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‘A Touch of Evil’ gives you all you need to know about vintage blood-curdlers by the Ramsay Brothers

Barely-known facts about Bollywood movies have emerged in a four-volume book set titled A Touch of Evil, focusing on the genres of horror, suspense and thrillers.

One of the volumes in the slickly-produced package has been dedicated to the vintage blood-curdlers by the Ramsay Brothers -- considered a cult today.

The family spearheaded by F.U. Ramsay and his seven sons would most often produce, direct, edit, photograph and market their own shoestring-budget horror films. Tulsi and Shyam Ramsay of the seven stood out as the flag-bearers of the genre.

Moreover, did you know that Rajesh Khanna and Mandakini were to star in a Ramsay film called Om? Inspired by Hollywood’s Gregory Peck starrer The Omen, seven reels were completed. However, superstar Khanna joined politics and the project was shelved.

Impressed by their whodunit Sannata, the revered Vijay Anand, who enacted the lead role with Rekha playing a courtesan, had assigned the direction of his production, Ghungroo Ki Aawaz, to the Ramsays.  RD Burman composed the music score, including the still-hummed song Rote rote naina. As it happened, Rekha who became busy with A-grade films in the meanwhile, refused to dub her dialogue. Consequently, Padma Khanna dubbed her voice.

The role enacted by Ashok Kumar in the iconic Jewel Thief was first offered to Raaj Kumar, who liked the script but insisted on portraying Dev Anand’s role.

Saira Banu who was getting married to Dilip Kumar around the time of the production,  dropped out and was replaced by Vyjayanthimala in a jiffy.

Scores of such factoids like these make A Touch of Evil a collector’s delight. Unusually, it has been researched and written by Dhruv Somani, a prominent textile baron of Mumbai.

At the age of 46 today, the film lover states he was drawn to horror and suspsense flicks ever since his childhood and would collect whatever material he could, including song booklets, posters and magazines.To add to the collection, Somani travelled to Rajkot, Delhi and Ahmedabad where markets once used to abound with Bollywood collectibles.

Hole-in-the-wall shops in Mumbai’s Chor Bazaar, were also useful in finding rarities. The self-published book was released at an event by Shatrughan and Poonam Sinha and Aarti Gupta Surendranath who had featured in some of the Ramsay films at the outset of their careers. Stocked at a few select stores in Mumbai and available on Amazon online, copies of the book have been selling briskly.

Without a doubt, it is a difficult task to chronicle the past of Bollywood cinema but as Somani concludes, “When you put your heart and soul towards rediscovering the films which once gave you so many hours or entertainment and thrills, nothing is impossible.”

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