Let’s face it, Bollywood isn’t exactly a pro at conjuring up ghosts or spirits, and on a rare occasion that they manage to stir the paranormal cauldron, it rarely meets the standard the west has set.
And that’s why I was surprised with Ghost Stories... surprised because it exceeded the expectations I had from it. After the critical acclaim that Lust Stories received, audiences were hoping to see more collaboration between four of the most talented contemporary filmmakers — Zoya Akhtar, Anurag Kashyap, Dibakar Banerjee and Karan Johar.
But what we probably weren’t expecting is for these four to come together for a scarefest — love story, drama, tragedy...yes, but most definitely not a horror series. And ever since Netflix made the official announcement of Ghost Stories, eyes were set on the ‘streaming now’ section.
Zoya Akhtar’s scream-fest opens the anthology with a young nurse Sameera (Janhvi Kapoor) taking over a shift from another nurse to care for an ailing old woman (Surekha Sikri).
As soon as Sameera enters the old woman’s ‘smelly’ house (Conjuring, anyone?), not just she, but even we are taken aback by the eerie silence. And it is this silence that Zoya uses to instil fear.
While the story’s climax is something I had expected, what surprised me was the treatment of the story — there are no loud sounds, moving objects to distract or surprise you. And hence, the climax becomes so appealing.
Silence and quiet are some of the features of Anurag Kashyap’s story as well. Anurag doesn’t include ghosts or paranormal activities to scare you, his is more of a psychological thriller, leaving your mind in shambles in the end.
The pregnant protagonist (Sobhita Dhulipala)’s behaviour and her little nephew’s obsession with her unsettle you and the highly disturbing climax almost makes you want to hit the pause button just so that you can digest the goings-on in the story.
Next up is Dibaker Bannerjee’s disturbing and gory story. Using zombie films as a blueprint, the story starts with Sukant Goel making a stumbling entry in an empty village, where he meets two children who recount the horrors the village has faced and the efforts they are taking to stay alive in the creepy town.
This one is for those who like watching zombie movies and since it shows a lot of cannibalism it’s not for the faint-hearted. By the end of the story I was left looking over my shoulder, it was that horrific.
Last up is Karan Johar’s story which makes for a perfect ending, shutting the ghosts behind a tight door (literally). This one is a very KJo-esque in terms of treatment: Sprawling mansion, characters dressed in rich, designer clothes and, for a change, a rich ghost too.
Of all the four stories, Karan’s was the only one which startled me, perhaps because I had least expectations to be scared by him. The story begins with a match-making session between two wealthy people, Avinash Tiwary and Mrunal Thakur.
The twist in the tale happens when the mother of the groom informs the family of the bride that it’ll be an okay from their end for the marriage if granny says yes.
But the catch is, granny isn’t around... At first I thought granny was a figment of imagination and the groom’s family is playing mind-games with the new bride, Mrunal. But you know something is wrong as the story progresses. The surprising climax leaves you wanting for more.
Overall, Ghost Stories is a must watch, though I still have problems in understanding and digesting Anurag and Dibakar’s shorts.