Horror is a niche genre. It’s appreciated by a few and despised by the bunch. The sole purpose of a horror film is to unsettle the viewer through dread and panic and bring out the worst fear of an individual. But a good horror flick does not need to be always bloody or grotesque. Neither the ghastly forms need to twist their heads in a bizarre fashion nor they need to drink blood to raise the horror barometer of the room. For me, a classic horror story is that one, which has the ability to make the viewer look across his shoulders and check whether there’s any one in the room, looking right at him! It’s true that compared to their foreign counter parts, Indian movies haven’t fared well in this genre. However at times, there have been some really spine chilling stuff, that have come out of the stables of Indian storytellers. We, at The Cinemaholic, bring you the list of top Indian horror movies ever made. Get ready to be scared out of your wits. At your own peril, read on.
11. Gehrayee (1980)
The happiness of a family of four is thrown into jeopardy, when their teenage daughter starts behaving weirdly. The doctors and psychiatrists fail to gauge the reason, so the god fearing mother takes her to a spirit caller. As the spirit caller deduces the presence of a demonic presence in her body, something unthinkable occurs. The daughter or rather the spirit in her body starts spilling the scandalous secrets of the family. What are these scandals? Why the spirit is clinging to the daughter’s body? Answers to all of these questions are going to shock you. Directed by Aruna Raje and Vikas Desai, ‘Gehrayee’, is the first Indian film which uses the Chipko movement of the seventies against deforestation to set up its story.
10. Yavarum Nalam (2009)
A family sets up their new home, at a new apartment, on the 13th floor. While setting up their house, suddenly at 13:00 hours in the afternoon, the tv gets changed to the 13th channel, starting a new serial ‘Yavarum Nalam’ meaning all is fine. The women in the family get glued to this program, when they realise everything that happens in the serial seem to match the events in their real lives. Spooked out yet ?? Simultaneously made in Tamil and Hindi (as 13 B), this was an ode to the Amityville Horror stories of the late seventies. Starring R Madhavan and Deepak Dobriyal, the climax really takes you by surprise.
9. Kuheli (1971)
A governess arrives at Lalkuthi, a mansion located at Nijhumgarh, to serve the daughter of the landlord. She comes to know that seven years ago, the landlady and the driver were murdered and remain unresolved till date. She also notices that the daughter seems to be called by her dead mother at night. Is the dead mother has risen from grave, to punish her killer? Or is there something more to it than meets the eye? Directed by veteran Bengali director Tarun Majumdar, under the pseudonym Abhimanyu, ‘Kuheli’ ensures that the suspense stays till the end, by gluing the viewer to the edge of the seat.
8. Bees Saal Baad (1962)
Twenty years after the death of his father, a young man arrives at the land of his ancestors. Local legends talk about a vengeful soul haunting the family of this young man for raping her years ago. When multiple attempts start on his life as well, the man starts investigating into this mystery. While at it, a mysterious voice singing ‘Kahin Deep Jale, Kahin Dil’ lures him towards a foggy swamp, where his ancestors died. Is the revenge trail still on? What is the reason behind the giant paw? Inspired from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s novel, ‘The Hounds of Baskerville’, director Biren Nag’s ‘Bees Saal Baad’ set the cash register ringing by the phenomenal performance of the lead actors Biswajeet and Waheeda Rehman, a spine chilling script and haunting music by the maestro Hemanta Kumar.
7. Mahal (1949)
The now-stereotype of Indian horror films where a mysterious lady sings in a haunting voice, luring the mesmerised prey to its death, was started by director Kamal Amrohi’s pathbreaking movie ‘Mahal’. It tells the story of Shankar, the new owner of a lavish mansion comes to take charge of his property. He gets the surprise of his life when he sees the picture of the previous owner, a spitting image of his who died forty years ago. At the stroke of midnight, he sees a lady in white, hauntingly singing ‘Ayega Aanewala Ayega’, calling out for his dead lover who’s incidentally the previous owner. An unusual plot, haunting tunes and breathtaking cinematography catapulted ‘Mahal’ into the hall of fame of gothic thrillers and gave us the two divas for ages to come – The nightingale Lata Mangeshkar and the breathtaking Madhubala.
