In much of Indian cinema, horror as a genre has been reduced to camp, never quite reaching the reputation that it rightfully deserves. Sketchy makeup, overdramatic background scores, wafer-thin plots and cheap production design meant horror stayed strictly in B-movie territory.
However, for every Ramsay brothers production and Pappi Gudias, which make for ironic viewing and thus, still retain entertainment value, there have been several gems too. The release of Netflix’s Bulbbul, which opened to largely positive reviews, makes it clear that Indian horror works best when it looks inward: towards folklore and mythology, instead of importing Western tropes that have already been done, and better.
At times, horror films are scary not because they introduce an element of supernatural but because they give a sinister spin to everyday objects. By definition, they exist outside the realm of logic and rationale, and yet, as we’ve now seen, a new genre of social horror has emerged that weaves an existing societal problem—racism, patriarchy, tribalism—into the horror genre.
So a few HuffPost India team members took a stroll down memory lane to come up with horror titles that stayed with them, long after the lights came out. From a 1950 classic to a 2002 childhood favourite, here are the films that still give us the spooks.
Madhumati, 1958, Directed by Bimal Roy
“Suhaana safar aur ye mausam haseen, humein dar hain ki hum kho na jaaein kahin,” may have been co-opted by niche millennials as a song for that elusive road-trip but its origins are ominous as is its placement in Bimal Roy’s 1958 film, Madhumati.
A stormy night, a spooky mansion, a mysterious caretaker, and a curious painting that triggers the memory of a young Dilip Kumar, Madhumati ticked off all the elements that make a typical horror fest, except that in the late 50s, these tropes weren’t yet stereotypes.
Madhumati is visual poetry, it’s a vivid play of lights-and-shadows and though it draws...