When it comes to the horror genre, Bollywood has never been particularly good at nailing it and has rather faired badly, unless they were aiming for a horror-comedy like Stree and Go Goa Gone. And the recently released Netflix “horror” anthology, Ghost Stories is proof that Bollywood directors are ill-suited to make an out-and-out horror flick.
Following their “routine” from Bombay Talkies and Lust Stories, directors Zoya Akhtar, Anurag Kashyap, Dibakar Banerjee, and Karan Johar tried their hands at horror, something totally outside their comfort zones. Ghost Stories’ only saving graces are Surekha Sikri and Dibakar Banerjee’s segment, which is not only scary but also succeeds in being intriguing, making viewers hope for the director to make a full-fledged horror film one day.
Of to a promising start, Ghost Stories first segment starts with Jahnvi Kapoor as Sameera, a young caregiver who works in the house of a paralysed old lady (Surekha Sikri) with dementia.
As she cares for her, she starts noticing strange things in the house. Both Janhvi and Surekha give strong performances, which coupled with the creepy aura (kudos to Akhtar for that) could have made it one engaging watch. But without that “Whoa!” moment, is just a bland story set in a beautiful Mumbai townhome.
Choosing to depict the horror of going through a mental breakdown, Anurag Kashyap’s segment attempts to slowly build-up tension but halfway through it, you’ll realize that it’s not going anywhere. Sobhita Dhulipala is a pregnant woman, with a strange obsession with dolls and a traumatic childhood coupled with a former failed pregnancy that makes her believe that she is a human-flesh eating crow.
There is also a creepy nephew of hers who is intent on ensuring that his Maasi does not forget him once her baby is born. It could have been ingenious, but it’s so not capable of being one.
Dibakar’s segment lends Ghost Stories the “worth a watch” status as it is decked with strong performances and stays true to the elements intrinsic of a horror film and mixes it with political commentary. The story is set in a small village on the fringes of a larger city. When a man (Sukhant Goel) returns to his village, he finds that it has been rampaged by cannibalism- everyone in the village has been either eaten alive or turned into a zombie.
The only survivors are a boy (Aditya Shetty) and a girl (Eva Ameet Pardeshi) both under 10 years of age but become Goel’s characters only hope in the harrowing world around him. Complete with horror, strong performances, and a sucker punch at the end, this is the segment to look out for in Ghost Stories.
Like the first two shorts, Karan Johar’s segment also lacks that horrifying final blow. Set in a lavish house in Goa that feels more like a luxury furnishing store, the story follows Ira (Mrunal Thakur) who gets married to the son of a wealthy family (Avinash Tiwary) and soon realizes that the family takes no decision without consulting Dhruv’s grandmother.
The catch? She has been dead for years. Johar too aims for concept rather than horror in his segment in Ghost Stories but while we can forgive it for not being scary, the absence of a credible plot is hard to avoid.
Feature image source: Netflix