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Spooky Tales

Team Amavas – lead actors Sachiin Joshi and Nargis Fakhri along with director Bhushan Patel – are looking forward to scare the audience with their film. In conversation with Team Box Office India, they talk about the horror genre and what enhances the spooky feeling in the film

Box Office India (BOI): Bhushan, Amavas is your fourth directorial in the horror genre. What is it about this genre that fascinates you?

Bhushan Patel (BP): Well, ghosts! I love ghosts and I love ghost stories. I like getting scared and hence the fascination. I have always liked horror films, so when I got the opportunity to make one, an opportunity to scare people and get scared in the process, it was a great feeling. Thankfully, all my previous films have done reasonably well and therefore I have been allowed to make a fourth one. Fingers crossed, if this one does well too, the industry will allow me to make one more.

I actually get scared while shooting the films. I believe that if I don’t get scared, I will not be able to scare you guys. If I feel the fear, you will feel the fear.

BOI: Sachiin and Nargis, what ran through your minds when you signed your first horror film?

Nargis Fakhri (NF): I think every film is different. But this one, for sure, beats all the other experiences (Laughs). It was surreal. There were moments that Bhushan created that felt so real that my mental and physical states were so connected and my heart was thumping, I was sweating, the adrenaline was rushing and I was truly scared.

Sachiin Joshi (SJ): Well, I love the genre and have always wanted to do a horror film for the longest time. I have seen so many films in this category and heard so many scripts. It has always interested me right from childhood because of all the paranormal talk, whatever you see around you, and the experiences people share. It was a fascinating space.

BOI: Many actors recount scary experiences when they are shooting for horror films. Did you have any such encounters?

SJ: Yes, of course! First, Castle Goring, which is the location that we shot in, is itself spooky. It has that vibe. Very few people knew about it. The production team was trying to select another location for the shoot but our director was adamant about using this location. Bhushan wanted to shoot it there because he felt it would give the film an authentic feel.

BP: And it does. You have to see the film for that.

SJ: That is why we said nothing about the castle being spooky. We did not tell the unit or anyone, else nobody would shoot for the film. Luckily, we did not have any major issues or setbacks. But there were a few instances with Nargis and other people that were a little scary.

NF: We had rooms in the castle to get ready and a few of my things went missing. My team and I were constantly wondering where they went. And these were little things, like my face sponge. Why would anyone want it when I had already used it? We knew we had kept everything in its proper place but, still, it would disappear. And, then, two days later, we would find it rolling on the floor, just like that! Then, this other time, we found make-up equipment in a room where it hadn’t been kept, and we had the same spooky reaction.

SJ: The only time I was spooked was when I was rehearsing my lines one night. My room looked onto the expanse outside, and due to the weather, it used to keep making noises. I was sitting quietly and reading one night when the door opened and a lady with white hair and all decked up walked in. She started moving around the room and I wondered if I was seeing things.

This went on for a while. When something like this happens, I don’t freak out and shout; I quietly try to leave the place. Just as I was wondering what to do, she started talking and saying we should not move certain things around; she pointed to something and said it was 200 years old. I was wondering why she was saying all this.

I quietly left the room and asked someone to go in and check to see if they too could see someone inside. A couple of production guys went in and they too saw her inside. Later, we discovered that she was the owner of the house and she was finicky about her antique possessions. She would come and go as she pleased, whether or not the camera was rolling. I was relieved that it was not a paranormal experience but a real one.

BOI: Bhushan, is there is any formula or any particular elements that you keep in mind while making a horror film?

BP: I wish I knew but even if I did, I wouldn’t tell you (Laughs)! But there is no formula to make anything a hit. You just need to have conviction in what you are making. A director is a storyteller, so if you can tell a good story, and if it is a story that people like, where you can convince the audience to enjoy the story you are telling, along with all the other elements of VFX, acting, sound etc that one can add, then I am sure viewers will like it. And if they like the film, it makes it a hit. There is no formula for success, if there was, all of us would have been successful.

