Ghosts, vampires are part of our cultural imagination: Bhushan Patel
The director talks about his upcoming horror film Amavas, starring Nargis Fakhri and Sachiin Joshi
In the trailer of Amavas — an upcoming horror film starring Nargis Fakhri and Sachiin Joshi — a lead character avers, “If there is God, there is Evil.” This is something the director, Bhushan Patel, swears candidly by, even as he denies any deliberate promotion of superstition in his films.
“I am a believer in the almighty, so yes, I believe in negative forces too. I've had experiences in my life that border on the mystical. But cinema is a fictional medium, and much of our storytelling traditions are rooted in the supernatural. We’ve all grown up listening to bhoot-pisach ki kahaniya (stories of ghosts and vampires). They are a part of our cultural imagination. I don't think the onus of rationality should be enforced upon writers and filmmakers,” says the Mumbai-born cinematographer-turned-director of Gujarati descent.
Bhushan’s previous works include the sequels, 1920: Evil Returns and Ragini MMS 2, and the 2015 horror-thriller Alone, adapted from a Thai film of the same name. Amavas, his fourth feature film as a director, borrows its basic plot from the American horror film, The Ring, which in turn was remade from a Japanese film based on Koji Suzuki’s novels.
In Amavas, Nargis and Sachiin play an Indian couple whose weekend sojourn at an old mansion (shot at Castle Goring in Sussex) is soiled by wicked forces. The film is billed as Nargis’s comeback vehicle after 2016’s Banjo and Housefull 3.
Asked about the leads of his film, Bhushan says, “Sachiin and I have wanted to work with each other for a long time and Amavas was conceived as a set collaboration. He is also the producer of the film. I approached Nargis because I needed an actor with slightly anglicised attributes without overstating it much. She turned out to be a big fan of horror films and readily agreed to do the film.”
On the subject of genre filmmaking, Bhushan announces his allegiance to the old-school (‘classic’, as he puts it) way of mounting horror films, using traditional devices like jump-scares and background score instead of the more subtextual freakeries employed in films like Get Out, Pari or Tummbad.
“My films have worked at the box-office but never gotten good reviews. Critics always write stuff like, ‘This is another film with creaking doors…’ They don't understand that these devices are indispensable to the genre. It's like saying lovers holding hands is a bad thing for romantic films. I'm aware of the recent horror films you’ve mentioned, but I don't belong in that space. I grew up on films like The Omen (1976) and The Exorcist (1973) and I admire the classic approach to filmmaking in these movies. I feel there's a wealth of material in Indian folkfore that hasn't been mined yet. For instance, we think of vampires as a foreign concept, but they have always existed in Indian stories. So maybe I will tackle a vampire movie next.”
Amavas also stars Ali Asgar, Vivan Bhatena, Mona Singh and Navneet Kaur Dhillon. Produced by Viking Media and Entertainment, the film arrives in theatres on January 11.