming years, Khanna signed 'Kudrat', and 'Souten', which were overwhelmingly received by the Indian audience, so you can evaluate the mentality of the masses during that decade as they were more open to the family dramas and reincarnation stories than something hellish and wicked like "Red Rose.'

Anand (Rajesh Khanna) lives a very wealthy but secluded life style in his palatial house. He owns an export company and addresses at least hundred 'Good Mornings' a day. His activities are obscure and his awareness to the surroundings is questionable, but something is down inside Anand that the viewers don't know. He is a psychopath. Most of the girls he comes across remind him of his tormented and annihilated past, that has left him like this. He has special empathy towards dangerous prisoners and considers them innocent in a way. One day, he comes across a salesgirl Sharda (Poonam Dhillon) who is down to earth and comes from a lower-middle family. Khanna is impressed by her attitude and soon proposes her. Taking his love for Sharda a step ahead, he decides to marry her only to make his father (Satyen Kappu) furious. We also come to know that a young and attractive stenographer Chitra (Padmini Kapila) goes missing after spending couple of days in Anand's firm. Sharda is shocked to find that Anand is a great disbeliever and things like religion, chastity, veneration, love and ethics don't mean much to him. Thinking that its her responsibility to put Anand on the right path, she decides to set things properly.

On the first day of their wedding, Sharda peeks out of the window and screams when she gets a glimpse of a dead body in Anand's garden. She also discovers Anand's father reveling real snuff films in his room along with the gardener Shera (Om Shiv Puri). With great courage, Sharda locks the two men inside and lands up in an anonymous room only to find the walls filled with Anand's hate notes. She comes to know of the reasons that forced Anand take his wayward lifestyle and decides to get away from Anand's clutches as soon as possible.

I really admire the director Bharathi Rajaa for his brilliant direction and the continuity he is able to maintain for more than 2 hours. The film doesn't flip a bit and maintains its pace throughout the course. Rajesh Khanna is undoubtedly India's first superstar and he really validates this honor awarded to him in this flick. Poonam's innocent face is unforgettable and I am sure you'll develop a great sympathy to her in those 2 hours. Satyen Kappu has a precise but over-the-top part to play here and Aruna Irani and Om Shivpuri should be watched for their abilities. Let them say whatever they want to, I still advise those who have lost their faith on the classic Indian films to look for this promising little gem as this may be easy to miss but is really hard to forget.

Purani Haveli

Not a gem by any means.
Purani Haveli seems to be the last better flick from the House of Ramsays'. The film was released somewhere around 1989 and casts most of the actors that were simply tagged as horror veterans during the mid and late 80s. The film is long as most of the other Bollywood horror films of that time and features a mishmash of 3-4 tales, entwined with one other but they somehow work and doesn't leave the movie as boring as Ramsays' other horror films like 'Tahkhana,' 'Mahakaal,' and 'Ajooba Kudrat Ka'.

The film begins with a couple Raja (Anil Dhawan) and Rita (Priti Sapru) who unintentionally land up at a grand Haveli not really knowing its dire past. The couple succumbs to the peaceful atmosphere of the Haveli and believe that they have found a good place to spend night in the woods. As the Haveli is jinxed, the pair soon discovers that the Haveli is the lair of a wicked ghoul, who would kill anyone that comes there. Raja is soon killed by the ghost (Manek Irani, aka the notorious Billa), and Rita also meets the same consequence. We see an old man, who lives by the Haveli, somehow tackle the monster with a holy cross, then cage and lock him down in the basement.

We then see a small time photographer Sunil (Deepak Parashar), who is overwhelmingly in love with a rich lass Anita (Amita Nangiya). Ever since her parents died, Amita was looked after and brought up by her uncle Kumar (Vijay Arora). However Kumar and his wife Seema (Neelam Mehra) have spun a web of deceit and lies around Anita and are only looking for the good time to get control of Anita's financial assets. Anita trusts her uncle and aunt and never questions their intention. Seema wants Anita to get married with her brother Vikram (Tej Sapru), so that it would be easy for her to claim Anita's property. Kumar soon plans to buy a grand Haveli (yes the same Haveli) from Rana Sahab (Pinchoo Kapoor), who wants to sell it out. Kumar goes to the Haveli, but soon discovers that the Haveli is haunted. His belief is further strengthened when he finds Rana's corpse. Kumar tries to escape, but his efforts go in vain and he dies a gruesome death.

