Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|Bollywood Horror Collection Vol 3|
Actor: Karan Shah
Genres: Indie & Art House, Horror, Science Fiction & Fantasy
Studio: Wea-des Moines Video Release Date: 05/19/2009
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'Exploitation Madness' - THE BOLLYWOOD HORROR COLLECTION VOL
Christopher William Koenig | Bolingbrook, IL USA | 06/24/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Hello cult movie fans, this is Christopher William Koenig of `Exploitation Madness' to bring you another wild DVD review of bizarre cinema from around the world. Those wacky guys from Mondo Macabro have released yet another double feature of Bollywood horror from the prolific Ramsay family: one is the Hindi variation of "A Nightmare on Elm Street" and the other a treasure hunting adventure with a threatening hairy beast! When it comes to the Ramsay's, they know how to deliver.
MAHAKAAL (1993; English Translation: "Time of Death")
Strange things are going on with the students of a local Indian college. Young student Seema (Kunika) claims she has dreams about a disfigured man with a garden-shear claw attacking her. Her friend Anita (Archana Puran Singh) doesn't believe her. But then, when Seema is killed and her boyfriend Param is to blame, Anita believes that she might've been right. Anita is also having strange dreams in which her dead younger sister Mohini is haunting her, as well as the disfigured monster chasing her around. Once when alleged murderer Param is found dead in a jail cell due to being bitten by many poisonous snakes, Anita's father/local police chief confesses that he buried alive a man named Shakaal, who used young children to sacrifice for Black Magic powers and killed Moheni. But now, Shakaal's power has become stronger and is able to kill Anita's friends in their dreams. It's up to Anita and her boyfriend Prakash (Karan Shah) to face Shakaal for she will be his next victim!
With the recent news of Michael Bay's upcoming remake of the Wes Craven classic "A Nightmare on Elm Street" (1984), nowadays it doesn't seem uncommon for a film to be remade here in America. But then, it's interesting to note that American home-grown terrors have been remade in other countries. During the exploitation cinema boom in Indonesia during the 1980s, there was a different take on the Jason Vorhees character in "The Fox" (1980; Indonesian Title: "Srigala"), while years later there were two Freddy Kreuger knock-offs "Satan's Bed" (1886; Indonesian Title: "Ranjang Setan") and "Perjanjian Di Malam Keramat" (1991). And speaking of Freddy Kreuger and unofficial remakes, there is "Mahakaal" made by the notorious Ramsay family in India, helmed by directors Tulsi Ramsay and Shyam Ramsay. If there was ever a Freddy Kreuger knock-off that went all the way it certainly is "Mahakaal". Originally filmed and completed in 1988, the Ramsay's decided to hold the release due to their competitor Mohan Bhakri unleashing his own Freddy Kreuder-esque horror effort "Khooni Murda" (1988; English Translation: "Deadly Murder"). Once the horror boom in India began to die down in the early 1990s due to the introduction of satellite TV and more commercial availability of horror features from the West, the Ramsay's decided to unleash "Mahakaal" in 1993 but it was too late and the genre was finished. As box office revenues became smaller, the Ramsay's decided to abandon theatrical production and switch over to cable TV.
Folks, I won't lie to you: "Mahakaal" is definitely a copycat of "A Nightmare on Elm Street" and even though there are some elements taken from the rather so-so sequels, it's more about the first film. Going back to when I first saw the film, which I first acquired on VHS from an Indian video store and not subbed in English, to be honest I really hated it. I felt the Ramsay's sold themselves out and doing what the other hack filmmakers in India like Mohan Bhakri and Vinod Talwar were doing: copying a popular American film to make it acceptable in South Eastern culture. During their heyday, the Ramsay's developed their own original ideas and using some elements they had seen from American and European horror features. But as a whole, when you watch Ramsay classics like "Purana Mandir" (1984; English Translation: "The Old Temple"), "Veerana" (1988; English Translation: "The Wilderness"), and "Bandh Darwaza" (1990; English Translation: "The Closed Door") you don't see a lot of ripping-off in those films. But then, when I watched "Mahakaal" again I realized I was being pretty damn picky and couldn't see past it: yeah, it is a Freddy Kreuger knock-off, however the Ramsay's have managed to put their own interpretations to the story and bring about some original ideas of their own. And now, after watching the film on DVD, digitally remastered and with English subtitles, I love the film even more. Dare I say it, I'll put "Mahakaal" as second to the original Wes Craven classic!
