Friday, Jul 01, 2022

The Horror! The Horror!

The genre has never taken root in Bollywood. Maybe because real-life horrors are enough to give us sleepless nights.

Photograpaph: Shutterstock

At the end of every party, some friend or the other will ask me to tell the story of “Inspector Khan”. Though I have narrated it at almost every party since I first heard the story in 2013, there will always be someone hearing it for the first time. It has now become a ritual of sorts. The lights are dimmed and a circle of eager listeners forms around me. I begin with the familiar words: “This is a true story…” The narrative follows the familiar contours to reach the jump-cut climax, eliciting a cry of shock from the new listeners. “It always scared me,” said an economist and colleague, who has heard “Ins­pec­tor Khan” several times, after I narrated it at a dinner last Saturday. “It still does.” Her husband, also an economist, said: “It never scared me, but I find it thrilling. It is also very enjoyable to watch the reaction of those hearing it for the first time.”  

This time, the first-time listener was a young friend who teaches English at the same university on the outskirts of Delhi, where I teach journalism. “I find it difficult to sleep after listening to a ghost story,” she said. “This is because I live alone. Though I enjoy the thrill, I need someone to assure me that it is all fiction.” The conversation turned to horror films. “I like Japanese horror films,” said a media studies scholar. “Ju-On (1998), Ringu (1998).” Since the beginning of this century, Japan—and South Korea—have consistently produced horror films that have also inspired Hollywood remakes.