A few days later, Anita and her friends go to the Haveli to spend their break. Sunil follows Anita too but things turn badly when a stalking Vikram and his henchmen also land up at the Haveli. Vikram soon gets an opportunity and strikes Sunil making him unconscious. Sunil is dragged to the basement and is locked inside. When Sunil regains his senses, he hears some groaning noise. He comes to know that the sound is emerging from a caged room under the basement. He is about the unlock the cage when the same old man stops him from doing so. The old man reveals his name as Navin (Narendra Nath) and claims the monster to be his own son, who was hideously deformed when by mistake he and his wife had to stop at the Haveli as his wife was in labor pain and the hospital was far away. The Haveli was home to an evil spirit that possessed the sprog and since then, the old man guards people against this monster. Sunil somehow believes the old man and leaves the monster locked in the cage. The monster is mistakenly released by one of the perpetrators and the Haveli reanimates with foul incidents. Now its up to the lead cast to save themselves from monster, who won't let anyone escape from his domain.

The movie lacks constant atmosphere and most of the actors (minus the lead cast) look like rehab retards who pushily play their parts. Ramsays have once again applied the hairy monster formula, the efficacy of which fizzles out in between. The long comedy sequences and torturous parts by Satish Shah and Tina Ghai definitely prevent this to gain the 'higly recommended' status. Watch this only if you are a big fan of Deepak Parashar and Amita Nangia. Since this one is not as close to me as Ramsays' other gems like 'Do Gaz Zameen Ke Neeche', 'Sannata', 'Hotel', 'Dahshat' and 'Darwaza', I would give this 5/10.

Khooni Murdaa

The Horror of Obsession!
Mohan Bhakri, the man behind putrefied horror films like Khooni Mahal, Kabrastan, Amavas Ki Raat, Cheekh and Roohani Taaqat wanted to prove his worth in the horror domain once again with Khooni Murdaa, a slow and another mediocre scary film. Almost all the Bhakri movies have a lame monster, so dull that it literally seems harmless to his victims. KM, I believe has a better story than Bhakri's other films, but again, there are several characters who don't have much to do with the main theme and get washed away somewhere in between the film. The good side is that the film vaunts on Kiran Kumar as the main antagonist. Deepak Parashar has some role to play, while horror veterans Javed Khan, Tina Ghai, Sriprada and even Mayur play over aged college students, and seem to have been attending college for more than 20 years! You see, you can't make oldies look young with latest style apparels. Bhakri should have known that the 'age' does speak out. The camera work is spooky at places and Bhakri even meets some success giving KM an atmosphere to some extent, if not everywhere.

The plot revolves around an obsessed lover, stalker and peeping tom Ranjeet (Kiran Kumar), who is all set to acquire a girl Rekha for himself. He usually has a habit of leaving a red rose behind him for Rekha, the eerie habit that will become the notification of his ghost throughout the film. Rekha is betrothed to Rakesh (Deepak Parashar), a noble police inspector who wants to maintain law and order in his turf. Ranjeet's obsession for Rekha grows more and more until one day when he is arrested by Rakesh and is put to mental asylum. Ranjeet soon escapes from the asylum and begins to follow Rekha, where at one point he is subdued by Rekha's friends and is mistakenly set on fire. Rekha and her friends promise to keep Ranjeet's death a secret and hide his charred body in an old rusting car. However, things aren't as easy as they look as Ranjeet's obsession for Rekha force him return from the netherworld, where he now intends to put Rekha and everybody associated with her to death.

The film has some substance and unlike other Bhakri movies, this does have a good pace. The pace however suffers due to useless parts of Professor KLPD (Jagdeep) and Madhu Malhotra. Deepak Parashar has a formal role to play while Javed Khan, Suraj Chaddha, Mayur, Shehza Khan (Som Mangal Shani fame) and Sriprada seem lost in the throng. The powerhouse of a film lies in Kiran Kumar, who has poured the extract of his experiences as Ranjeet and really gives a commendable performance. Some camera actions are eerie and Ranjeet's hideous face is more of a spectacle. Overall, this is a cheesy Bollywood shocker, that gives an expected if not overwhelming return on investment. This is by no means close to any Ramsay flick, but yes, you won't forget it either.

