B’wood scares up horror slate

'Raaz' B.O. led the way for 'Bhoot,' 'Hawa,' 'Darna'

MUMBAI — The horror craze that has overtaken Japan, Hong Kong and Korea seems to be hitting India as well. On the heels of last year’s hit “Secret,” at least 10 horror pics are coming down the pike. In a stagnant box office season, 2002 low-budget horror/thriller mix “Raaz” (Secret) was able to collect close to $3 million.

The first of the upcoming 10 — Ram Gopal Verma’s slickly made “Bhoot” (Ghost) — has just hit the screens. It has made an even more impressive $7,000,000 in the first two weeks, with much more likely in the coming weeks.

Due for release in the next couple of weeks are “Hawa” (Wind), Mahesh Bhatt’s “Saaya” (Shadow) and a second Ram Gopal Verma production, “Darna Mana Hai” (Getting Scared Is Not Allowed).

“Horror films have always been made in Bollywood. But it is only now that there is this deluge,” says trade analyst Indira Mirani of Box Office magazine. “Bollywood filmmakers were so desperate for a hit that the moment ‘Raaz’ was a hit, they all latched on to this.

Popular on Variety

“This trend will continue till the end of the year. And all it will take is for a few flops before Bollywood filmmakers drop this and move on to the next hot topic,” Mirani says.

While Bollywood horror films traditionally were made by the Ramsay brothers, there is no comparison between their productions and the slickly made movies that are due to hit screens soon. The Ramsay brothers’ films often showed hands coming out of the grave and faces covered in blood, with sounds of creaking doors — tricks that don’t impress today’s more sophisticated viewers.

Recent horror movies use better sound effects to get the audience enraptured in the story. Ram Gopal Verma even bucked the Bollywood trend of having songs in a movie — “Bhoot” has no songs as part of the narrative, though the songs were used as part of the promotion campaign.

It could be a Bollywood horror bonanza. But, as Mirani says, “Trends are in the minds of people. It is only at the end of the year when we calculate the figures that we will know how profitable the trend really was.”