Review: Darna Zaroori Hai (2006)

I begin this review with a small confession — I’ve recently turned into a Bollywood fan girl. Yes, I genuinely like Bollywood movies. I don’t watch them to laugh at them (well, only when they deserve it) and, no, I have absolutely no problem when the actors break out in song and dance. I had seen Bollywood films before (Lagaan, Kaante, Talaash, Dil Chata Hai) but the bug really bit with Kuch Kuch Hota Hai. Since then catching recent Bollywood movies has been a quest, but I when I put my hand up for Darna Zazoori Hai, it was with a slight quiver in my heart and that wasn’t due to the creepy old lady on the DVD cover.

You see, before Darna Zaroori Hai, I had a dalliance with one other Bollywood horror, Kaal, which I must mention if only for the interminably long shot of a bare-chested John Abraham running and wrestling with a bone-crunching python. It’s funny or sexy depending on how much you like John Abraham… or the python. In short it wasn’t a great horror movie or for that matter any kind of movie. Thankfully Darna Zazoori Hai has reinstilled my faith in Bollywood horror and introduced me to the work of Ram Gopal Varma, and a slew of other Bollywood directors as well.

Here, Ram Gopal Varma is in the producer chair again, and repeats his earlier venture (Darna Mana Hai from 2003) utilising the same formula, that of a portmanteau film. For the film geek in all of us, a portmanteau is an omnibus of short films – usually tied together with the same theme. The fact that Darna Mana Hai was a flop did not deter Mr. Varma from producing another similar work. It seems he revels in its failure, as he’s even open to humourous self-referential digs as evidenced by the first short off the rank directed by Sajid Khan.

Satish is a loud unpleasant slob who when introduced to the audience seems to have only two purposes in his life – stuffing his face constantly and catching the last show of the latest movie at the cinema. He makes it to the cinema, taking a short cut via the graveyard despite warnings from his mother. On this fateful night, which happens to be a full moon (of course), the feature is Darna Mana Hai and the cinema is empty. The ticket seller initially refuses to sell him a ticket describing the film as “senseless”. Hah. A clever and sarcastic dig at the genre and Ram Gopal Varma.

The slick production values and creative direction displayed in the first short is thankfully reproduced consistently in the rest of the omnibus. Obviously some are better than others, a few fail to deliver a punchy ending despite building up great tension. One of the strongest is a fearful tale written by Manish Gupta and directed by JD Chakravarthi, relating with genuine chill a tale about the punishment that befalls a family who ill-treat their daughter-in-law.

Jijy Philip’s short also stands out not because it’s an especially good one but because it takes merciless (at times personal) stabs at film directors, specifically those who earn fame through light-hearted fare and the industry itself. Karan Chopra (his name is an obvious amalgamation of directors Karan Johar who directed the aforementioned Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, and Yash Chopra) is a film director who wants to branch out into horror, a genre he is unfamiliar with after making three family-friendly hits. On his way to Khandala to write the movie, he picks up a hitchhiker in the form of Mallika Sherawat (The Myth), who of course has a dark past and worse, claims she’s his biggest fan. That old chestnut! Having seen Mallika Sherawat shake her booty in Guru’s item number, I can hardly blame him for trying to be a good samaritan.

Darna Zazoori Hai is a collection of six (or seven including the main story that ties them all together) entertaining and engaging short horror films, in the tradition of campfire tales. If you scare easily then this will hit the mark and have you running under the covers quickly. However if you’re looking for the sort of horror to make your eyeballs roll backwards into your head, then you may have to look elsewhere. I’d never thought I’d say this but this is better than watching a hunky beefcake wrestle a python. No, really.

7 Not-to-be-trusted Genial Old Ladies out of 10.
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