THEY are all set to scare the wits out of you. What with Ram Gopal Varma offering a cash award to anybody who can see his horror flick —Phoonk alone, the genre of horror films are making a comeback and how!
Little wonder that filmmakers are looking at horror films as a moolah making genre which is alive and kicking. With more and more films and even serials on small screen turning to concepts that spook their audience; entertainment is taking a whole new ‘scary’ turn.
Says Vikram Bhatt, well-known director whose upcoming horror flick is all set to spook film buffs, “Who does not like to be scared out of his/her wits? And when it’s done well, it’s all the more alluring. Despite the huge potential such movies have, what Bollywood had not been able to replicate is the superb technology used by Hollywood to make horror movies. The treatment of the movies, the plot and even the storyline by our Indian filmmakers have been very shabby. Thankfully things are changing now.”
Agrees Ipsita Roy Chakraverti, well-known Wiccan, known for making movies that have a hint of supernatural element in it. Her serials based on the paranormal phenomenon is on air these days in Kolkata. She says: “People have been intrigued by the unknown matters of the inner psyche, the shadow self and things they do not understand as yet. Even though such movies didn’t do that well in our country till now, there is a yearning to identify with the supernatural or else a film like —Mahal would not have become an all time classic. Sadly filmmakers don’t show sensitivity or understanding in dealing with the subject. Nor can they create the right atmosphere, they are either too loud or too gross. A real horror should whisper and not shout. And with most at a loss to handle a difficult genre like this, good horror films were missing. But efforts are on to change that by me and others who are handling this genre.”
Confirms Tulsi Ramsay, undisputed doyen of Indian horror films, who is shooting for two new films for the new-age audience, “Horror as a genre has remained unmatched in terms of popularity. When we made a TV horror show, it became an instant success even at a time when audiences were only watching drama based serials. But today look at the response that Phoonk has got, which confirms that this genre can set cash registers ringing at the BO. I do agree that we need to adapt ourselves with the time when it comes entertaining masses, and both my upcoming movies aim to do just that.”
So while the large screen prepares to give you a fright literally, the small screen too is not far behind, feels Jai Walia, singer, lyricist and writer, who has penned scripts for horror shows like —Mano Ya Na Mano, —Saturday Suspense, etc for the boob tube. “When you are out to scare the audience, it should be an effort of top quality. A substandard horror film or serial can be quite painful to watch. What is really heartening is the fact that a younger audience is really taking to this genre.”
Maintaining that the meagre budget and shabby treatment of such movies have prevented it from becoming as popular as horror films are in the west, he further adds, “In a horror film one needs intelligent camera angles at which the shots are taken. The sound effects, lighting, et al too play an important role in making it a hit. It’s only now that these things are being taken into consideration. Therefore horror films are gathering such a response.”
But what do market trends for such movies say? To which responds Deepta Ray Chakraverti, who handles publicity of Ipsita’s movies based on esoteric themes in India and abroad, “The market is rather exclusive as this genre of films has a tag of being different. But then that's where lies its publicity potential as today movie making is more about making money than a vision or inspiration. So, if the spotlight is now on the esoteric, what can be better than that. What is even more encouraging is the fact that it has caught the attention of the new-age audience, which is more open to new ideas and exploration.”
Two years back, Bollywood actress Sarika had slipped into a black robe and held up a crystal star, posing as a wiccan, in — Sacred Evil. For —Parapaar, wiccan high priestess Ipsita Roy Chakraverti is facing the camera herself — sometimes playing out her real-life accounts, sometimes responding to queries from viewers and revealing a secret or two.
Commissioned by ETV Bangla, —Parapaar is a TV series based on Ipsita’s mystical journey and her close encounters with the paranormal. A dramatised story will air from Monday to Friday; on Saturdays, she will interact with the audience through phone-ins related to the story.