6. Kohraa (1964)
A newly wedded wife of a rich Zamindar experiences supernatural events at her husband’s palace. She gets to know that her husband’s first wife was murdered and now she lurks in the corridor of the palace, for revenge. The daunting housekeeper makes things go worse, when she keeps constantly reminding of her old mistress. The gothic way of story telling, only manages to heighten the suspense. As the name suggests, the plot murkier than a mist, keeps the audience enthralled. Inspired from Daphne Du Maurier’s ‘Rebecca’, director Biren Nag’s second movie on this list, also featured Biswajeet and the ethereally beautiful Waheeda Rehman, who charmed the audience with some really haunting melodies of Hemanta Kumar.
5. Woh Kaun Thi (1964)
In a foggy night, a doctor drives through the road when he sees a lady asking for lift. There isn’t a soul around and despite of the poor visibility, the lady keeps guiding him about the road and gets down at a cemetery. Some days later, he receives news about an ailing patient. Upon checking her, he finds her to be the same woman, now dead. Things really start going south, when his fiancee dies and the police suspects the doctor to be involved. The doctor now takes solace in his mother, who decides to marry off his son. On the wedding night, the bride is revealed to be the same lady ! Is she a figment of imagination or real ? After all, who is she ? In Raj Khosla’s ‘Woh Kaun Thi’, a Bewitchingly beautiful Sadhana haunts Manoj Kumar with her mysterious appearance and by singing the lines of ‘Naina Barse Rimjhim Rimjhim’.
4. Maya (2015)
Perhaps one of the rare horror flicks made as a neo-noir, ‘Maya’ brings a chill down on your spine like no other film. There are two stories, which run parallel as the film progresses. One is about a single mother Apsara who works in ad films to earn her livings. Another is a man’s investigation about a mental asylum turned forest, where years ago a patient named Maya died in suspicious circumstances. At a point of time in the movie, the two stories merge in a unique way to shock the audience with a twist that nobody can see from a long distance. Starring Nayanthara, this Tamil flick raked big moolah at the box office, though made at a modest cost.
3. Raat (1992)
Before Ram Gopal Verma went all rouge and destroyed himself with ‘Aag’ and ‘James’, he was a master storyteller. The signs came from one of his earlier directorial ventures, which he wrote as well, popularly known as ‘Raat’. It tells the story of a family that has recently moved to a new locality. The daughter starts behaving weirdly and to help her, the age-old feud between science and belief comes to forefront. While the father becomes adamant to cure his daughter via psychiatrists, the mother takes refuge in a spirit caller. RGV used his now-famous-then-innovative camera angles to capture the beastliness of the spirit possessing the girl and it came out really well. The success of this lesser known film, fuelled RGV to remake this film with a much stellar cast as ‘Bhoot’.
2. Kothanodi (2016)
Director Bhaskar Hazarika conceptualised ‘Kothanodi’ (meaning the river of tales), from the folklores from the land of Assam. He brings together four bizarre yet thought-provoking stories which makes the viewer shiver with fear. A woman who plots the murder of her stepdaughter in absence of her husband, who meets a strange woman who gets thrown out of her village labelled as a witch and is followed by an apple that she gave birth to. The other part of the story consists of a woman, trying to marry off her daughter to a python and a man burying his newborns alive. Starring Seema Biswas and Adil Hussein, ‘Kothanodi’ won accolades at the various festivals where it was screened.
1. Manichitrathazhu (1993)
Perhaps the only film in this list, that needs no introduction, is the Malayalam blockbuster ‘Manichitrathazhu’. This movie has been re-made in 4 different languages with different actors, each retaining the core theme of the movie intact. It tells about a newly wed couple moving into their ancient palace, which’s said to be haunted by the spirit of a dancer, killed by their ancestors. The movie does its fair bit of explanation about the multiple personality disorder syndrome, while leaving the viewers to choose their own outcome of the story. Starring Mohanlal and the fabulous Shobana, ‘Manichitrathazhu’ still manages to amaze the viewers with its superb content, even after 24 years it was released.
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