Purana Mandir

Thakur, Haveli, and Saamri
As far as the history of Indian cinema is concerned, there has been very little place for horror till date. Even today, the romantic and action films are sure to do more business than their horror counterparts. Its other story that Indian directors are not very professional with horror and their kind of story is closer to any of the push-cart kiddo comic than to a decent horror story. Seriously, I am now left with nothing in hand but a couple of Ramsay movies, that shine even today in the Bollywood sky of horror. Purana Mandir was one such attempt by the Ramsays that stands out even today when its compared to Bhatt's absurd ghost tales. Though Purana Mandir wastes a hell lot of time on pointless and mindless comedy sequences where the power of Puneet Issar seems dwarfing down under the magnitude of super suckers Jagdeep and Rajindernath to insulting levels, but at the same time it honestly keeps pace with the plot and uses similar elements of fear that the viewers would later see in Ramsays other hits like Veerana and Bandh Darwaza. The plot follows a similar Thakur-Haveli plot, but in a different fashion this time.

Years ago, a tantric named Saamri (Aniruddha Agarwal) roamed about the sultanate of Bijapur, terrorizing and killing the townsfolk. Finally he was arrested by King Hariman Singh's soldiers and sentenced to death for his inhuman and unholy offenses. Saamri is a vampire who killed several women and children and drank their blood to please his demon god. When Saamri is about to be beheaded, he puts a curse on the King's family. According to his curse, every women of the King's family shall die during childbirth. Saamri is beheaded with his head and torso buried at different places. It is believed that who so will put the head and torso together, shall give Saamri a chance to resurrect, whereby the resurrected Saamri will devastate everything that comes his way.

The film cuts to present times, where we see Suman (Aarti Gupta) and Sanjay (Mohnish Bahal) as love birds. Suman wants to marry Sanjay, but her father Thakur Ranvir Singh (Pradeep Kumar) is hellbent on separating the duo. Suman finally comes to know that she is the descendant of King Hariman Singh and being a girl she would face Saamri's curse and die at the childbirth. The evil image of Saamri appears and disappears before Thakur Ranvir Singh every now and then and torments him. Sanjay and Suman want to put an end to this curse and decide to pay a visit to Suman's ancestral palace. They also take Anand (Puneet Issar) and his wife with them. The palace is a hellish place and remains vacant even today. It is looked after by the caretaker Durjan (Sadashiv Amrapurkar) and a local woodcutter Sanga (Satish Shah). The two believe that a large sum of valuables is stashed somewhere in the palace and keep looking for it. They somehow find a box and believing it to be their booty-box, open it by mistake. Their mistake forms the crux of the story. Obviously the monster has to be resurrected else who would spend money watching the b-graders?

Aniruddha Agarwal as Saamri is the core attraction of Purana Mandir, and he solely overshadows others. He is so effective as Saamri, that the viewers feel mesmerized and forget about the protagonists. Jagdeep and Rajindernath with their sore performances have only extended the movie duration by an hour or so and could have been avoided by the directors. The lead pair is okay but Puneet Issar has given a great performance and his death really troubles the viewers. The background score is one of the most haunting scores and was repeatedly used in many other Ramsay projects including their famous Zee Horror Show. This soundtrack is still considered 'jinxed' by many. This is a fairly enjoyable film (overlooking the comedy) that can be relished on a dizzy Saturday night.

Jadu Tona

Close to an Indian folklore.
Jadu Tona was released in 1977 and whatever it shows seems close to the 70s conception of evil spirit and diabolic forces. Ravi Nagaich goes well with the script by presenting both rural and urban locales but once again its a story of the same vengeful spirit looking for the wrongdoers. Surprisingly there is no cheap mask fun here with the antagonist, but fake skeletons and cheap face-overs have been used at places. The plot seems to authenticate the presence of evil forces around us and also regards God Almighty to be the sole salvation provider.

Amirchand (Prem Chopra) is a successful businessman and lives a single parent life with his two daughters Harsha (Baby Pinky) and Varsha (Reena Roy). He has his family roots in his paternal village, where he goes to meet his parents (Kanhaiyya Lal and Leela Mishra) once in a blue moon. On one such vacation, Amrichand is stopped at the village outskirts by some villagers, who ask him to pay respect to a local peepal tree, which is considered to be holy. Guided by urban and logical ethics, Amirchand considers this as a village hoax and passes by. However, he and his family don't see the black cat sitting atop the holy tree, staring at them.

