Saturday, October 13, 2012

Horrible Hairy Horrors of India, part 2


Hairy monsters have always been the rage in Indian cinema. I mean from the very beginning (from what I can find) to the mid-2000s. After that time monster-oriented horror or supernatural films have become a rare species with only a few bits and pieces of fluff like RAAZ 3 popping up now and then. But hairy monsters. Yea, with monkeys abundant in India, its no wonder they are so often the villians in their cinema.

An early example of a hairy monster appeared in unofficial Indian Tarzan film from 1934 called TOOFANI TARZAN (तुफानी टार्सन). Tarzan is thrown into a pit with a crazy hairy humanoid that is just about to munch down on Jane. Trazan gets his butt kicked until he gets the one up on the monster and demolishes the creature.

In an earlier post I discussed the hairy giants that appeared in JAANI DUSHMAN and AJOOBA KUDRAT KAA. Both of these monsters where fairly detailed creatures. Costumes that were very advance and populated two films that had fairly large budgets (for an Indian film). This time around I'm going to jump into the lower end of their film making.

There have always been films made on shoestring in India. In fact, since there so many movies made every year in that country it's hard not to have a slew of bottom of the barrel productions. And in India that barrel is nearly full.

For the past year I've been wading through a lot of these films. If you want you can pick up a copy of my magazine Weng's Chop and I cover Indian cinema in every issue. I suggest visiting amazon.com for Special Issue Zero or Weng's Chop #1

SAU SAAL BAAD – 1989, Director: Mohan Bhakri; Cast: Hemant Birje, Amjad Khan, Jonginder, Sahila Chadha, Sunil Dhawak, and Yash Sharma

One of the first of the cheapie horror films to be made after the Ramsay Family began the boom in the late 70s. SAUL SAAL BAAD is a tantric horror film. That is, all the problems caused in the film come from a sex-crazy magic hoodoo man and his monstrous hairy side kick.

The film opens a hundred years or so ago when an evil tantric woos and then captures the heart (by magic of course) of a royal maiden. The wizard brings the girl back to his cave and is about to consummate their unholy union when the local raja brings his holy man to the party. The woman is turned into a statue and the bad guy is killed. After disposing of the evil tantric his lair is sealed up and Shiva's trident is used as a seal.

Decades later a group of folks manage to unleash the tanrtic from his tomb and he uses his magic to conjure up his hairy henchman:

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After running rampant and killing random people, the hairy monster kidnaps a woman who is the splitting image of the woman the tantric once desired. The monster brings back the woman but unfortunately also runs afoul of a male Naag (snake) demon who is out to destroy the monster and his master. The final ten minutes is a wild throw down between good and evil.

videoSAU SAAL BAAD is not a bad film, although it does foreshadow the dreadful stuff to come from some of the same people who worked on it. The utter cheapness almost ruins the film, but, luckily, the plot is rather old skool and doesn't rely heavily on sleaze to push the envelope. Sure there are some wet sari sequences to keep the ramble in the theatres fixed to the screen, BUT it isn't as skuzzy as later films by Kanti Shah...
Now we move directly to a film that, while as cheap as SAU SAAL BAAD, it manages to take what budget it had and run with it.

HAIWAN – 199?, Director: V Prabhakar; Cast: Silk Smitha, Gowthami, Chitra, and Disco Shanthi

Our next entry is a film that is a total mysyery to me. HAIWAN is yet another low-budget horror film with a furry beast, but it does have a few good... no great (!) aspects to its production. But first the mystery.

First off, the date of release that I can find anywhere for HAIWAN is 1998. The film bills Silk Smitha, even though the real star oif the film is the actress Gowthami. Former “adult” film star Smitha died under mysterious circumstances in 1996 during negotiations that would have seen her return to Indian cinema as a producer rather than stat. Plus, her appearance in the film is very brief. My guess is that this film was partially in the can when she died and it sat around until Gowthami was found to replace the dead starlet. Or, since Smithna's role is pretty vague, her scenes maybe inserts from a previously unfinished film (something that is not uncommon, as there are a few post-1996 films which “star” Silk Smitha in musical numbers).

However, upon closer examination of the film other factor shave helped me come to the conclusion that the 1998 release date is just plain wrong. While the film is mentioned as one of the few Hindi productions on Gowthami's bio, it doesn't appear on her official filmography and was “made” in 1998, a time period where she took time off from film to start a family. There is little info on this film other than the same incorrect info regurgitated over and over no matter what site I visited (I did correct some of Wikipdia's data).

But enough of those oddball facts, on with the monster movie.

