Ghost Stories (?)

Spoiler Warning !!!
Spoiler Warning !!!
Spoiler Warning !!!

Stepping into the new decade, the first release that Netflix India saw was the Joint Directorial venture of Anurag Kashyap, Dibakar Banerjee, Zoya Akhtar and Karan Johar.

Now, I could say I’ve been hearing ‘mixed opinions’ about the said movie, but most of them are bashing Ghost Stories about how bad it was. Now, if it was bad-bad, I won’t be spending time writing about it, because as people already know, I never wrote a review for a Salman Khan movie to explain actually how bad it is.

Now, before we delve into the stories presented by these esteemed directors, let’s take a look back to the traditional horror movies that we’ve seen till now.

‘The Exorcist (1973)’, ‘Evil Dead (1981)’ are two cult classics of horror genre. But in between these two, there was Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining (1980), which was bashed by people for not understanding it completely, even by the author of the book Stephen King himself. The movie features a Steller performance delivered by Jack Nicholson. But horror fans and movie buffs hold The Shining for a very high regard today.

In the last decade (He He) was saw some great horror films The Conjuring (2013), Annabelle Creation (2017), The Ring (1 and 2) (2002), Light’s Out (2016), Get Out (2017) and Cabin In The Woods (2011).

If we go further back, there are movies like Rosemary’s Baby (1968), Psycho (1960), Carrie (1976), Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), Halloween (1978).

But, in between, if we take a look, there are movies which we missed, or the audience hated. Movies like Hereditary (2018), The Witch (2015), The Babadook (2015), It Follows (2014) and even Midsommer (2019).

If you take a look how these movies evolved over time, you will see a pattern. Older movies were more and horrors of cosmic kind, and recent are mostly dark, psychological ones. Because previously people materialized their fears into something big, bad terrible and in times unconquerable

But thing is we stop looking for monsters under our bed, once we realize they live inside us. And that’s what modern horror is about. But unfortunately for us, there is no genre for ‘weird’, ‘dark’ or ‘cerebral’ movies. So, we stuck with ‘horror’ we stuck with the name ‘Ghost Stories’.

This Netflix Original ‘Ghost Stories’ has four stories ‘Nurse’, ’Bird’, ’Monster’ and ‘Granny’.

I’ll start chronologically, and save my overall verdict for later.

I was never ‘impressed’ with Zoya Akhtar. ‘Zindegi Na Milegi Dobaara’ and ‘Dil Dhadaakne Do’ seemed like the same film with different premises to me. I even found the shorts for ‘Bombay Talkies’ and ‘Lust Stories’ lackluster (no pun intended). But with ‘Nurse’, things are quite different. With creepy long camera movements and cerebral performance by Surekha Sikri, Nurse is indeed a ‘goosebumps inducing’ traditional horror story. With Janhvi Kapoor doing her best, and delivering a commendable performance. The Mumbai rains and the set pieces play quite the role to set up the atmosphere and with zero jump scare, the slow burn of the fear is really enjoyable.

‘Nurse’ with Surekha Sikri

Next comes ‘Bird’ by Mr. Kashyap. Now, I must admit, I’m a die hard Kashyap fan. So, this review might sound a little biased. First of all, this is also a one woman show. And Sobhita Dhulipala shines as the lead woman. And I think Anurag’s ‘Bird’ is the leap which signifies the paradigm shifts in unnatural movies. The new ‘horror’ genre in Hollywood (and other countries) has been dealing with inner demons, inner horror, and human behavior itself as an element of horror. And here Mr. Kashyap doesn’t disappoint. A woman suffering from mental illness, with a traumatized childhood, a series of miscarriages, and maybe, a female feticide. While exploring the psyche of this troubled woman, Anurag touches on voodoo, obsession all while creating a creepy atmosphere with the washed out and mostly, monochrome color tones. Not a traditional horror and most definitely not a ghost story. But since we do not have a genre names ‘weird’, this most definitely qualify as a modern horror.

Sobhita the Showstopper…

Next comes Dibakar Banerjee, with ‘Monster’. And Banerjee used this opportunity to put the current scenario of our country, and turn it into a horror story (as if we didn’t know!). While brushing up on very traditional horror elements like Cannibalism, Lycanthropy and Zombie Apocalypse. Actually, the premise of his story can be traced back to Norse Mythology (Volsunga Saga). His intents are clear when the little kid (the gen that is Aditya Shetty) explains the rules of survival, ‘those who move gets eaten’, ‘those who speak gets eaten’, ‘those who eat survives’… Brilliant!!!

Aditya Shetty is Love

Gulshan Devaiah was unrecognizable under that heavy prosthetic, and we can only recognize him i in the climax. Actually, if you see closely, the before and after of transformations, you will see, people with less and less humanity turns more grotesque (may not be his intent, just an observation). But the story has an open ending (also my thought). You can interpret your own endings and the inner layer that lies.

Last comes the great Karan Johar. And I could wrap up his segment in one sentence ‘he did not even try’. The Poor man’s Bhansali, Mr. Johar built a ‘K3G’esque set piece, and Put in a Beautiful Woman (Mrunal Thakur) with great dressing sense, her dirty talking BFF (Kusha Kapila), added a song, a ‘Sagai’ and a Wedding and then the Ghost of Granny comes with a climax that left me high and dry.

Now with the verdict. If you like the Dibakar Banerjee segment, you’re definitely against fascists and know how too much power corrupts people. It was brilliant, great and awe-inspiring. But that still was not enough to beat the cinematic brilliance of Anurag Kashyap. Call me crazy, call me biased, but like always, Mr. Kashyap once again brought the winds of much needed change in Indian horror scene. And I hope, it will inspire people to take more leaps of faith creating mind-boggling and goosebumps inducing yet disgusting films, that paves the way for modern horror (read weird, dark). Zoya Akhtar was great with her piece, and I hope to see more and more of her works in this genre. And what to write about Karan? Yes, he recently changed a lot. But the soon he could break out his comfort zone and try something new, the better.

So, the Order is 1. Bird, 2. Monster, 3. Nurse and 4. Granny.

I know most of you won’t agree with me, but I’d like t hear your opinion too. But I think it’s high time we stop looking for logic in supernatural stories and focus on the broader sense of horror. Because the world we live in, has soooo many scarier things than a few dead guys coming back.




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