Varsha remains busy with her novels but Harsha is overwhelmed to be the part of village life and strolls away in the fields. Once a sage (Prem Nath) arrives at the grandparents' household, but is scoffed at by Varsha. The angry sage goes back but promises that once she'll realize and witness the power of supreme. One day Harsha runs behind a strange looking butterfly and is led to a dilapidated mansion. She meets an old man there, who asks her to give him the bottle of medicine. He asks her to open the bottle as he is unable to move anywhere. Harsha opens the bottle and is soon occupied by the vengeful spirit of the old man. Harsha is found lying on a muddy road and is taken to her family. The family comes to know that the old man was Hiralal, who died long back mysteriously and had been since wandering as a haunting soul.

Amirchand tries every medication on her daughter but to no avail. Finally the family finds solace at the hands of a famous psychologist Dr. Kailash Arya (Feroz Khan), who considers Harsha's feats as a mental condition. In the meantime some of the big wheels of the town are being murdered in the most shocking ways and inspector Jolly Goodman (Ashok Kumar) begins to look for the trails of the murderer. His search ends when he meets Amirchand's family.

The story is okay and the film can be enjoyed at least once. The film boasts on good cast ensemble that has several veteran and familiar actors. The film wastes a lot of time in unnecessary comedy (bad...bad...bad...Jagdeep!) and romantic sequences of Feroz Khan and Reena Roy. Ashok Kumar is a bliss and has got a considerable part to play. Baby Pinky is cute as Harsha and portrays her character perfectly. The horror sequences are badly simulated and are cheap. The film doesn't have a good budget which is a problem. This is quiet a reflection of an Indian folklore, that prevails in the rural areas of the modern India even today.

Ek Ruka Hua Faisla

More than brilliant.
'Ek Ruka Hua Faisla' is one of the best remakes I can think of. Those who are underestimating 'Ek Ruka Hua Faisla' are only doing so to prove Sydney Lumet's original version better than the remake, but I would only praise Lumet for being original and nothing else. ERHF has the guts to qualify itself to be one of the best films ever made where veteran actors from FTII and NDS have proved their versatility in every possible way. ERHF is an ode to Indian cinema and a vibrant answer to those who think that films could be only made at a multi-million budget. Surprisingly ERHF has no special locations, picturesque places, songs, or a great budget (this in fact seems to have no budget at all). The film begins and finishes in a closed room, where on a severely hot day 12 jurors are arguing on a murder case. 11 jurors are sure that the murderer, a 19 year old boy is guilty of killing his father, but one juror differs with them and is trying to prove the boy's innocence. The special thing about ERHF is that it never lets the viewer feel confined inside the four walls, but forces his mind to meander away and puts it right at the crime scene. ERHF is great due to the characteristics of the jurors.

Juror#1 (Deepak Kejriwal): A simple man with not much experience of hosting the meeting but takes comments on his performance very personally. He doesn't seem to have an innate ability to think anything and follows the flock.

Juror#2 (Amitabh Shrivastava): A classical, timid and docile man, very homely and lacks presentation skills. He is troubled by the presence of others and goes tongue-tied at places. He finds peace in his clerical job and is good at calculations.

Juror#3 (Pankaj Kapur): An arrogant and aggressive man who was abandoned by his son and have since been hating all the young men. He is hellbent on sending the poor guy to the gallows just because he sees a reflection of his own son in him.

Juror#4 (M.S. Zaheer): A logical and brainy fellow who has sober presentation skills. He likes to talk only on the proofs and motives of the culprit. He is very serious and is one of the prime representatives of the group that considers the culprit guilty.

Juror#5 (Subhash Udghate): A man who spent his childhood in the slums but rose to good post due to his personal endeavors. He understands the burning issues that relate to slums and slum-dwellers. Overall a reformer, who wishes to stay beside justice.

Juror#6 (Hemant Mishra): A small-time employee at a house-painting firm, who has illogically favored the 'guilty' team without applying his own thoughtfulness. He is ethical and doesn't tolerate arrogance. He is open to new arguments and thoughts to fuel his own views.

Juror#7 (M.K. Raina): An indifferent unethical man, who doesn't value others lives. He lives an epicurean lifestyle and enjoys 'party, drinks, and jokes'. He gives his verdict as 'guilty' because he wants to finish off soon and watch a movie.

Juror#8 (K.K. Raina): An architect by profession. Highly tolerant, firm and logical warrior, who has the power to subdue every other member with his inherent intuition. He has the power of elaborating and detailing everything with his common sense. He alone defends the young boy and is the first man to give the verdict of 'innocent'.

