The Ramsay brothers introduced the horror genre to Indian cinema with the low-budget Do Gaz Zameen Ke Neeche in 1971, and they have been sending shivers down spines ever since. The brothers – seven in all, led by Shyam Ramsay – have made cult films (Veerana, Purana Mandir, Bandh Darwaza) and television shows (Zee Horror Show) and are synonymous with the genre. It was a matter of time before they embraced the web video format. The five-part series Phir Se Ramsay kicked off on the 101 India YouTube channel with the episode Marna Mana Hai on March 24.
Saasha Ramsay, a third-generation clan member, makes her directing debut with Marna Mana Hai. The episode is about Abhinav (Arif Zakaria), a man obsessed with the idea of life after death. He collects photographs of dead people from obituary columns and tries to communicate with the departed through meditation sessions. His wife Shaistha (Vedita Pratap Singh) is understandably upset with him. Then there comes the day when Abhinav wakes up to find his photograph in the obituary column.
Zakaria’s chiselled features makes him ideal to play a man so obsessed with death that he seems to be leached of life himself. Singh plays his wife with the dexterity of an experienced player flashing her wild card in a game of poker.
The filmmaker moves away from the shooting style that made her family’s films distinctive but also risible. Tacky prosthetics have been set aside for computer-generated visual effects. By refining the tropes of tacky sets, bizarre costumes, hideous make-up and absurd plotlines, the episode achieves a widely accepted industry standard that makes it no better (or worse) than horror films produced by any another company. Marna Mana Hai promises a fatal bite, but its bloodied prosthetic fangs are missing.