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!
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