BOI: Horror films in India, especially in Hindi cinema, have not been respected enough even though we know there is an audience for them, with Hollywood and other foreign horror films doing so well.

BP: I would like to ask the critics and the audience why they compare Hindi horror films to Hollywood horror movies and not to Hindi films of other genres. Why are only my films and those of my friend Vikram Bhatt‘s compared to Hollywood horror films? If you must compare our films to Hollywood’s, then compare all Hindi films. Why single out this genre?

Luckily, in the recent past, we have had big names like Anushka Sharma, Shraddha Kapoor and Bipasha Basu as torchbearers for these films, and now Nargis. But we don’t have A-list heroes venturing into this genre. That is why we have limited budgets for horror films. Hence, our hands are tied as far as production is concerned.

The budget always governs the way a film is shot and the kind of VFX we can do, the things we can show. Comparing Hindi horror films to Hollywood’s is unfair also because they have massive budgets for their films. They also have a huge audience and bigger markets. Ok, I think I have vented enough (Laughs).

SJ: First, this genre has a limited audience. Even if people want to watch horror films, they don’t go to a theatre because they get scared. There is a limited audience in India for horror films and there is a certain audience that wants to watch horror films but not Hindi horror. This is because of the criticism this genre has received.

Hindi horror has its shortcomings. Either they are not at par with international standards of VFX or sound effects, or the scripts aren’t convincing enough. There are multiple reasons these films don’t collect great revenues at the box office, and those that have been successful have made money for other reasons. Somebody once came up with the term ‘horrex’, which is ‘horror’ and ‘sex’.

BP: (Cuts In) We did that. I did it with my films (Laughs).

SJ: Exactly. I don’t understand where these terms come from. You have to make a good film and deliver. The problem is that people don’t devote the time needed to make good horror films. Hollywood gives enough time to get everything right. That’s what we have been focusing on, the shortcomings and what went wrong. We have picked up on that and with a good subject, made this horror film.

BOI: When you are making a horror film, are you consciously trying to bust the myths that plague Hindi horror films?

SJ: Definitely! Breaking myths is an important thing.

BOI: How does VFX enhance a good horror film?

BP: VFX is important to a horror film because you are talking about something which is not human, which is not real and you have to create it. And if you have to create it, that’s where VFX comes in, and it has to be done well. Like Sachiin said, in this film, we are trying to achieve good VFX. Not that there haven’t been other films with good VFX. Recent films like Zero and Kedarnath were very good along with films like Padmaavat, Baahubali, etc. But the VFX in our film is a first in the Hindi horror film genre.

BOI: Sachiin, you are very active in the South film industry. Is there any shift for you?

SJ: In the South, things are very similar to what Nargis said. Everything is about time, precision, making it quickly. There is no wastage… money, production or time. They are very clear about what they are doing. In Hindi, I have seen that they take their own sweet time in thinking and deciding and getting into details. That is the major difference.

BOI: Bhushan and Sachiin, since you are the filmmakers of Amavas, what is your expectation from the box office and from the audience?

NF: I want the audience to get very scared, but have fun getting scared.

BP: The takeaway for the audience should always be that they have watched a good film. It is a story that I am telling with horror intertwined. It is a story about Sachiin and Nargis’s characters, Karan and Ahana. And while the story is moving towards the climax, it will scare the audience. So, for me, when the film approaches the end, I want the audience to feel that they have watched a gripping film which scared them to bits. As far as Sachiin is concerned, I think he wants to take away a lot of money as he is the producer (Laughs).

SJ: I want to give a great product to the audience and change their myths with Amavas. In the trailer, it may look clichéd as a plot, every horror film has a certain clichéd plot, but it’s just the way the screenplay unfolds. I want to break the myth, especially to millennials, that India can make great horror films.

BP: The reviews for all my films say, ‘Oh! It is about the same old doors creaking’. But I want to say that if a door doesn’t creak in a horror film, then where is it going to creak? It is like saying that in a romantic film, the hero and heroine are holding hands. So, in a horror film, a door has to creak, it has to scare. The door only creaks because the filmmaker wants to show that there is silence in that scene at that moment.

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