Juror#9 (Anu Kapoor): A silent old man who has inculcated knowledge through years of experience. He can't tolerate injustice and is the first one to offer his support to Juror#8. He is a great observer and has a unique way of looking at things.

Juror#10 (Subbi Raj): A foul-mouthed, snobbish, arrogant and aggressive businessman, who is filled with hot air. He disdains slum-dwellers and considers that they are fit to be eradicated from this society. He is loud, hypocrite and hasty in decisions and a worshiper of supremacy.

Juror#11 (Shailendra Goel): A humble, meek and cultured man, who likes to discuss things in peace and has good analytical skills. He is a democrat and believes in the freedom of expression and has the whole constitution in his mind.

Juror#12 (Aziz Qureshi): An ad-agency owner who seems lost somewhere else. Most of the time he follows others words and is bad at decision making. He doesn't have much to do with the jury and gives his decision based on majority.

I can't discuss anything more about this film and you must watch to believe it. I give it 10/10.

Oonche Log

Loud but Poor
'Oonche Log' made a little buzz when it was released in 1985. Most of the performers were loosing their hold in the Indian film industry and were marred by the success of family dramas where actors like Jeetendtra, Sridevi, Jayaprada and alike were doing better than others. Astounded by the success of 'Nikaah', Salma Agha sought an opportunity to set atop her career in the tinsel town and playing the lead actress opposite yesteryear's superstar Rajesh Khanna was certainly a good chance for her. Alas, she couldn't redeem the opportunity and the film did poorly at the box office and all the cornerstones of hope director Brij Sadanah had put on 'Oonche Log' tumbled down recklessly. The flick, however, is remembered for some of the most beautiful songs composed by R.D. Burman. As far as the story is concerned, the film has surprising similarities with Dilip Kumar's 'Dil Diya Dard Liya' and a Pakistani 1983 flick 'Dehleez'. The film has no alien script, and uses the stereotyped 'Thakur-haveli' plot that almost became unpopular during the mid-80s in Bollywood. The film boasts on good locations and great songs and above all great performances by scheming uncle Pratap (Prem Chopra) haughty and arrogant young Thakur Maan (Danny) and finally Raju (Rajesh Khanna), who plays a simpleton literally drenched in love with Poonam (Salma Agha). Salma Agha as Poonam is a torture here and behaves like a newbie when it comes to acting. Pradeep Kumar as Thakur Vikram Singh is a bliss to the eyes and performs with an iron fist.

Vikram Singh (Pradeep Kumar) is coming to his home town when the car loses control and dashes against small huts. A woman is killed and leaves the young boy Raju an orphan. Vikram Singh brings Raju to his Haveli but his son Maan is obviously enraged to see a slum-dweller in his house. Maan's younger sister Poonam, however likes Raju and loves to spend time with him. Maan frequently beats Raju with a whip or anything he has access to. Troubled by his son's behavior, Vikram Singh sends Maan to a boarding school. Vikram Singh's step brother Pratap (Prem Chopra) is a tramp and frequents brothels and bars. Long ago Vikram Singh severed his relations with Pratap Singh but Pratap is after Vikram's wealth. One day after finding an opportunity, Pratap smothers Vikram with a pillow and kills him but little does he know that Raju has seen it all through a window. A horrified Raju can't gather courage to speak the truth. Pratap becomes caretaker of Vikram Singh's estate and calls Maan Singh back. Later, Pratap Singh labels Raju as the family's slave by marking him with a slapper (just like an animal).

Years later, Raju (Rajesh Khanna) is still the stable keeper at Maan Singh's (Danny) Haveli. Raju secretly loves Poonam (Salma Agha), and would do anything for her. Raju is still tormented, beaten, manhandled, whipped, and slapped by Maan Singh. Maan Singh would inflict severe injuries on Raju as he still hates him. Maan Singh is about to be married with Sonia (Priti Sapru), who doesn't really love the way Maan treats Raju. One day, encouraged by Sonia, Raju proposes Poonam. He is surprised to see that Poonam had loved Raju since childhood. Their owner-slave relation takes a romantic turn but unfortunately comes into Maan's knowledge. Maan severely beats Raju and drives him out of the house. On the way, Pratap Singh and his henchmen catch Raju. They beat him severely and leave him to die. Raju's body is discovered by a billionaire, who arranges for his treatment and later tells him that he is Raju's long lost grandfather Raibahadur Sahab (Pinchoo Kapoor). Now the tables have turned and Raju has the right chance to avenge his tortures.

