It must take a special bone to be a Bollywood buff and talk about the Horror genre. One must begin the conversation by first apologising to the genre on behalf of every Indian filmmaker who exploited it, to make something deliriously different and outlandish. Horrex is a genre in India, if you know, sigh. Amid all of this exists Ramsay Brothers highly ambitious and very strongly influential Veerana, which hit the big screens in 1988.
Director: Ramsay Brothers
Available On: YouTube
Now I know the first thought would be, why is a millennial boy recommending the audience to watch a film from 1988, when the technology now is superior. The answer is in the question. Ramsay Brothers managed to scare their audience at a time when technology wasn’t really advanced. When makeup looked like makeup, and well, pointy lingerie was Bollywood’s pet peeve honestly. I hate the last one though.
So let’s take a tour back in time. The year is 1988, Bollywood is now chest-thumping and obsessing over the full-fledged (for then) discovery of the horror genre. The fact that ’88 in itself had 5 horror films and the following three years 9 is proof. To put it simply, we were ‘experimenting. So what made a film like Veerana stand out in those 5 other films which had Rajesh Khanna and Mithun Chakraborty in two? And Veerana has no big star for your information except Kulbhushan Kharbanda.
It was Ramsay Brothers taking inspirations and using them to create a tale that is more visual than verbal. The cinematic language of Veerana was in its visuals than the paper. Of course, it took the path that now looks staple and ‘just another wannabe horror drama’. But think of it, we were yet exploring, and a major chunk of the population in this country lived in that landscape. For them, it was watching Gully Boy set in a world they know of, except Safina is a ghost in this one.
Veerana is loosely adapted from Jose Larraz‘s Vampyres. The movie, of course, has the black magic touch, and also the badly choreographed fight sequences. But what stands out is colours, the sets, frames, light and the usage of music. One has to really admire the hard work the witch shows up on the screen. It wasn’t a time when the prosthetics were so advanced that the actor wearing them could move their face. It was heavily dependent on the camera that it makes it look scary. And the brothers make sure they do.
Take a scene, for instance. There are numerous animals referenced in the movie. A photo frame has a dog. Hinting at possible bad news, the camera zoom on the frame and the lights highlight his eyes, spooky vibes achieved! You don’t need high-level resources to induce horror, and this film is a shining example.
Won’t deny there is erotica, objectification of women, and men too till a point. That is problematic and needs to be addressed, but that doesn’t mean you nullify the goods. Try and watch Veerana, an experimental film that paved way for many others.
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