“The serial may interest viewers to learn more about the eastern and western cults of the mother goddess. Besides, I believe healing can also be done through the electronic media,” says the wiccan who has been training a small group of Calcuttans in her craft.
Keeping the rural-urban audience in mind, the topics taken up in —Parapaar include witchhunts (“which is still widely prevalent in the rural areas”), deja vu, dreams, out-of-body and near-death experiences.
“—Parapaar is a reality show in the true sense, it’s not just another supernatural show. We will explore unexplained situations and things that people often come across in their lives,” says director Avijit Banerjee, who had made the popular soap —Aastha for ETV Bangla.
In the first story (—Woman in Red, taken from Ipsita’s book —Sacred Evil),which went on air on Monday, Chandreyee Ghosh, not Ipsita, plays the wiccan protagonist. “Chandreyee is Manasi, a student of Ipsita. Along with the dramatisation of a true story taken from Ipsita’s life, we will also track Manasi’s spiritual quest and personal life,” explains Banerjee.
Ipsita’s autobiography —Beloved Witch provides the framework for Chandreyee’s character in —Woman in Red, which will run for 20 episodes. As a student of this pagan branch of magic and learning, Chandreyee wears mostly black and uses several wiccan tools.
“I was always interested in the supernatural and witchcraft as a child. I had a vague idea about wicca but I didn’t know how wicca can do good to others and how it can enhance one’s concentration until I did this serial. A subject like this needs to seem authentic on screen and I loved the way —Parapaar has been shot. I am shown using the crystal ball, the athame and the Tibetan singing bowl, and all the props are genuine,” says Chandreyee.
—Parapaar will be aired Monday through Saturday at 10pm on ETV Bangla.
There’s more to Paulo Coelho than meets the eye. The Brazilian writer whose bestselling books are said to have a life-enhancing effect on millions across the world is a “wiccan” and a “mystic”. Coelho’s wicca link was brought under the scanner by Calcutta’s own wiccan Ipsita Roy Chakraverti at a book-reading session of his latest release Brida.
Not only does Brida dwell on wicca, Coelho himself is a practitioner of the pagan religion that worshipped the Mother Goddess around 25,000 years ago, confirmed Ipsita.
“Coelho writes, ‘At that time, however, God had been a woman’. He invokes Virgin Mary who was once considered to be a pagan goddess. Brida is a book on wicca and Coelho is a wiccan. And it’s not surprising because several writers were known to be wiccans, like Arthur Conan Doyle and W.B. Yeats,” said Ipsita, at Oxford Bookstore on Friday.
Coelho had written Brida in 1990; the English translation was launched early this year. The book is about Brida O’Fern, a young Irish girl who roams the forests in search of someone who would teach her occult, magic and the esoteric arts.
On a spiritual quest to find her Soulmate, Brida first meets Magus, a magician, and then a character called Wicca, who teaches her the Tradition of the Moon. At the end of her journey, she learns to balance spirituality with love and passion.
In Brida, Coelho makes explicit use of concepts and tools of the woman-centric pagan religion. According to Ipsita, he has borrowed his heroine’s name from Bridgette, or Brida, the Irish goddess of wicca who symbolises the transformation of the soul. He refers to the wise women of old, the return to nature in order to gain knowledge, the vibrations of the earth, the circle of wicca and its underlying philosophy “to accept and move on”.
“Coelho has also drawn upon various traditions from across the world. There are concepts from the Rig Veda, Taosim, the Shinto religion in Japan and the Indian Tantric cult. It’s a beautiful amalgamation of the east and the west,” added Ipsita, who has revived the study of the ancient esoteric arts and civilisations in Calcutta through the Wiccan Brigade.
Ipsita was accompanied by her corporate lawyer daughter Deepta Roy who threw light on the growing interest in spirituality and wicca among the youth. “It inculcates discipline and a deeper understanding which acts as a kind of renewal and revival in our busy life,” said Deepta.
The writer of The Alchemist too inspires renewal and revival.