The subcontinental folklore is replete with a menagerie of asuras (demons) and meddlesome cryptids, from 11th century Kashmiri vampire myth of Baital Pachisi to urban legends like Nale Ba, the bridal ghost of Bengaluru. Nevertheless, when capturing fear on the big screen, we fall strangely remiss of avoiding formulaic tropes, subjecting the entire genre to a slew of B-grade camp and embarrassing remakes of Hollywood pulp fiction. To restore your faith in the genre, Homegrown has curated lesser known horror films, culled from all over the hinterland for the amusement of those who can't contain their curiosity towards the paranormal.
Directed by Satyajit Ray as a centennial ode to Nobel-laureate Rabindranath Tagore, the middle chapter of this Bengali anthology film is titled Monihara (The Lost Jewels) and it broods upon a woman's childlessness as a parasitic obsession that never leaves her, even in the afterlife. Shot on atmospheric 35 mm, the moonlit Ganga river and windswept silhouettes of trees weave an ominous backdrop for a countryside château where Monimalika and her reticent husband, Phanibhushan settle down after ten years of married life in Calcutta. The spine-chilling ditties from Rabindra Sangeet canon spread like ripples of melancholia in this ghost story about the inherent value attached to a woman's womb and a man's money in post-colonial Indian society.
You can watch this film here.
II. Gehrayee (1980)
A psychologically daunting, The Exorcist inspired slow burner that distinguishes someone who works or cares for land from the plutocratic worldview of another who merely owns it as a financial asset, Gehrayee did not need jump scare gimmicks or gratuitous violence to remain suspended under your eyelids. When a family servant Baswa is bribed to leave the plantation he looked after like his own mother for years, the landlord Chennabassappa discovers unseemly secrets from a hidden past dribbling like venomous bile from his daughter Uma's mouth, among other diabolical outbursts that can only be explained by possession. The context of feudalism, caste oppression and familial taboos are examined in discomfiting nakedness throughout this unconventional script by eminent playwright Vijay Tendulkar, marking an early triumph for understated Hindi cinema that was miles away from the melodramatic potboilers of the time.
You can find the movie on YouTube.
III. Pisasu (2014)
Redolent of the apathy ruling today's disaffected youth, Pisasu is a Tamil-language paranormal thriller that plays with the ruminant lingering of violin strings and silence, choosing static shots and meticulous framing of household ephemera to draw you into its contemplative rhythm. A malingering, sensitive Siddharth hangs around mostly drinking incalculable beers at his apartment or busking at the subway after having witnessed the death of a young woman Bhavana in a hit-and-run. The numbing ennui begins to dissipate when he senses an incorporeal presence has entered his barren life, helping him stay sober by hiding his bottle opener or intervening in the daily domestic abuse that carries on next door, ironically teaching Siddharth how to be more responsible to his living day reality.
You can check out this film on Hotstar.
Like eating dog meat is at the receiving end of so much censure in popular media, cannibalism as an erotic gesture could be another kind of normalcy, not an outright aberration. Dissecting the cultural specificity of food habits and how it intersects class prejudices, Aamis crafts an intensely carnal evocation of how out of touch we are with what we consume, through the impending adultery of an anthropology student who invites a married paediatrician to his libertarian Meat Club. The coruscating talent of National Award winner Bhaskar Hazarika directing this Assamese romantic horror film shines through Nirmali's eyes when she tastes her lover's flesh for the first time, tenderly prepared and medium rare in texture.
You can see a trailer for the film here.
Resentful of mortality that has overstayed its welcome, Vinu struggles with self worth and a resounding lack of ambition, employment continuing to elude him inspite of his half-hearted pharmacy diploma. When his grandmother dies under unusual circumstances and his mother slides further into depression, Vinu begins experiencing what seem to be hallucinations, the house becoming more claustrophobic than he can bear. This Malayalam caregiver tragedy, directed and written by Rahul Sadasivan, dabbles in hair-raising moments of psychosis that depict how crucial it is to confront our inner demons before we make strides towards healing.
You can watch a trailer here.