As I said, the film failed to make it big in India and it may be because of the script which was outdated and wasn't good enough to attract viewers. Brij has shown his love to sadism by detailing violent acts. The songs are good and hummable. Salma Agha doesn't live up to one's expectations and is one of the prime reasons for the failure of this film. Priti Sapru has gone unnoticed and Deven Verma has well played his part of Mubarak Ali. The unattractive picture quality, bad script, platitude of dialogs and over-torture of Raju have undermined the film. It is just a miracle how Raju transforms to Raibahadur Rajdev Singh, an aristocratic, high-profile personality, after having lived the life of a slave, deprived of education. Danny has overacted at places and it looks that he and Prem Chopra don't have much to do than tormenting Raju, and spending their times either at racecourses or talking about 'aan baan and shaan', which seem too loud in the democratic atmosphere Indians are now living in. 'Oonche Log' should be watched with low expectations as this isn't a milestone at all.

3D Saamri

Don't torture a black magician!!
Overwhelmed by the success of 'Purana Mandir', The Ramsays' decided to re-feature Anirudh aka Ajay Aggarwal, but now as the title character in their 1985 film '3D Saamri'. The film is noteworthy for being one of the first Bollywood 3D films. For a 'B' grade flick, a 3D accolade was more than one could expect during the mid-80s. The Ramsays included elements of creepiness in this and also hyped it for being the first 3D horror in India. Horror buffs had already praised the sinister looks of Anirudh Aggarwal as 'Saamri' in 'Purana Mandir', and '3D Saamri' soon became a wanted stuff among B-horror worshipers. As of the plot, 3D Saamri has nothing new to promise, as this is about Haveli, dungeon, black magic and after all scheming uncle and his friends, who want to kill a sanely man for his wealth. The flick is fairly intense at places and so are the murder sequences. Jack Gaud has a special character of Bhishma, who is all on his toes at Saamri's command. Aarti Gupta has repeated herself as a glamor doll, but with Rajan Sippy this time.

Saamri (Anirudh Aggarwal) is a man of wealth and lives a secluded life in his palatial mansion. Saamri is a living sage and secretive black magician, who uses his divine powers to cure the needy and possessed. It is believed that the powers have kept Saamri up for more than 100 years and he has almost conquered death. Unfortunately, he's unable to defeat aging and looks as old as an oak tree. Takleefchand (Prem Chopra) is Saamri's step-brother and wants Saamri dead. Takleefchand and his close associates Khanna (Gulshan Grover), Professor Chatterjee (Amarnath Mukherjee) and Maria (Asha Sachdev) torture an invalid Saamri to force him make a will in Takleefchand's favor, but Saamri denies doing so. Saamri is tied to his wheelchair and kicked off a bridge to drown helplessly. It is then discovered that Saamri had already willed his properties to his distant niece Anju (Aarti Gupta) and her spouse. Anju is in love with Sandeep (Rajan Sippy), a club singer. When Aarti is informed of Saamri's death and his will, she and Sandeep arrive at Saamri's mansion to pay homage to the deceased. Takleefchand wants to finish the rightful heirs right there but not everything in Saamri's house is as good as it looks. Inspector Baldev (Puneet Issar) is suspicious of Takleefchand's activities and is looking for evidence against him. As we see, he is all set to arrest Takleefchand and his gang. Aarti and Sandeep are helped and protected by Saamri's ghost who has returned from his grave with the help of his servant and disciple Bhishma. The viewers see Takleefchand and his collaborators meet grisly deaths at the hands of an undead Saamri.

