Vicky Kaushal’s Bhoot Fails at the Box Office. Is the Horror Genre Waning in Bollywood?

Vicky Kaushal’s Bhoot Fails at the Box Office. Is the Horror Genre Waning in Bollywood?

The regular tropes used in these films are failing to scare the audience any more. Is that why none of the films in this genre is succeeding?

Are horror films threatened in India? Going by the fate of the recent horror films such as Vikram Bhatt’s Hacked last month and Bhoot this week, the normal horror tropes and standard scares have had their (Fri)day. Bhoot, a prestigious Karan Johar production, registered a paltry Rs 2 crores nationwide on Monday. No  wonder,  Ram Gopal Varma, the master of celluloid spooks, has decided to stay away from the horror genre. “Isn’t there enough horror all around us in every sphere of life? I think the way that a horror film will work in contemporary times is if it is set in normal identifiable comfortable setting,” reasons Ramu whose Bhoot  in 2003 set a new benchmark in filmy frights by taking the horror genre to a classy level that it never attained before, or after. Varma’s Bhoot starred Rekha, Victor Bannerjee, Tanuja Ajay Devgn, Urmila Matondkar …Never again did the horror genre in Bollywood acquire the same classy upmarket aura as Varma’s Bhoot.

In fact, Varma hoped Karan Johar’s Bhoot would encore the feat of the original and had gladly given over the title Bhoot to Johar. Now, the intended franchise lies exposed as a fraudulent if not farcical, fling with generating fear out of flimsy plot devices. In Bhoot, his first full-fledged fear-fest, Karan Johar is fully into the thick of things on a haunted ship which, like Karan’s Kalank, docks into Mumbai un-navigated. Instead of drowning the ship in the ocean (maybe tie the  monster contraption to a few boulders), the  film’s naval hero Prithvi played by Vicky Kaushal, drowns his dread of the dead in drinks. No wonder, he starts seeing evil spirits at home and on the ship. If you spend too much time with memories, you become  a ghost.

Best friend Riaz (tokenism at its most glaring) clutches Prithvi and sobs, “Tu kitna bhi paagal ho jayega main tumhara saath nahin chodunga.”  Riaz’s wife looks seriously worried. Is her husband seeing things too? We are certainly not seeing Prithvi is, namely a very dangerous evil spirit stalking the deserted ship like the Ranaut sisters on social media. Evil has many designs and it’s hard to predict where it will come hit you from. Ask Hrithik Roshan.

In the meanwhile, Vicky Kaushal foolishly keeps going back to the ship with its monstrously creaky and ferociously freaky interiors. Full marks to the art designer whose eye for detail is decidedly dishy. The cinematography by Pushkar Singh, a synthesis of sepia scares and  brightly lit ruins, is also top-notch. Wish the same could be said about the direction which skirts sloppiness. As for the “dangerous” spirit on the ship, she is no more dangerous than your wife watching Game Of Thrones in bed while you snore.

Vicky Kaushal's Bhoot

And therein lies the problem. This is a film as harmless as a game of  bingo that your mom organized in the backyard, where tempers were frayed. But really, who was afraid? The scares in Bhoot come exactly four times, and each time, they are generated with heightened sound and a creature rushing out at us like a snarling goalkeeper at a football game who just realized the whole team from the opposite end is showing him the finger.

 That’s what Bhoot, etc  does to us. It mocks at the horror genre by resorting to the most trite tropes and standard shock tactics of the  genre and it  mocks our definition of bereavement by converting it into a currency for corny scares. The  first-half does have a few touching moments showing  Kaushal’s Prithvi grieving for his  wife and daughter who died in a raft accident.  But the second half moves from the raft to a scare-inducing craft on a ship that looks almost as deserted as the theatre where I saw  Karan Johar’s silly scare attempts.

Part 1 is done. Part 2 anyone?  Ram Gopal Varma is forgiven.

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