Bobby Deol in a horror film? It’s true. And debutant director Rajeev Virani insists that the reason the actor was easy to convince was because this was one genre he hadn’t dabbled in earlier. And he had a willing mate in Mugdha Godse on his eight-month paranormal journey that took them to a French-style colonial bungalow in Mauritius that has been turned into a museum. It had an 18th century feel to it and was believed to be haunted.
“We were seriously warned not to venture into the attic post midnight. And though I told myself I didn’t believe in the stuff, none of us took the stairs up in the six nights that we shot there,” recalls Virani. He adds that Deol, who is inclined to believe in spirits, would try to persuade them to shoot as much as possible during the day and even the pragmatic Godse didn’t want to push her luck. “There was a distinct eerie feel to the place, it was like stepping into a time wrap. Boy, were we glad to get away from the house,” he says with a relieved sigh.
Chills and thrills
Interestingly, Virani who is flagging off his career with a horror film shivered every time he has to sit through one. “As part of my research I must have seen at least a 100 such films and I was scared even when I was watching them over two days on my computer, in broad daylight, with the windows open and the sound off. There were times when I would fastforward a scene to know what happens next before returning to it,” he laughs sheepishly, admitting that he’s still to get over his phobia.
He adds, “Today, when one of my assistants who’s a horror film buff comes to me waving a DVD excitedly, I tell him I’ll watch it only if it’s a comedy.” He admits though that horror as a genre is grabbing a lot more eyeballs today and has found a hardcore niche audience. That’s the reason we’ve already seen three such films — Click, Shapit and Phoonk 2 — enter the theatres in the space of four months.
Quoting from market research, Virani points out that the days of the Ramsay ‘bhoots’ are over. “More than jaadu-tona you have to appeal to the intellect. People are looking for a more sophisticated treatment and special effects which is why we have turned our ‘tantrik’ into a college professor in a wheelchair,” he points out.
He however agrees that ‘desi’ viewers still connect better with supernatural rather than slasher movies and look for a family link which is why he has worked his story of possession and the paranormal around a pair of identical twins.
The story revolves around Bobby Deol who is a successful horror film director and plagued by marital woes. He accompanies his wife to Mauritus to visit her ailing father. In the old house there’s something ancient and dark that is ready to strike again. Faced with this malevolent spirit that is hell-bent on destruction, the estranged couple finds love again that gives them the strength to survive.
Quiz Virani on the four-letter title and he says it came to them in a flash after starting out with Production No 10. “We were in Bangkok for a recee and Sanjay (co-producer Sanjay Ahluwalia) saw a billboard of some NGO with the words Help scrawled boldly across it.
He suggested Help as a title and though I wasn’t too excited, I eventually realized that it was perfect for our film, given the number of times the characters reach out for help. I just hope it helps me deliver a hit too.”The film that has only recently wrapped up, is looking at a July release after a promotional activity at IIFA.