The film opens as a group of scientist inject some sort of serum into the body of a corpse. The dead body is revived and goes on a killing spree. Nothing can stop this giant crazy dead man as the serum that awakened the deadman also made him indestructible. The monster chases a young woman and even after being shot repeatedly and burned to a crisp (he regenerates) the thing is unstoppable. It isn;t until a police officer uses his unique kung fu to catapult the giant into an abandoned well.

Roll the title credits. Yep, all that action happened within the first five minutes of the film! Which leads me to believing that HAIWAN is a sequel of sorts to a previously unknown film. One could say that the intro is a direct rip-off of the 1982 Chuck Norris film SILENT RAGE wherein Norris, as a small town sheriff, battles and indestructible madman played by the awesome Ron Silver. There are more than a few visual references to that film in that short prelude just to keep you scratching your head in wonder. (and Carpenter's HALLOWEEN, which you could consider SILENT RAGE ripped off). Was there an Indian SILENT RAGE? That would not be uncommon as the Indian cinema is full of such rip-offs.

Cut to years later (I assume), and the old well, overgrown with weeds and vines, becomes disturbed during a violent thunderstorm. And wouldn't you know it: the giant emerges from the pit, this time instead of the human-looking indestructible man it's a hairy creature with fangs and claws. The monster crawls from the well, bellows and screams, then ambles into the darkness not be seen again in the film for about 40 minutes. In the meantime we have a few musical numbers and then the monster reappears to kill a few guys and snack on their bones before the next song and dance interlude.
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Just as the film begins to get bogged down in the typical miasma that is Indian cinema (i.e. insufferable comedy and convoluted sub-plots) things begin to pick up. There are a few additional random killings, a musical number and then the fun begins.

The monster begins a non-stop killing spree the last 25 minutes of the film, annihilating out a few folks (including the comic relief, thank god) before turning its attention to our heroine (played by the lovely Telugu actress Gowthami). She flees in terror as the furry fiend stalks her. This is where the fun begins which includes some fairly decent action sequences including this scene where Gowthami is fleeing from the monster through her house:

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The creature chases her out of her house and eventually into an abandoned gas station. There she manages to lure the monster into the building and then sets the station on fire. The resulting explosion catches the creature setting it a blaze. The crispy critter falls to the feet of the terrified woman only to rise again and the chase is on once again.

videoShe flees to a nearby factory where the monster follows and stalks her (TERMINATOR style) throughout the building. In the end the monster is finally vanquished (spoiler) when a police officer shows up with special bullets that blow the seemingly indestructible monster away.

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Oh, this could have been a doozy of a film if only the producers weren't so occupied with the comic relief and half-baked musical numbers. Money was spent on the look of the creature, but its appearance in the film wasn't properly exploited. Sources around the Web say that this was a "made-for-video" release. But it just doesn't look like it. The film is nowhere near the abysmal quality of something made by Kanti Shah and the fellow filmmakers he ran with from 1994 to the late 2000s.

DANGEROUS NIGHTS – 2003, Director: Muneer Khan; Cast: Sapna, Amit Pachori
Here's snap from a no-budget thriller with one of the worst moth-eaten monster suits EVER. And, yes, it has something to do with Kanti Shah other than star his boobalicious bombshell of a wife Sapna Tanveer...

who just so happens to be in another hairy monster film, and one that is a remake of a 1979 monster mash...

DUPLICATE JAANI DUSHMAN - 2003, Director: J Neelam; Cast: Shabnam, Sapna

I bought this film - went out of my way to purchase it from an even more obscure website that I usually frequent - just because it was a "duplicate" of JAANI DUSHMAN. Oh, and it also stars Sapna playing one of her tough-as-nails female hellions. 

If you have seen (and you should) the original film, then you know the plot. A hairy werewolf-cum-bigfoot monster terrorizes a village of brides-to-be, murdering the women. Well, this "duplicate" version sort of follows JAANI DUSHMAN ... kinda... sorts.  There is more of Sapna and her amazing breasts than a hirsute critter. But this is a film produced by... yep... an associate of Kanti Shah (or maybe Shah himself under some pseudonym).

The sad thing about this film is that I was hoping that the monster would be more than just a guy in a gorilla suit with fake hair glued to his face. The director,  J Neelam, a man responsible or three other atrocities, does flaunt some few okay musical numbers and does let Sapna ham it up. 
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The monster transfers its essence from man to man turning its host into a hairy horror. Um.... see the original. It has a better monster AND a better soundtrack. 

I think I've covered enough Indian monsters for a while. Next time something different. Unless I uncover more wonderful treasures like HAIWAN