So how similar is the Ramsay's take on Freddy? Well, our evil character does have the Freddy glove and the burned face, so that's a plus. But after that, take away the hat and black-and-red striped shirt and replace it with entire black clothing and a mullet, call the character 'Shakaal', and not have him make smart-ass quips like the Freddy character did in the sequels and you've got yourself the Indian take on the character. The story is a little different as well. In "A Nightmare on Elm Street", Kreuger was a local child molester who is killed by the town via burning him alive. In "Mahakaal" it's a slightly different story: Shakaal practices Black Magic via using children to be sacrificed in a deep pit in order to gain his powers. Shakaal's face is already disfigured and he is buried alive instead of being burned! As a whole, both films don't share a lot in their storyline, however I have a feeling for "Mahakaal" the story was changed to make it acceptable due to the strict Hindi film censor laws which are mandated via government and religion. However, what both films have in common is the trait of the monster going into the dreams of young teenagers and killing them. Speaking of kills, let's talk about the death scenes as they are really fun, despite some copied from the original series. Seema is clawed to death by various Kreuger-gloves that pop out from the ground; it's very nicely done and seems to be original. Then we get a death scene in a jail cell that's similar to that of the first film, but again with a different take. In "A Nightmare on Elm Street", a teen in jail is killed via Kreuger using bed sheets to hang the poor soul; in "Mahakaal" Shakaal uses his Freddy glove to scratch holes in the wall and unleash killer snakes! The Ramsay's even manage to lift a death scene wholesale from "A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master" (1988): in that film, Rodney Eastman falls asleep and dreams a naked chick is swimming in his waterbed, yet Kreuger jumps out and drags to poor sap to his death inside the bed! The same happens in "Mahakaal", except the woman isn't fully nude...but again, it's pretty damn similar.
Okay, rip-off elements aside, directors Tulsi Ramsay and Shyam Ramsay have created a very well-done horror film in which all their classic trademarks are on display (i.e., lots of fog, color lighting, creepy dungeons, and a hideous idol that is worshipped by Shakaal) in this 132 minute feature. However, like with many Bollywood films, there are song-and-dance numbers introduced, which tally up to 3: not a lot, but at the same time they become quite intrusive as they just happen out of nowhere, unlike being fully integrated in the plots of former Ramsay features. While the music numbers might be a put off, it's pretty easy to fast-forward them if you don't like song-and-dance mixed with horror. As for the songs, they are pretty hit-or-miss: they aren't as lively as the numbers in the other Ramsay classics like "Purana Mandir". And, not only do we get some songs but we also get a few comedy numbers as well, this time provided by Johnny Lever. Lever's character is quite possibly the most interesting one in the whole film: he plays a cafeteria worker named 'Canteen' - Get it? He serves food and therefore he's named 'Canteen'?! Yeah, Indian comedy is really hard to gauge! - who likes to dress up in red Puma clothing and imitate Michael Jackson!?!? Yes, you heard me, Lever imitates Michael Jackson, and thankfully he is not wearing that silly glove that Jackson used to embody. Lever even goes as far as to say he was called for a part in a new Ramsay Brothers film...ah, nothing like shameless self-promotion, right? Lever also dresses up as 'Shahenshah', a character from a popular Bollywood action film, and fight some thugs at a bar in a wild scene. Then, if that's not enough, Lever plays two other characters that are related to him by bloodline as it turns out his father had other relations! Despite these subplots, they are actually pretty damn amusing and can generate a chuckle or two...possibly for the wrong reasons and Lever was the only character I actually liked most in this! We also get three fight scenes that are really just over-the-top, but they work in their own bizarre little world. If any, it's really the final conclusion that makes "Mahakaal" a joy to watch as we get a combo of ideas lifted from some of the "A Nightmare on Elm Street" series and fun Ramsay based ideas, all taking place in a creepy dungeon and using brief stock music scores from "A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy's Revenge" (1985) and "The Night of the Living Dead" (1968)! I won't tell you how it ends because you are just going to have to see for yourself. Trust me, it's worth the rental. It certainly won't hold a candle to the original Craven classic, so we're not fooling ourselves here. But with that said, Tulsi and Shyam Ramsay have done a pretty decent job taking those elements and combining it with their own whacky ideas. It certainly isn't the best of the Ramsay-based horrors, but in terms of being `fun' and `entertaining', "Mahakaal" succeeds on those terms.
