Monday, November 3, 2008

1920 and a trip down the horror lane

Here is a piece of news which I believe is "sansani khej" and "hairat angrez" enough to be flashed as breaking news on the ticker at the bottom of the screen on India TV with the following words "Breaking news: Polka ne kiya apni blog ka update". Yes I am back. With my finger exersises confined to writing codes and trying to pick up rice with chopsticks in Taiwan, blogging was relegated to second division in my priority of things.However 5 months is a long time and since I have made no terminator style announcement like " I will be back" ( or the more desi " ro mat pagli mein laut ke aaonga" ) , I thought it would be wise to assure my readership ( if there is any ) that I am still very much alive.
Talking about being alive , I don't understand the entire concept of fear of death when being dead could be so much fun. Being a dedicated fan of Hindi horror , the idea of being a ghost with a green rubber mask who attacks buxom young ladies in bathrooms has always seemed an exciting after-life career option.All the credit however goes to the Ramsay brothers. Ever since the Wright brothers made aviation history , rarely has history seen a more determined band of brothers. For decades India's first family of horror has dedicated themselves to cause of desi horror thus giving birth to the most original and avant-garde genre of Hindi filmdom. For an entire generation of Indians growing up in the age of video cassettes (VCRs) , childhood memories would be incomplete without the old deserted haveli , the sex-starved voluptuous heroines who takes showers at midnight , the lecherous thakurs ( mostly Raja Murad) , the ghost in rubber masks and gloves and the ancient-looking watchman with the lantern.For those with finer sensibilities who might twitch their noses at the very mention of Ramsay Brothers , let me produce the following exhibit as a testimony to the fact that the Ramsay Brother's were always ahead of their times.

Scene: The Thakur lies in bed with his mistress.The "Bhatakti Atma" signals his arrival with the mandatory swinging open of the Haveli gates and lightning in the sky. The Thakur looks at his mistress and then utters what could well be called one of the most unforgetable dialogues in horror history " Yeh to pehle se hi chudi hui hai..kahi bhoot aake meri gaand na maar de".Thus its the Ramsay Brother's who brings out from the coffins the the taboo topic of ghost homesexuality ( or was it bisexuality?), proving that inhabitant of the netherworld also have varied sexual preferences as opposed to the Hollywood conservative portayal of ghost being always straight.
However with the advent of sattelite television and Ram Gopal Verma , the popularity of the Ramsay Brothers saw a sharp decline. The Bhatakti Atmas embraced the age of globalisation. They started wearing designer labels and even started speaking in English.Unable to cope with such an assault on my senses , I decided to avoid the entire genre.However , a few weeks back I saw a movie poster which i belived could help me regain my faith in Hindi horror. The poster depicted a young couple staring at a pretty white castle from a distance with the movie title "1920" written below it.Although the castle was way too opulent to remind me of the old Ramsay havelis , yet I felt maybe I should give this movie a try.Morevoer the director happened to be Vikram Bhatt , who is one of India's most original directors. Here original refers to being faithful to the original. Unlike several other Bollywood directors who try to improve upon the original with their own aritstic flourishes, Vikram Bhatt follows the original storyline through its crest and troughs. In the process he creates what electronic engineers might called a hi-fidelity output waveform though an amplifier.
The story of 1920 revolves around a young couple who moves into a beautiful deserted castle somewhere in India although the castle seems to be straight out of a European picture postcard.The husband plans to pull down the castle to make way for a hotel.His plans however irks the resident evil spirit , who has been living peacefully in that castle for decades.However , with no Mamta Banerjee or Arundhati Roy to support his cause, he has no option but to resort to terror tactics to hold on to his property.He unleashes a series of nocturnal ghostly acts on the hapless wife.The wife , clearly unaccustomed to Ramsay movies fails to decipher the ulterior motives of the resident evil spirit who was now getting as determined as Mamta Banerjee to stop the evil forces of rampant "hotel-ization".Meanwhile , the wife befriends a father in the neighbourhood church who quite happily agrees to rescue the damsel in distress. Ofcourse the father has a French beard which is compulsory for all Christian characters in Hindi films.What follows can be called a cover version of "The Exorcist" ( Bollywood prefers calling it inspiration).As events unfold we discover that the ghost , once a rebel who looked an emaciated version of Mangal Pandey was hanged inside the castle for his rebellious behaviour.After that he joins the Bajrang Dal which was the only recourse left for rebels like him ( not mentioned in the film).Now faced with the imminent danger of losing his property , he does what any self-respecting ghost must do. He enters the body of our pretty young heroine ( i mean his soul does) .This act gives rise to bouts of hysterical behaviour in the otherwise sedate lady.( which is very obvious when the soul of a Bajrang Dal activist enters the body of a convent educated page-3 model).At this moment of crisis enters our priest from the neighbourhood church , armed with the Cross , Holy water, Holy Bible and all other paraphernelia needed for the exorcism.Meanwhile , our rebel makes it known to the father that he will not take things lying down by painstakingly painting a goathead on the church walls.For those who have not grown up on death metal , a goathead inscribed in a pentagon is the symbol of satan. However to my dissapointment , the ghost refrains from belting out " The number of the Beast" from the top of the church.
So the battleground is ready.The audience awaits with bated breath as the clash of the titans ensues- the "Bajrangi" Atma versus The Exorcist. The Father , who has probably watched a pirated version of the Exorcist , has the initial upperhand.However our Bajrangi fights back , clearly pissed off at the prospect of a Christian priest trying to tame a Hindu ghost and that too a former rebel.As the hapless husband watches his dear wife performing gravity-defying Matrix-style acrobatics , our exorcist finally concedes defeat after being stabbed with a knife.At this moment , with both me and my roomate collectively cheering on the husband with "come on man..get out your Hanuman can do it!!", the husband finally gets into the act. Holding on to his wife with all his might and by chanting the Hanuman Chalisa , he finally regains control of his wife and our Bajrangi soul decides to leave the body of the heroine and move on to greener pastures ( maybe a Lok Sabha BJP ticket from Orissa).

Altough I was a bit dissapointed that there was no lovemaking scene between the husband and his possesed wife ( can it be called a threesome?), i must admit "1920" hepled me regain my faith in the Hindi horror genre. Hindi horror is trully alive and kicking ( our brains)!!