Horror sets cash registers ringing for Bollywood movies

  • Hindi horror movies have been doing rather well in recent times, even though there have not been many releases in the past two years.

Lata Jha
First Published29 Mar 2024
Shaitaan has crossed the  <span class='webrupee'>₹</span>130 crore mark in domestic box office collections alone.
Shaitaan has crossed the ₹130 crore mark in domestic box office collections alone.(Screengrab from YouTube/Panorama Studios)

With Ajay Devgn’s latest horror film Shaitaan having crossed the 130 crore mark in domestic box office collections alone, theatre owners say there is much untapped potential in horror as a genre for Indian films. And with Kartik Aaryan’s Bhool Bhulaiyaa 3 to arrive this Diwali, things could be looking up for the Hindi horror genre.

For that matter, Hindi horror movies have been doing rather well in recent times, even though there have not been many releases in the past two years.

When released in 2022, Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2 had made over 180 crore in domestic box office collections. Devgn’s Golmaal Again had crossed the 200 crore mark when released in 2017, and Shraddha Kapoor and Rajkummar Rao-starrer Stree had made 124 crore in 2018. All box office data is sourced from trade website Box Office India.

But it’s not all smooth sailing. While competition from Hollywood with higher budgets remains fierce, there are several on-ground challenges as well.

“The horror genre continues to grapple with the production of predictable and formulaic films that restrain innovation in the field,” Sanjeev Kumar Bijli, executive director, PVR INOX Ltd said. “Filmmakers are hesitant to experiment with horror, given that a significant portion of the target audience, comprising families in theatres, includes children who get excluded due to censor certification.”

Film distributor and exhibitor Sunny Khanna said, “The success rate of horror films is pretty high, but it requires a lot of effort to get the sound and visual effects right. Top actors also don’t commonly get drawn to it. The genre is also not picked up for satellite television, which means at least a 30% revenue loss and higher dependence on theatrical.”

Many see potential in horror as recent successes suggest a shift towards more nuanced storytelling within the genre, with filmmakers exploring comedy and supernatural themes rooted in Indian culture.

Bijli pointed out that it's the hybrid genre of horror comedy that has proven to be commercially successful, evident in the performance of movies like Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2, Stree and Golmaal Again.

A Cinepolis spokesperson said films like Shaitaan and Bhool Bhulaiyaa managed to strike a chord with viewers by tapping into cultural elements and societal themes. “Leveraging advanced special effects and sound design, these movies create immersive experiences that resonate with audiences,” the person added.

That said, the volume of Indian films in the horror genre is lesser than Hollywood but the box office success of Hollywood horror films like M3GAN, Evil Dead Rise, and The Nun II indicates a substantial audience for the horror genre in India.

To be sure, Hindi horror movies have had an impressive track record in India historically, even though films have been few and far between.

Films made by Ramsay brothers such as Do Ghaz Zameen Ke Niche (1972) and Purana Mandir (1984) had worked without any familiar faces, and the Raaz film franchise has consistently found draw. 1920: Horrors of the Heart, the fifth film in the 1920 series, had made around 13 crore when made on a shoestring budget without any stars, and released last year.

 

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