Milking the current Bollywood craze for horror movies, but this time wearing just his producer’s hat, Ramgopal Varma (“Company,” “Bhoot”) pushes back another Bollywood boundary with “Darna mana hai,” a portmanteau scarer with six unlinked tales and a wraparound story. Though the format is old hat to Western auds, and light on real shocks, freshman director Prawaal Raman turns in a thoroughly pro package, restrainedly acted, that would make an offbeat entry in frightfests. Film opened strongly in urban centers July 25.
Six young people get stranded in a jungle when their car breaks down returning from Goa, and each tells a story while camping overnight in a small abandoned building. Meanwhile, a crazed killer is lurking in the forest and offing them one by one.
Wackiest of the yarns are the second — about a fashion photog (Saif Ali Khan) staying in a hotel owned by a paranoid anti-smoker (Boman Irani, wonderful) — and the fourth — about an uptight wife (Shilpa Shetty) who gets haunted by red apples. Neat twists cap both seg five — a yuppie (Vivek Oberoi) gives a lift to a man (Nana Patekar) who may be a ghost; and seg six — a loner student (Aftab Shivdasani) suddenly develops the power to “freeze” people in their tracks. Overall, the film steers a lively line between black comedy and shocks, with the latter mostly coming from the digital soundtrack.
Linking story, however, is weak and nonsensical. None of the kids seem to notice their friends aren’t returning from walks in the forest and, in an attempt to finish the pic on a bang, Raman slips into pure gore in the closing reel. Otherwise, direction is sharp and editing super-tight, and Raman shows a consistent eye for widescreen compositions and evocative crane-shots.
As with “Bhoot,” Varma has taken the bold step of disposing with song sequences, which are hardly missed in the short (by Bollywood standards) running time and trim storytelling. In place of an intermission, print caught featured a trailer for upcoming Aishwarya Rai starrer, “Kuch naa kaho,” spliced in halfway through the fourth story.
Hindi title literally means “Fear Is Forbidden”; pic is also known as “The Frighteners.”