Bollywood Evil Dead
Remember the sexy mud-wrestling dance number in “The Evil Dead?” Or were you watching the boring one?
Enormous thanks to Beth Watkins of Beth Loves Bollywood for her invaluable input and insight!
“Bollywood’s B, C, D and E Grade Films Explained.” IBNLive. 27 Jan. 2012. Web. 20 Jan. 2015.
Smith, Iain Robert. “Bollywood B-Movies: Cult Cosmopolitanism and the Reception of Indian Genre Cinema in the West.” Frames Cinema Journal 6 (2014). Web.
Watkins, Beth. Beth Loves Bollywood. Web. 20 Jan. 2015.
Five twenty-somethings visit an abandoned cabin in the woods, find the book of the dead, unleash demons, and spend a gruesome night murdering each other as friend after friend is possessed by evil.
Did I mention the part about the singing and dancing?
Prepare yourself for the ultimate experience in grueling horro— I mean, of Deja View.
Grisly and visceral, Sam Raimi’s 1981 indie horror classic “The Evil Dead” fast became a cult sensation spawning two sequels and a fistful of videogames. 27 years later, five years before the inevitable horror of a Hollywood remake, India made their own. It’s a testament to the snowball effect of “The Evil Dead’s” popularity. And as it turns out, it’s also not the usual Bollywood fare.
Showing remarkable faithfulness to its model, Salim Raza’s “Bach Ke Zara” even expands on “The Evil Dead” with a built-in prequel. In the first third of the movie we see the discovery of the Necronomicon, witness the grim fate of the cabin’s previous tenants, and only then meet the story’s main characters on an outdoor camping adventure. Finally, when a wandering she-ghost lures them to the abandoned cabin, they naturally change their accommodation plans.
The rest of the movie is a meticulous recreation of “The Evil Dead.” It’s almost shot-for-shot, line-for-line, and emulates the look of the film from the prop design to the makeup effects.
This slavish attention to detail also introduces some novel problems. The burial scenes, for example, are out of place in a predominantly Hindu country where the dead are traditionally cremated. Solution? These characters are Christians. Also, since “The Evil Dead’s” Ash might start out a smidge cowardly for a Bollywood hero, “Bach Ke Zara” gives him some of the braver Scott role .
However these minor tweaks don’t address the fact that “The Evil Dead” is still much too graphic a film for traditional Bollywood. But “Bach Ke Zara” is what Bollywood fans like to call a C-movie. Unlike mainstream A-movies and the B-movies that imitate them, C-movies play by their own rules. They cheerfully disregard Bollywood’s conservative taboos if it’ll please a paying crowd. Thus in spite of their low budgets and unknown stars, they graciously offer up plenty of gore and sex.
The gore here is substantial by Bollywood standards. There’s a great deal of blood as befits the source material, although not quite the diluvian level of Sam Raimi’s film. At the same time, per the preference of Indian audiences, the actual impact of physical violence like stabbing or chopping nearly always occurs outside of the frame.
What does appear in frame is lots and lots of skin. The film even opens on a sex scene, remarkable in a country where even onscreen kissing has been considered unseemly. But sex is a key component of the C-movie appeal, and because these films play in theaters outside of metropolitan centers they can get away with a little hanky-panky.
While some ingredients are added, others are removed or reduced. “Bach Ke Zara” is curiously short, for example, on the musical numbers for which Bollywood is so famous. “The Evil Dead” may seem like an unlikely venue for songs, but that’s evidently debatable.
Preserved however is the obligatory Bollywood “item number” — the sexy, spicy musical sequence tailored purely for entertainment, whether or not it advances the story. But “Bach Ke Zara’s” is conspicuous. It features none of the primary cast or sets. It’s an unconnected music video. Literally. Feeling the movie needed a little more pizzazz, director Salim Raza shot and inserted it after production had already wrapped.
Raza was very clear on what he wanted — “song[s], romance, and emotion” combined with the horror elements of “The Evil Dead” — a curry of genres all mixed according to the demanding taste of his audience. It’s no surprise that films like these are named for the Hindi word for a blend of spices: “masala.” And by this approach Raza finds a terrific way to add some new flavor to an old staple.
Incidentally, I suspect that the author of the Indian Necronomicon may have preferred cinema over Satan. As one character flips through the book, two of its illustrations look suspiciously familiar. On one page: part of the poster for “Bram Stoker’s Dracula.” And opposite, barely glimpsed: fan art, lifted from the internet, of Darth Maul.
Or, wait… were those movies terrible because they were conjured out of this?
Thanks so much for watching, and we’ll see you next time.