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Why Raaz Is A Landmark Film For Bollywood’s Horror Genre

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A surprise and critical commercial success, Raaz boasted of a gripping storyline, sultry cinematography, a hit soundtrack, and most importantly, gave birth to the “horrex” genre. We must also mention the unforgettable Malini Sharma.

I hate horror. Yes, I am a scared cat and I can’t be bothered to hide it. I especially blame myself. When I was six, I made the mistake of sneaking into the TV room at home and watching Ram Gopal Varma’s Raat on a summer afternoon. I couldn’t sleep for a week after that, and when I finally dozed off, too tired to stay wide awake, I would be riddled with nightmares. Raat was a life-changing experience, and I have to add that, if the film was made in an exceptional way (that’s the opinion of a six-year-old – obviously I never saw it again), it must be traumatic even for adults.

My interest in Raaz, on the other hand, was driven by puberty. I’m not ashamed to admit it. The movie had beautiful people and generous sex scenes (some would even call them “free” by Bollywood 2002 standards). But the making of the movie and the cinematography were so hypnotic, that I remember watching the whole movie (again sneakily, on a local cable channel, one random afternoon when my parents were away). Was that scary? Yes. Was it unforgettable? This too.

A little research shows why Raaz is such an important landmark for the horror genre in Bollywood. Before Raaz, the only horror film that had been commercially successful was Raat. Raat was released in 1992. Raaz, in 2002. In 10 years Bollywood had produced horror B and C binders, flops and smut. Interestingly, before Raat, for two decades Bollywood didn’t make mainstream horror films (of a supernatural nature). The Ramsay brothers and other similar filmmakers like J.D. Lawrence have made smut horror films. Raaz was a well-edited supernatural and psychological thriller, with polished cinematography and editing, sexy cast, smart direction, and a seat-edge climax. In addition, true to Bollywood formulas, there was also an excellent OST. Vikram Bhatt, in great demand after consecutive successes of Ghulam (1998) and Kasoor (2001), was a trusted captain for this ship for Vishesh Films. They were also the favorite couple on page 3 – Bipasha Basu and Dino Morea make their debut as leaders. The country had just started to crack down on the two of them, and Dino went ahead and took his shirt off to Raaz. For years to come (with a certain John Abraham who debuted with Jism in 2003), Dino Morea remained everyone’s wet dream.

And then there was Malini Sharma. To be fair, Bipasha’s sex symbol status has been established in Jism. In Raaz, she played the devoted and, later, depressed woman. Malini Sharma was the bomb. I don’t think anyone of our generation who watched Raaz back then will ever forget the photo of Malini’s slender figure standing at the door of Dino’s office conference room, only to drag him out by his collar when he approaches her, takes off his jacket, and devours her neck. Their silhouettes melt and separate, and you feel his enigmatic presence onscreen even without seeing his face. Or the sequence of her standing behind a tree, her hand reaching out and dropping her last garment, pulling Dino towards her. Malini stunned the audience with her performance, her deep, dark and mysterious eyes, her sultry aura and her sparkling chemistry with Dino. Find me a hotter song sequence than Aapke Pyaar Mein. I’ll wait. It is a loss for the industry that she disappeared after Raaz.

A Raagini MMS could arrive in 2011, as a Raaz had performed in 2002, and later films like Darling and 1920 had been set in between, where the films tried to both scare and titillate. Horrex is a tantalizing combination, and while it’s become quite common now, Raaz has done it masterfully two decades back. As the children say, Raaz walked so Raagini could run. Fortunately, in recent years Bollywood has attempted to produce better horror content, albeit for the most part riddled with clichéd intrigue. Some stand out, like Phobia, Ghoul, and Pari, though no one has been able to match Raat’s outright nightmare, or Raaz’s slow trepidation and sexual teasing.

I remember Raaz, the OG crew and Dino Morea’s hot body.

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