Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Amrish Puri as a werewolf! Amrish Puri as a werewolf!

I clearly don't get what the deal is with Bollywood horror. My understanding was that it was a reviled genre so outside the mainstream that staff at many Indian DVD shops won't even acknowledge its existence. If that's the case, then what exactly is Jaani Dushman? Certainly in many respects it's a typical 1970s masala, with star-crossed lovers, evil thakurs and Sunil Dutt mounting a horse by doing a backflip. But its central plot revolves around a yeti-like werewolf that murders young women on their wedding day -- and if that doesn't make it a horror film, I don't know what would.

Directed in 1979 by Rajkumar Kohli -- who also gave us the eye-popping 1976 version of the also supernaturally-themed Nagin -- Jaani Dushman is anything but outside the Bollywood mainstream, boasting an impressive all-star cast that includes the aforementioned Dutt, Rekha, Jeetendra, Sanjeev Kumar, Reena Roy, Neetu Singh, Satrughan Sinha, and a brief cameo by Aruna Irani as one of the victims. But the real attraction for me -- as the title of this post may already have given away -- is the presence of a young, barely credited Amrish Puri in the role of the werewolf during the first half of the movie. (To explain: the movie's version of lycanthropy is the result of possession by a vengeful spirit, and that spirit takes residence in more than one host throughout the film.)

I'm not going to give Jaani Dushman a full-blown review because (1) to be honest, I found most of the non-werewolf-y parts of it kind of dull, and (2) the currently available DVD from Music India that I have is missing a fairly crucial reel during the last act. I will say, though, that the horror sequences are at least worth fast-forwarding to, at once both surreal and surprisingly violent. Plus, dude, come on: Amrish Puri as a werewolf!

11 comments:

duriandave said...

Wow... the world is full of disturbing synchronicities. Check out my blog tomorrow for a werewolf-related post that I was planning in my head this morning on my way to work. Honest... this is not a marketing ploy.

houseinrlyeh said...

You had me at the title of your post. It's moments like these when I curse the non-existence of an Indian community here in Germany.
Sure, there is always the mighty Ebay UK, but still...
Anyway, another one for my list.

Todd said...

Dave, is it about Sek Kin as a werewolf? I hope I hope I hope. In any case, I'll be looking forward to reading it. I guess I'll use a werewolf-heavy Santo movie for "From the Lucha Diaries Vaults" this week to keep with the theme.

Houseinrlyeh: Despite having some decent Indian DVD stores here in the SF Bay Area, I find that I'm increasingly buying B'wood DVDs from the UK myself. That was the only way I was able to find a copy of Geetaa Mera Naam that actually played, for one thing.

Beth said...

What Germany may lack in an Indian community, it seems to make up for in raving loony Indian movie fans, though. (Whom I love dearly, so I think they'll be okay with me calling them raving loonies.)

I want to try to work "non-werewolf-y parts" into my next movie writeup. At first glance, this will be simple, because I think every single Indian movie I've watched fits that category, but to be a legitimate project, I need to contextualize it and not just have it be some weird phrase I toss off. Awhile ago Keith told me about the word "antepenultimate," which I also took as a personal challenge (and met!). Hmmm....

Todd said...

I think we all should also start saying "postantepenultimate" in place of "penultimate". What do you think?

Yes, it's sad to say, but it does appear that Bollywood cinema overall is plagued by non-werewolf-y parts. All the more reason for us to try to draw attention to the deficit in hope of a correction in the future.

Beth said...

OF COURSE. I'll try to use it before the day is up.

As for werewolves, I'm sure I wouldn't know what to do with one if I met one, which is why I am once again glad to see you taking one for the team. I've only seen one on-purpose scary Bollywood movie, and it was horrible, and even though I knew what was going to happen, I was still scared. You know you're a lameo when Bollywood is too scary.

Todd said...

"I've only seen one on-purpose scary Bollywood movie, and it was horrible, and even though I knew what was going to happen, I was still scared."

Ooh, was it Papi Gudia? I bet it was Papi Gudia.

Beth said...

I've heard all about that one from the same person who made me watch Dhund: The Fog. I blame him entirely.

indiequill said...

The reason Bollywood likes to pretend it doesn't make horror movies is because the term "Horror"
was pretty much appropriated by the Indian Coens-of-Horror, the Ramsay Brothers. They made a string of B-movies right through the 70s and 80s and then in the 90s turned to TV where they made something called the Zee Horror Show which was like all their movies except made for TV on crack. As you might imagine, they're pretty awesome.

The closest they came to A-list was Suryavanshi starring a very young Salman Khan, Amrita Singh as a restless spirit with a taste for lots of gold and Sheeba.

--Amrita.

Todd said...

Thanks, Amrita. Funny that your comment comes right on the heels of me reading houseinrlyeh's review of Ghutan.
I die a little with every day that passes without me sampling any of the Ramsay Brothers' oeuvre. It's an unforgivable gap in my Bollywood education that I obviously have to remedy pronto.

Beth said...

I have just watched this! Why god why?