TAHKHANA (1986; English Translation: "The Dungeon")
Thakur Surjeet Singh is on his deathbed and vows that his good sun Raghuveer will inherit the property, a hidden treasure and to take care of his young daughters Aarti and Sapna, both of whom wear a locket that, when joined together, form a map to the hidden treasure. However, the bad son Durjan is cut out from the will due to practicing Black Magic. Not to take this lying down, Durjan digs up the corpse of an ancient demon, intending to bring the horrible monster to life to take down the family. Raghuveer is killed by Durjan's henchmen and the servant Mansingh decides to put a stop to this. Aarti is rescued from Durjan, but Sapna runs off into the jungle and is never seen again, resulting in Mansingh to entomb Durjan with the hideous demon. 20 years pass and Aarti (Aarti Gupta) is all grown up, falling in love with Mansingh's son Vijay (Kamran Rizvi). Mansingh suffers a heart attack and informs Vijay and his cousin Shakaal (Imtiaz Khan) to find Sapna as she has the other half of the locket that will lead to the treasure. Meanwhile, Durjan is still alive in the dungeon and sacrifices his soul to the monster so nobody can have the treasure. Suddenly, Sapna (Sheetal) appears in Bombay and is hired by Shakaal to serve as a cabaret dancer at his hotel. However, Shakaal tries to have his own way with Sapna, but he accidentally kills her and discovers the locket! When Vijay's friend Anand (Puneet Issar) finds out that Sapna is in Bombay, they head over to Shakaal's and they are given a fake locket. Arriving at the old mansion, Vijay and Aarti befriend local strongman Heera (Hemant Birje) and his future wife Panna (Preeti Sapru) and they help them in the search for the treasure, despite the hairy demon monster being on the loose in the old dungeons!
With the success of "Purana Mandir", the Ramsay's realized they had to create a follow-up of their own creation. With that came "3D Saamri" (1985), the sequel to "Purana Mandir" filmed in both 2.35:1 CinemaScope and 3-D. A minimal theatrical success, the Ramsay's then began production with "Veerana" (English Translation: "The Wilderness"), but once the picture was finished it was withheld from release due to the Hindi censor boards not passing the film: apparently the Ramsay's showed way too much sexuality. "Veerana" wouldn't be released until 1988 when it was finally edited down to an appropriate cut the censors would pass. In the meantime, competitors like Mohan Bhakri were churning out their own low-budget terrors, but they had less impact than any of the Ramsay productions. Thus, directors Tulsi Ramsay and Shyam Ramsay decided to go back to the formula present in "Purana Mandir": pretty girls, strong men, old mansions, ancient curses, and hairy monsters. The result is "Tahkhana", but with more elements added to the mix: creepy dungeons, buried treasure, long-lost sisters, and yes some attempted rape scenes as well. The result is a pretty decent mix that runs a short 119 minutes - the shortest Ramsay film that I've ever encountered - and has only two song numbers!
