India's first ever horror film festival, Wench Film Festival took place in Mumbai with one of the most popular directors and screenwriters of the horror genre.
While many can tell stories, not too many can tell horror stories well. Horror in Indian cinema was never taken seriously until now. Movies released in the past five years from this genre have been taken seriously and a big reason behind that is how structured the plot is. One thing I learned at Wench Film Festival is that fear doesn't come from scaring people, it comes from the way you feel about certain things. It's really about the gaze and fear can be anywhere. Even the slightest thing that happens in your day-to-day life can be scary. And if you're a true white knuckler, you know that there's darkness everywhere. I suffer from sleep paralysis but I've been experiencing it for so long now that the paralysis part doesn't scare me anymore. It's the aftermath, exhaustion, and no will to go to work that terrifies me.
Indian cinema has put the horror genre in a box where there's a chudail who haunts people she was killed by but there's so much more to being a crazy witch! We often make assumptions in our heads about how a particular character would act. Based on their character description, we put them in a box filled with our assumptions. Psychological horror dramas are taking over the world of cinema and though India has a long way to go, movies like Tumbbad and Bulbbul are the core example of why horror in Indian cinema is not dead yet. A writer creates a role but the director livens ups the character inside it. Filmmakers and writers like Anvitta Dutt, Vishal Furia, and Ensia Mirza have been working in the industry for quite a long time now. While attending the Wench Film Festival, I had the opportunity to speak to them about why Indian horror movies aren't taken seriously, their creative process while writing a horror film, and much more.
Writing creates a plot but Vishal Furia thinks that it's dependent on the visual imagery. He starts building up on the image and then comes up with the story. Anvitta Dutt who has mastered the art of storytelling through Bulbbul and Qala believes there's no difference in writing when it comes to writing for a horror film and other genres. "Hard work and dedication are the same, the scary part is not horror but the blank pages," says Anvitta. When Ensia Mirza sits down to write any story, she makes sure it should land well and there should be a connectivity with lots of horror elements into it. "Process wise, what scares me and what I am scared of I'll try to work something around that even if it's the most banal thing like no light."
As we know Indian horror movies are what people voluntarily opt out of watching, but what can be the reason why people do not take them seriously? Vishal, who has been in the horror genre for quite a long time, says, "We don't make good films. If we start making good films, they will be taken seriously. Point in case - Tumbbad and even my films, Lapachhapi and Chhorii. I am glad people have taken them seriously." As Indians, we need stories that are rooted in mythology or our culture. India is filled with superstitious believers and Ensia thinks that's what horror Indian cinema lacks. Tumbbad clicked because it was homegrown and some of the films Vishal has done are also homegrown so Ensia strongly believes in making homegrown films.
When asked what is their absolute favourite horror film, Vishal didn't hesitate even for a minute and went straight to the classics like The Shining and Rosemary's Baby. He even mentioned the movie that traumatised him as a child - A Nightmare on Elm Street which kind of haunts him still. On the other hand, Anvitta gets delighted by watching movies but is scared while reading books. "The boogeyman you can see is never as frightening as the one that you imagine". For Ensia, nothing beats Tumbbad but he agrees with Vishal and chooses one of the scariest yet iconic movies of all time - The Exorcist.
What's you favorite horror movie? Let us know in the comments below!
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