Saamri 3D boasts on handful of seasoned actors, who carry the movie indeed swiftly, if not effectively. Gulshan Grover, Puneet Issar, Prem Chopra and others don't let the flick falter due to good performances. Jagdeep as Changez Khan is simply ludicrous with one of the dance numbers with the corpses at a cemetery. 'Saamri' wouldn't have been watchable without Anirudh Aggarwal, who has blown life to his performance. It is simply amazing to see a 6' 7" tall actor performing as an old man so well. He truly is the major asset of this film. The movie lacks atmosphere big time and goes awry despite various moments of shock. Anup Jalota, with his magical voice has sung a provoking 'Bhajan', at the roll of beginning credits. The songs are neither memorable nor hummable. Some scenes, specially the bus chase scene is truly overt and overdone. Asha Sachdev, Aarti Gupta and Rajan Sippy are mediocre as one would expect. The film comes straight to the point but staggers in between with long and fickle dance numbers. Jagdeep has tried to make some sense here, but his presence alone is a torture. Prem Chopra as Takleefchand resembles the Satan's uncle. Amarnath Mukherjee doesn't have much to do than taking advantage of women solitude and smoking pipe. Jack Gaud as Bhishma is the devil's advocate, and has odd ways of doing things and even speaking. 'Saamri' may be enjoyable if seen with an eye of an ardent 3D-technology fan. Some of the murders are nasty and brilliant on screen. Ramsays' have presented their staple plot but in a new wrapper. They certainly seem obsessed with Havelis and dungeons. Though fairly enjoyable, this remains at nadir when compared to Ramsays' cult-hits like 'Darwaza', 'Veerana', 'Hotel', 'Do Gaz Zameen Ke Neeche', 'Bandh Darwaza' or 'Purana Mandir'.

Shaitani Ilaaka

Wearisome and Predictable
Shaitani Ilaaka was released in 1990 at the time when the glory of Bollywood Horror was fading away. By now the Ramsays were heavily inspired by successful Hollywood horrors like 'Evil Dead', 'Carrie' and the ones that portrayed sudden or spontaneous ghost attack. This was sure to happen, as most of the horror ideas were washed out by late 80s, and people were no more interested in Thakurs and haunted Havelis. Shaitani Ilaaka sure was another failed attempt by the Ramsays evoke the dying breed of Horror during this stalemate. They came up with a plot, which was a mishmash of 70s Bollywood Horror and some Hollywood ideas, but the outcome of which was neither appealing nor tension inducing. If I were to rate this film, I would put it next to Ramsay's 'Mahakal', which was also very boring and an another unnecessary film.

The plot involves a little girl Anjali, who shows telekinetic powers at a very young age. She lives with her parents and is looked after by her governess Shalaka (Neelam Mehra), who is actually Lalbai, a sorceress in disguise, and is now after Anjali to seek revenge and resurrect her evil lord, the Great Shaitan. Long back, the Great Shaitan roamed about his turf that was called 'Devil's Domain' (Shaitani Ilaaka), unless he was defeated by the holy powers and forcibly put to rest for an indefinite time period. Lalbai is a faithful minion of Shaitan and wants to rejuvenate the Shaitan by offering him the sacrifice of new brides. With each offering, the Shaitan would become more powerful and one day would retain his power to ravage the world. Anjali experiences terrible nightmares on every No Moon night, which are induced into her by the evil Lalbai. Lalbai also overpowers the psychiatric, who is researching on Anjali's telekinetic powers. Anjali's family seeks help of Tantrik Baba (Surendra Pal), who vows to protect her. Days go by and Anjali (Shriprada) is now a college girl. She falls for Deepak (Deepak Parasher), who is to take his Police training. Yes! He wants to be a cop. The couple decide to marry, but things aren't as simple as they appear. Lalbai wants to retain Anjali all for herself, as she had been preparing Anjali as Shaitan's last sacrifice. Soon Lalbai begins following the couple with an intention of winning Anjali back. Chaos ensue when Lalbai attacks Deepak, Anjali and their friends. Lalbai wouldn't stop unless Shaitan is resurrected and regains his power to take over and destroy this world with his demonic forces.

The film clearly seems inspired by 'Evil Dead 2' and Brian De Palma's 'Carrie', However, unlike 'Carrie', Anjali's telekinetic powers are directly manipulated by a poltergeist (Lalbai), and add no charm to the plot. Deepak Parashar looks fagged and so does Shriprada. They look indifferent and add no value to their roles. I suppose they had worked on similar plots before and therefore seem tackling this one indifferently. This is true because the story itself is a fauxpas. The story isn't great enough to hold one's attention, or to let the viewers stay in doubt. The jack-in-the-box kind of scenes are quiet obvious and one can easily guess them before they actually happen. The locations are good, but much of the film has been shot in dark, specially that scene where the couple and their friends encounter the Shaitan himself. The magnitude of Shaitan seems far less than everything that had been spoken about him earlier in the film. Unlike hyperbolized description of the Shaitan and his might, this monster seems to be too feeble to inflict his wrath upon victims. The encounter with Shaitan is not at all interesting and other tricks like wildly blowing wind, the couple's struggle with Shaitan, and the death of their friends seem so common and outdated. One can only laud Neelam Mehra's performance as Lalbai. She has done everything to warrant her role. So according to me, she steals the show. Ramsays had that potential to create a gruesome and spooky atmosphere and this could be seen in their memorable hits and good ones like Do Gaz Zameen Ke Neeche, Darwaza, Dahshat, Purana Mandir and even in Dak Bangla and Sannata. I think the Ramsays badly needed money to fund their other projects, when they came up with this worn out, jaded and not so good idea. This was where the Ramsays got into a downward spiral, and even their other works like Mahakal (A Night on the Elm Street rip-off), Ajooba Kudrat Ka, and Aakhiri Cheekh couldn't save them the title of 'Bollywood Horror Mogul'. It's a universal truth, what shall go up, shall come down. So folks, better avoid this snooze-o-drama if you are looking for cheesy and sleazy Bollywood Horror ride and genuine scares.