Everything the Ramsay's specialize in is all here. Creepy mansions and old dungeons leading to cob-webbed corridors...check. Bizarre color lighting and complete overuse of lightning effects...check. A giant hairy monster that threatens the entire cast...check. A creepy guy who attempts to rape the hot chicks but never succeeds...double check. Some of the cast is made up from "Purana Mandir" in which Aarti Gupta and Puneet Issar play similar characters, whereas others are new faces to the Ramsay stock company of performers. One giant missed opportunity is the introduction of the smokin' Sheetal: if you notice that she isn't in the film for long, then you haven't read my plot synopsis very carefully. Aarti Gupta may be a little cutie, but Sheetal wins the hot babe category from me and it's a huge shame that she is only in the film for 10 minutes! Unlike "Mahakaal" in which everything moves at a slow pace to the final outrageous climax, "Tahkhana" never stops moving as we are treated to random fight scenes that must be seen to be believed and crazy hairy monster action. We do get some pretty violent death scenes - well, violent for Indian film standards at least - that are actually nicely done. One great bit is when the hairy monster swats it's claw on a guy's head, cracking the poor sap's helmet off and then throws the guy against a wall, landing on some pretty nasty spikes...Yikes! The song-and-dance numbers are pretty short, but they are catchy and I urge you not to fast forward thru them: just sit back and let it all go on. Also included are some comedy scenes played by Rajendra Nath that range from okay to groan-inducing: when left to banter about he delivers a few chuckles, but when brought to help look for the treasure and wearing goggles with fancy electric wiper-blades on them - You know, to protect him from the dirt? Get it, get it...Once again, Indian comedy is really hard to gauge! - it falls to near hopeless category. It also has an unusual climax not very often associated with any of the Ramsay horror films...but I can't spoil it for you.
Once again, Mondo Macabro has done an excellent job with their Bollywood horror releases and this one is no exception. Digitally transfered from the original existing negatives, these two look much better than the standard bootleg and Indian VCD releases, which basically used video transfers. On Disc 1, "Mahakaal" looks excellent and has minimal picture damage, but a scratch or two does appear, otherwise this is, without a doubt, the best release I've seen. On Disc 2, "Tahkhana" has plenty of grain, a scratch here and there, and some water stains; clearly this one wasn't being treated too well in the vaults. But as a whole, these two look great and will be a surprise to those who've seen these on low-quality formats. Both features are in the original Hindi audio with optional English subtitles and they are easy to read, but once again I stress to Mondo Macabro to please spell check and proofread their sentences as a found a flaw or two on the "Tahkhana" subtitles.
Both films come with text essays written by Mondo Macabro head honcho Pete Tombs. An authority on Bollywood and just about any other weird cinema from around the world, Tombs delivers excellent info on the films and the cast. On Disc 2 is their documentary on South Asian Films from both Bollywood and Lollywood, featuring interviews from filmmakers like Mohan Bhakri and film clips from various genre efforts. Rounding out the extras is the classic Mondo Macabro trailer reel featuring titles that are worth of discovery amongst cinemagoers of wild and wooly stuff.
Another excellent 2 disc release of Bollywood horror and here is hoping that Mondo Macabro will have some more Ramsay horror for release. And once that well dries out, there is always the wild horror from Mohan Bhakri and Vinod Talwar to consider.
Mondo Macabro does it again!
Rajesh Balkrishnan | Columbus, OH USA | 05/26/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"2 superb transfers of late Ramsay masterpieces "Mahakaal" and "Tahkaana". Mahakaal is a Bollywood inspired take on Nightmare on Elm Street. Tahkhaana is the more formulaic Ramsay plot of a hideous monster guarding an ancient treasure. Both obscure movies have been lovingly restored with superb supplements. Keep the good work going Mondo Macabro. Next we need Darwaza and Do Gaz Zameen Ke Neeche."