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  • Lights are on, yet the ghost comes!

    'Bhoot' breaks new ground

             New Delhi: Horror films in Hindi cinema have been presented in a routine fashion over the years - the sound of the door, the owl on a tree, the pitch-dark night, the blowing of the wind, the soft movement of curtains or the lights going off. But nothing of the sorts happens in Ram Gopal Verma's urban horror flick 'Bhoot' (Ghost), which was released in New Delhi and across many cities on Friday. Though the plot is the tried-and-tested tale of a possessed woman, the treatment is what makes it different. Directed by Verma, the film is a story of a couple who rent a haunted house and gradually discover its dark history. Starring a mammoth star cast (Urmila Matondkar, Ajay Devgan, Rekha, Seema Biswas, Tanuja, Victor Benerjee, Fardeen Khan and Nana Patekar), 'Bhoot' promises to be painstakingly scary.

              The film opened to full house at various theatres in the city. For most of the cinegoers, 'Bhoot' was indeed "sensible". "It's a very good movie. It's a sensible movie by a sensible director. In normal cliche horror movies we have in Bollywood, there is no sense. But in this if we got scared, we had something besides the scenes, the studio effects were excellent and acting was marvellous," said Raj, a cine-goer.

              But for many fans of Verma, it was a let-down. "The movie wasn't very good. Not a Ram Gopal Verma kind of movie. The story was okay but not very appealing. Some of the scenes, some of the sound effects were scary, the rest of the film was okay. Urmila's acting was very good and the rest of the cast was okay," said Archit, another moviegoer. Sumit Saxena of the Satyam Cineplexes said 'Bhoot' has rceived a good opening. "Bhoot has opened very well. We have been getting inquiry already for last two weeks or so. And since we opened, we have already done about 60-70 percent advances through the weekend. We are hoping that all this goes houseful as well," he said.

              With 'Bhoot', Verma has defied several rules of Hindi cinema. There are no songs or intimate scenes between a couple. Made with a moderate budget of Rs 10 crore, every character in this two-hour film looks credible. Urmila Matondkar is being touted as the surprise package of the film. Matondkar, who has won accolades for her performance as a dancer in 'Rangeela', as an obsessed lover in 'Pyar Tune Kya Kiya' and as a psycopath in 'Kaun', has now transformed herself into a serious actress. No more the earlier image of a sex symbol. 'Bhoot, as she says, belongs to a different genre of horror films made in India. "Bhoot basically is a horror film but while watching it you can forget all things associated with a cliche horror film. Bhoot is a very different kind of film because in this there are no such things like a woman in white sari, dark dingy bungalows, haunting songs, flying bats etc. But still it is very scary. Secondly, the characters in this film are very real," said Urmila.

              Verma who has teamed up with Urmila in almost all films out of his stable, is currently Bollywood's most busy director, releasing three or four movies a year, most of them received well by the media and the audience in times when most others are turning out to be flops. Verma is known for fast-paced slick gangster or out-of-the-routine thrillers: 'Satya' (Truth) and 'Company', both based on Mumbai mafia, and 'Road'. Varma's next scary flick 'Darna Mana Hai (Don't get scared) is all set to hit the screens in July. Indian audience are not used to seeing horror films with a "difference".

              Apart from a few scary flicks like 'Raaz' (Secret), 'Raat' (Night) and 'Gehrayee (Depth), most of them have fallen flat at the box office. A "standard" Hindi horror film, made on a shoe-string budget, amazingly awful special effects and a repeat star cast, have so far met with fierce criticism from film buffs. Often cranked out in a week or two for about Rs 1 crore, these productions are created primarily for exhibitions in small towns and villages. They have the same readily-exploitable staples that have sustained low-rent producers the world over. But over the years, slick storylines, mega budgets and services of class actors and actresses have brought the horror genre to being one of the favourite with producers and directors.

    May 30,  2003

     'Jajantaram Mamantaram' - A typical children's film  

              MUMBAI: Jajantaram Mamantaram' (The power of J2M2), a Hindi adaptation of Jonathan Swift's classic 'Gulliver's Travels' and based on a Gujarati fable 'Bakasur', will be released in cinemas across India later this week (May 30). Starring Javed Jaffery, Gulshan Grover and Joy Fernandes, 'Jajantaram Mamantaram', a fantasy children's adventure, is a story of an uptown "cool dude" from Munbai, who lands up at Shundi, a mysterical island village somewhere in the deep Arabian sea. There he finds himself about ten times larger in size than local villagers. How he copes with the situation is what 'Jajantaram Mamantaram' is all about.

              A special screening of the film was organised for underprivileged children in the country's film capital Mumbai on Sunday. Javed Jaffery, the lead actor of the film, was elated at the final product. "The story is a typical children's film. It is very funny and sweet. There are no typical Hindi film songs. There are four songs in the film, though I don't get to perform even on a single one. I let Gulshan Grover perform on two of item songs," said Jaffery after the special screening. Gulshan Grover, the "bad man" of Bollywood, again plays a villain called Chattan Singh in the film. "My character is called Chattan Singh ... he is always scheming. He is a bad guy. He wants everything ... including the whole island and the princess," he said.

              Produced by iDream Productions, famous for its internationally acclaimed movies like 'Bend it like Beckham', 'Monsoon Wedding', 'Mitr-My Friend' and '16 December', the film has been directed by Soumitra Ranade and has music by acclaimed pop group 'Three Brothers and a Violin'. Thirty-year-old Ranade, an alumni of National School of Drama, said he used his personal experiences as a child while shooting the film. "It is not just inspired by Gulliver's Travels ... it is inspired by rough stories. One of them is the 'Myth of Bakasur', the giant who eats villagers, which is from the Mahabharata. And also some other things which all of us have seen as children. So it's a kind of an amalgamation of all these things which I was carrying while making of the film," said Ranade.

              The film, made with a budget of 400 million rupees, has 63 minutes of special effects, designed especially by a team from Hollywood, which is the longest duration of special effects ever done in an Indian film. A host of other recent children's films like 'Chhota Jadugar' (Small Magician) and 'Harry Potter' have already recovered more than 63 million rupees for the hit-starved film industry which has not yet had a hit for six months. Sunny Deol's Pakistan bashing in 'Hero - love story of a spy' and Pooja Bhatt's controversial 'Jism' were the only two movies which did some reasonable business. According to official estimates, the Indian film industry, which produces more than 400 films every year, lost 400 billion rupees in 2002, with only 'Raaz' and 'Devdas' hitting the bull's eye. Last week saw three big-budget films - 'Armaan', 'Haasil' and 'Stumped' released at the box office.

              But iDream officials are hopeful of recovering the cost from the sales of the overseas territory itself. The film has been dubbed in English as the 'Power of J2M2 and will be released internationally along with its Hindi version. The film is also scheduled to be screened in the ongoing Cannes film festival, which would attract worldwide distributors and buyers. With children's films like 'Harry Potter' and 'Spiderman' proving to be huge success at the box office, what ripples will 'Jajantaram Mamantaram' create is yet to be seen.

    May 19,  2003

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