Sansani: The Sensation

Surprising little gem
Recently I saw 'Sansani' aka 'The Sensation' in the catalog of an online video vendor and purchased it. I had no experience of 'Irshad' before. Bollywood b-horror has mostly looked to the Ramsays as pathfinders and the name Irshad was Greek to me. As the movie had a tight star cast, I chose to buy it. To my surprise, I wasn't disappointed at all. Sansani has everything in it; thrill, suspense, horror, mystery etc., but what actually misses here is the budget. Yes, the budget is very meager and most of it seems to have gone to the prominent lead and supporting cast. Irshad has used his inherent logic and decided to use bad lighting for the film's own advantage. The murky atmosphere, grainy appearance and down to earth effects have been made to work harmoniously and in the best way possible for the sole good of the movie. Let's have a look at the plot.

On a foggy and cold night, two young men alight from a train at an isolated and remote railway station Balipur. One is Ajay Sachdev (Vinod Mehra) and the other is Prem Kumar Chopra (Prem Chopra). It looks Prem had been following Ajay through the journey and has some hidden motives. Ajay and Prem both come to an old guest house to spend night. At this point the caretaker of the guest house tells something eerie about Balipur, but Ajay isn't able to deduce his talks and rejects everything as a lore. Next morning Ajay heads to Balipur, while Prem keeps an eye on him from a distance. Ajay is here for Mr. Mathur (Jagdeesh Raj), on Nisha's (Bindiya Goswami) request. Mathur's daughter Nisha is Ajay's love interest and she fears that someone is after her family. Mathur is a wealthy man and owns a big factory at Balipur. Time took a bad turn when workers of the factory were stalked and brutally murdered by an unseen assailant. Most of the townspeople think that Mathur's factory is haunted and whoever goes there becomes the victim of blood sucking ghosts. Mathur's health had been badly deteriorating during all these days and he wants to meet Ajay to share some secrets.

Balipur is home to several oddballs. A clownish Nawab (Jagdeep), his two wives Chavanni (Meena T) and Athanni (Jayshree T), his orderly Jumman Mian (Keshto Mukherjee), and several others. Then there is a Christian family with Wilma Vaz (Dina Pathak) as the matriarch, who lives with her daughter-in-law Monica (Kavita). Monica was once married to Tony (Shailendra Singh), but Tony disappeared and was declared dead. However every night, his voice emerges from his grave and troubles Wilma and Monica. Most of the townsfolk left Balipur after brutal murders became a trend. Horrors lurked in their vicinity and they feared death. A certain Mr. Kumar Rajdev (Shreeram Lagoo), a private detective has teamed up with police to speed up the investigations. However, he as well as the police don't yet have anything against the culprits.

Ajay suspects Prem as the perpetrator of the grisly murders. He however couldn't prove Prem guilty and soon finds himself trapped in a cob web of deceit and lies. His life becomes a living hell. He is declared a fugitive and must now race against time to prove his innocence.

This is a surprising movie with all the b-grade masala in it. The film could have been better with an extra budget, but as mentioned before, the director has subtly utilized the bad lighting and hopeless photography to add atmosphere to the movie. The best things about Sansani are the nice depiction of a ghost town, dim and murky lighting, sense of isolation, grainy landscapes, and discomforting darkness. The dance numbers are volatile and add no value to the plot. The comedy is horrible and has only made the duration of the film grow for unjust reasons. Sansani is a perfect midnight movie for all the horror buffs, who are more into giallo genre than decent horror.

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