Haunted havelis, desi vampires, scary shower scenes: The Ramsay brothers are back
The Ramsay’s are planning a comeback on the big screen. So we spoke to them about some lesser known facts, incidents from their films and the mystery to where Jasmine from Veerana had disappeared.
Don ‘t Disturb the Dead: The Story of the Ramsay Brothers by Shamya Dasgupta (HarperCollins India), releasing this month, is about the pioneers of the horror genre in India, the Ramsay brothers, as they came to be popularly known.
We spoke to director Shyam Ramsay, his daughter Saasha Ramsay and Satish Shah, who starred in many of their horror movies.
Shyam Ramsay directed cult movies such as Veerana (1988), Purana Mandir (1984) and Band Darwaza (1990), commented on what he thinks of scary movies these days.
“We made all the films for the single screens- for the masses. Now the generation has changed, even now people are making horror films for the masses. But I’ve noticed that the main horror factor, the fear is missing. I’m starting a new film called House, which will be like Conjuring. I really enjoyed that movie and ended up watching it three times. The makers depicted the fear of the unknown very well in the movie. In most of the horror films being made nowadays, the production value and everything is great, but they are not being able to recreate the fear factor. When I used to make films it used to be masala films for the masses- there were sex and horror both. For the horror factor we depended a lot on make up at that time rather than VFX.
Nowadays the youngsters are doing a good job, but the fear factor is missing. Abhi tak koi darr paida nahi kar paaya hai. Except Ram Gopal Varma in Bhoot (2003) and Raat and Vikram Bhatt’s Raaz part 1(2002),” says Shyam.
Shyam Ramsay tells Saasha Ramsay: Woh dekho beta, chudail chandelier kei andar baithi hai.
Then he makes a point which really captures what is going wrong with a lot of Hollywood horror films.
“Today filmmakers should try to recreate real, authentic horror, but the audience should also enjoy it at the same time. It should not be boring and neither should it be a very dark or depressing film. People have enough worries in their life anyways, so horror films should be enjoyable and thrilling, like when the Ghost is chasing the girl. Like Wrong Turn (2003) was a very gory film but Omen 1 (1976) had an undercurrent of horror.”
Did you feel offended when people refer to the Ramsay horror films as cheesy?
“That was a pattern we followed purposely because people expected certain things from a Ramsay film- the horror, sleaze, sex, the typical bathroom shower scenes, it had become a brand. Just like people used to see Dada Kondke’s films for the double meaning comedies, they came to see Ramsay films for the horror and sex.Woh zamana alag tha. I will not make those kind of movies today since today’s audience will not identify with it.
I shall make a movie with an Indian context. Vampire films might not work in India, but there is a folklore about a woman who comes in the night near the Godavari river, she’s a witch.”
I tell him that this is reminding me of his film Veerana (1988).
“Veerana was a perfect film. Even people of the current generation shall like the film. I’m making a sequel to it but I need the proper girl for that role, like I had Jasmine in Veerana.”
Jasmine in Veerana. The Ramsay ghosts were also famous shampoo chors. ( YouTube )
Then I ask him something whose answer neither Google nor YouTube has been able to give me. Where is Jasmine (also her name in the movie), the leading lady of Veerana who turns into a witch and kills the men who fall for her. I tell him about the rumours which say that she went away to the U.S or that she started getting a lot of calls from the underworld after the movie became a success and hence she chose to stay away from the limelight.
“Jasmine is very much in Mumbai. Her mother had passed away, who she was extremely close to, which really affected her, and she took a backseat and no longer associated herself with the film world. In fact, we shall be making a sequel to Veerana, and then definitely I shall get Jasmine to play as a mother to the new girl who shall be playing Jasmine.”
But what about the actors? Some of whom were repeated in many of their films. What was their experience like? To find this out, we spoke to Satish Shah.
“The Ramsay brothers have always been very enterprising; I was rather fond of them. People thought they were ‘C’ grade movies but I had a ball working with them. And I always thought Shyam Ramsay was very talented. I wouldn’t name them but there were some duffer actors around, and Shyam used to actually show them with his actions how to go about a certain scenes,” said Shah.
I remind him about Purana Mandir (1984), where he played Sanga the woodcutter.
“Yes, those were my struggling days; they gave me a baisakhi (crutches) and burnt half my face (make up). I had scenes along with Sadashiv Amrapurkar. It was his second film after Ardh Satya (1983) hence he could dictate some terms. Now the Ramsays wanted him to burn his face, but then he refused to do that and they transferred it to me. Then they gave him the baisakhi, but he didn’t want that too, so that too was passed on to me. I never forgave him for that.”
I tell that after he is possessed with the spirit of Saamri in the movie, his walk reminded me of the way Michael Jackson danced in Thriller.
“I have no idea! I don’t remember an inch of footage from that movie because I was so disgusted because of the makeup they applied on me and the time it took to put on that. It’s a bad memory. The palace they were shooting in at the time happened to belong to a very close friend of mine. So I arranged that for them and probably thought they were bribing me by giving me that role.
But Veerana (1988) was fun. I’ll tell you something about the Ramsay’s- the workload was very evenly distributed amongst all the brothers and family members. I feel Shyam Ramsay is one of the finest directors and has a great sense of film making except that he had to cater to a certain audience, so he couldn’t get away from that image. But he is far above what he has done. So is Gangu Ramsay, he could turn a swan into a vulture with his cinematography skills.”
These scary effects didn’t spare even Shyam’s own daughter, Saasha Ramsay.
“I have a very clear memory of Purana Mandir (1984), I was 10 at the time, and we were playing in the garden by the palace. So the person playing the ghost of Saamri was just stepping out of the green room and was standing behind me. I turned around and saw him and it completely freaked me out to the extent I was got fever,” remembers Saasha.
“The next day my dad took me to the sets when the ghost’s make up was being done which is when I understood that it was just a man underneath.”
I then ask her about the web series they did (with 101India), which didn’t really strike the kind of chord which one has come to associate with the Ramsay horror films, but at the same time one must laud 101India for giving all the avid horror fans a shot at what they had been wanting for a long time, a glimpse of the Ramsay’s back in action.
“The web series was nice, but it could have been way better. For example one of the short films I shot was titled A Halloween Night. But when it was uploaded, a lot of scenes were cut without my knowledge and they titled it Besabar Kabar. So that was very disheartening and upsetting. There was another one which was about vampires, called Illusion, but when it went up it was called Khoon Ki Pyaas. So as a result, I just stopped talking about this series because I can’t really go up to people and say, “Hey, you know I’m the next kid on the block, go and watch Khoon Ki Pyaas.”
Anirudh Agarwal as Navela (Dracula) and Aruna Irani as his follower in Band Darwaza (1990). ( YouTube )
Well, here’s looking forward to Veerana 2, and the Ramsays who were kind enough to import vampires to India, and at the same time made sure that even they practiced Hinduism. Otherwise, how could Navla from Band Darwaza have been vanquished with the Om sign on a cross?
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