Remember Raaz, the 2002 smash hit film that started the trend of horror film franchises in Bollywood? Who had expected a low budget film starring Bipasha Basu and Dino Morea to be biggest grosser of the year behind Devdas? Fifteen years since the release of the film, we have seen two sequels to Raaz, one feeble attempt at rebooting the franchise, a couple of Ragini MMS films and numerous attempts to repeat the formula of Raaz. At the end of the day, current state of the horror films in Bollywood is bleak.
In a country obsessed with box office collections, let me share an intriguing figure. Annabelle Creation has crossed INR 50 crores in India, a feat achieved by only two horror films till date: Raaz 3 and Conjuring 2. Along with Hollywood blockbusters, American horror movies have started eating into the revenue of Hindi horror films. The last successful Hindi horror film was Ragini MMS 2 and that was released in 2014. Since then, several attempts have been made to engage the horror audience but none of them have worked. Films such as Creature 3D, Alone, Khamoshiyan, Phobia, 1920 London, Raaz Reboot and Dobaara -See Your Evil have bombed at the box office. The Vishesh Films banner, in desperation for a hit, brought the hit combo of Vikram Bhatt and Emraan Hashmi to reboot the Raaz series. The film crashed at the box office.
There is a need to probe why Hindi horror films are not working. You can’t blame it on stars. Horror films have never attracted stars barring Emraan Hashmi. In fact, horror films don’t require big stars, big budget or a novel plot. What is required is a director with a vision to present a horror story with a fresh treatment that will scare the audience. The director needs able support from a cinematographer who can execute the director’s vision, a powerful sound and music department who can further amplify the horror elements, and an editor who can put everything together to present a scary product.
The current Hollywood horror hits in India prove the that there is a horror hungry audience waiting to be scared. In a year when big films starring Salman and Shah Rukh are not working, Bollywood is reaping benefits from moderately budgeted desi films such as Hindi Medium, Bareilly Ki Barfi and Shubh Mangal Savdhan. Bollywood needs to experiment with small budget and high concept horror films. The studios and producers should try to bring in fresh directors and writers who will create a genre of desi horror films that will appeal to the Indian audience and stand out in a market increasingly dominated by Hollywood films. If Hollywood can push horror film boundaries through the Conjuring films and churn out hit after hits, Bollywood can also do the same by utilizing our folklore, myths and literature. Horror is one of the most underrated genres in India; if utilized properly it can engage the audience and boost the box office.