Golden Globe nominated auteur Shekhar Kapoor once famously opined, “Bollywood can be divided into two parts. Sholay B.C. and Sholay A.D.” Similarly, I believe that the Horror Movie Genre can be divided into two eras – Ramsay B.C. and Ramsay A.D. There is a reason why Mr. Shyam Ramsay chose to display a 5 second slide that said ‘Ramsay Horror Is Back’ before the movie and also why keeps repeating the same sentence in every interview for the promotion of the movie “We Are A Brand, You Know”. And mind you, he is not joking, he means that in every sense of the term.
No matter what level of cinephilia you have acquired or set out to aim, everyone knows that when one merely thinks of the phrase ‘Horror In India’ the first and last name that comes to mind is the pioneering and inimitable Ramsay Brothers and in some cases the silvery mysterious face of a unknown man that appeared before the landmark television show of 10+ seasons, the Zee Horror Show, whom we all thought might be the actual face one of the directing brothers.
There were many filmmakers before and after them. There were successful mainstream filmmakers who experimented with the genre like the Amrohis, N.A. Ansari, Biren Nag, S.U. Syed and Raj Tilak. But none accomplished what the Ramsay Bros could, establishing the genre in mainstream Bollywood.
What was their main mission you ask? Not only was it to terrorize the audience beyond their most chilling nightmares, but to create a revolutionary benchmark for the genre after reaching a certain high point. First, it was a myriad mix of horror and suspense, from the one-scene-worthy Ek Nanhi Munni Ladki Thi (Source: http://aditisen.blogspot.com/2011/06/tulsi-ramsay-meeting.html) & Radio Program turned movie Do Gaz Zameen Ke Neeche to the Sci-Fi Horror ‘Dahshat’ and then came a string of monster hits such Purana Mandir, Veerana, the first 3D Horror Saamri, the Vampire blockbuster Bandh Darwaza and finally the immensely successful Zee Horror Show, later directed by Deepak Ramsay. Baronial haunted mansions, ghosted clocks, cursed families, dungeons that kept ghouls, vampires, grotesque hunchbacks, worshipping cults and their armies with one Ogre soldier and lastly an unsuspecting motley crowd of archaeologists, village heads, targeted successors and collegians, the list goes on. It was this grand, humble yet atmospheric package that the seven brothers crafted and burgeoned till their combined and commemorative magnum opus Aatma in 2007.
Although criticized by later generations, the Ramsays created something malevolent and grand out of a confined budget unlike their legion of influenced directors, the makers of Camp/Cult. It was the combined efforts of all the brothers that created frightening art that made audiences and the rest of Bollywood squeal. As much as I smirked, after watching ‘Neighbours’ I am deeply saddened and shocked as to where the Ramsay Brand has arrived.
The movie is nowhere close to their previous low-budget release ‘Ghutan’ (2010’s Bachao was a Horror Comedy), which although with its mediocre plot and the constipated Aryan Vaid had its share of spooks and probably the scariest looking ghost in Ramsay film history. A lazily mashed story, most probably adapted from a table conversation that involved discussing True Blood & Fright Night, an immensely impromptu screenplay, acting that will make you cringe and pull your hair, no Bappi Lahiri and lastly the Props Department, who need to be awarded with the Golden Raspberries.
The story is about one of the last surviving vampires of the Medieval Ages – 17th and 18th century in the movie to be exact, who is now settled in a Mumbai-suburban village of Kulbatta and terrorizing it for centuries. Her name – Kapalika. Kapalika is finally confronted by a forest officer Inspector Vikrant, a Shiv Bhakt, who manages to char her to ashes after almost making love to a song called ‘Night for Passion’. This brutal assassination is witnessed by her Master who later resurrects the spirit of Kapalika and makes her possess the body of Tanya, Vikrant’s sister.
As Kapalika is now resurrected and ready to wreak havoc by sucking the warm blood of young men, the new ritualistic killing spree continues in a bungalow, not Kaali Pahadi, next to the house of Sanam, played by the most irritating actress after Sahila Chadha in a Ramsay Film.
After witnessing some of the kills, Sanam along with her boyfriend reach out to Inderjit Malhotra, a famous horror novelist, played by Shakti Kapoor who helps them after his own personal secretary is killed and turned into a vampire.
The film has all the potential to be an indispensable B-Film addition for anyone who is interested in the ‘So Bad That It’s Good’ genre. From the very first scene, when Vikrant confronts Kapalika and seduction ensues, the production is pitiful, the CGI is laughably amateurish and the ghost is not convincing either. One of the greatest prowess, the comic subplots is also missing. Remember, the Ramsays were pioneers here too. In Veerana, Satish Shah plays ‘Hitcock’ a wannabe Hitchcock aspirant and director who has a subversive comic scene with Rajendranath when tells him to enter the bathroom to lift a bar of soap and even during Zee Horror Show days, Actor Mushtaq Khan in Aafat cries his heart out after the some picnic guests demand snacks, because his daughter was raped by Goga Kapoor and friends while he went out to bring Chakna (Snacks consumed during alcohol) in the past. This was a distinctive morbidly farcical style of humor that the Ramsays concocted. Shakti Kapoor keeps some laughs intact because of his mere presence but not the impromptu script.
The leads are terrible and unfathomably boring. Maybe in some enthusiastic form of creating a new scream queen like Archana Puran Singh in Mahakaal, Director Shyam Ramsay produces an intolerably conceived and epileptically irksome lead heroine. But what is standout in a misled Camp/Cult film like this is the art direction and production design, which starts from plastic amputated body parts, bowls with flowery and price stickers intact, knives with branding, Gravy Chicken Tandoori for human flesh and lastly a glass dinner table for a mutilation slab.
The climax is abrupt and worthy of being in the ranks of directors who tend to forget their scripted characters.
For us Ramsay Fans, Neighbours is a sheer disappointment as the team of brothers is the last league of filmmakers we want to see slip to the level of Salim Raza and Suresh Jain, the current kings of low-budget funnies. We could all see what was coming in the promos itself, but hoped for some sort of terrifying hallmark surprise. What we get is a lackadaisical, half-baked, probably last minute effort to recrudesce a fading brand name. The film is a major treat for those who want a hearty and uninhibited laugh-a-thon but if you’re someone who had a VHS of Bandh Darwaza, you sincerely wish that the filmmaker stressed way harder and arduously for a sure-fire comeback.