The thrill of chills

Hindustan Times | ByHimani Chandna Gurtoo, New Delhi
Sep 30, 2012 10:22 PM IST

With Indian viewers giving horror and supernatural fare on films and TV a thumbs-up, more producers are exploring the genre with interest. Himani Chandna Gurtoo reports.

Horror film Raaz 3 is a box office winner. It is probably the costliest and one of the most successful Bollywood horror films. Made on a budget of Rs 25 crore, it has collected over Rs 60 crore at the box office in two weeks, bringing the horror and supernatural genre into focus. Two other Bollywood horror/ supernatural films are coming up with sequels – Bhoot Returns and 1920 - Evil Returns – over the next two months.

HT Image
HT Image

“For us, ‘horror and supernatural’ has been a trademark genre where the economics is just perfect. We are also working on several other scripts to keep the fear alive,” said a source from Vishesh Films, makers of the Raaz films.

Spine tinglers have always been popular in Indian cinema and television (remember Aahat?) though they have never had the kind of cult following that Hollywood chillers enjoy. The Friday the 13th, Resident Evil and Twilight Saga series are prime examples. The international market is much bigger for the genre too. According to Wall Street Journal estimates, the hollywood zombie economy is $2 .5 billion (Rs 13,250 crore) and growing quickly.

Film experts say it’s not difficult to sell horror as fear is a basic trait of human nature and it is easy to sell what already allures. “We always play such movies during sleepovers at friends’ places,” said Delhi-based Tanaaz Sheikh, 26, a marketer and a movie buff.

According to Amod Mehra, film trade analyst, the genre kicked off in the 1940s, but lost steam thereafter. “Bhoot brought the fear back and earned handsomely at the box office. The genre works on the USP of low budget. Such films don’t require impressive locations, beautiful faces and glamorous costumes.”

While Hollywood has spent big money on horror/supernatural films, Bollywood films in the genre have stayed with small budgets and hardly any tech effects. However, the track record of profitability is causing Bollywood to do a rethink.

“In the next five years, giant production houses will make more of such movies as their commercial success history is taking them above grade ‘B’ cinema," Mehra predicted.

The use of 3D technology has been refreshing. “3D in horror would work, technically. I think the technique has terrific application in horror films, if done right,” said Ram Gopal Verma, who is doing Bhoot Returns in 3D.

“We are searching for purebred horror scripts and have listed the category among our ‘thrust areas of development’ for next year,” said Manish Hariprasad, creative director, Disney UTV. “Undoubtedly, the genre reaps extraordinary profits and also creates a separate brand identity.”

“We are looking for good content, but a production house must understand that viewers today are more mature and bold (fearless),” said a senior official from Percept Picture Company.

TV too is looking at fear fare with greater interest. Zee TV has launched the supernatural real life Fear Files show. “The television rating point for this 11 pm show has crossed 4.1%. Given the fabulous viewership interest, we have extended this 26-episode series by another 26 episodes,” said Sukesh Motwani, fiction programming head, Zee TV. Sony and Life OK are also exploring some horror scripts.

Industry experts predict that the next wave of quality paranormal cinema will extend beyond films to video games, comic books, novels, stationery items, costumes and merchandise.

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