Pundits consider Tahkhana to be one of the Ramsay’s Big 5. The Ramsays made this film when they were on full blast. Tahkhana released in the 80s, a decade that Bollywood historians consider to be the golden one for Bollywood horror. The film had a big star-cast., possibly one of the Ramsay’s biggest.
In the 80s, the Ramsays routinely cast two or even three main leads in their films. Add to that the two leading ladies, a comedy sidekick, and his romantic track, and we legit have a 6 leading character film. Bollywood will tell you that it’s not a simple task to have so many people in a film and have everything go on smoothly. That all of it happened proves that the Ramsays and the actors who worked with them genuinely had a passion for cinema and agreed to get along with each other.
A thakur makes his will on his dying bed. He bequeaths all to his good son, Raghuvir Singh who has two daughters, Sapna and Aarti. He disbars his second son, Durjan Singh, from his will, because that son indulges in black magic. Durjan vows revenge. With the help of grave diggers, he acquires the dead body of what he calls the devil himself, which can be brought to life with the blood of an innocent. Durjan decides to kidnap Raghuvir’s daughters and use their blood to invoke the devil.
Durjan takes them to an underground cave, which is where he indulges in black magic and has something evil up his sleeve, his creation, a monster. Raghuvir Singh is fatally wounded in the attack, but in his last breath, he reveals all of this to his friend, Man Singh. He also gives him a part of the map to treasure, in the form of a locket. The other half of the map in another pendant. Man Singh vows to rescue the daughters but can only rescue Aarti and the two sisters separate. He then locks up Durjan in the caves that he is known to reside in.
Aarti grows up in Man Singh’s house. She now has a boyfriend, Vijay. On his deathbed, Man Singh tells Aarti about the locket and the incomplete treasure map. Meanwhile, Sapna has trouble living in the big bad city. Desperate for a job, she joins a club but is assaulted and killed by the owner, Shakaal, who is a related to Man Singh. Oblivious of all this, Aarti, Vijay, Puneet and Shakaal decide to find Aarti’s sister and the treasure.
The Tahkhana script is definitely one of Ramsay’s crowning glories. It was the 80s, and Bollywood has moved from the family socials to potboilers. So, the mainstream film had separated brothers, evil uncles, club owners who’d sexually assault the main heroines and all that.
The late seventies and eighties even saw the rise of the faux adventure films – where the villains looked for great treasures and the heroes beat them to it, donating the treasure to the Government. Of course, the Ramsays were up with the times and inculcated each and every one of these script aspects into their film.
Since it was the 80s and the Ramsays were on a roll, they gave the audience not one, but three well-known names in the horror circuit. You had Hemant Birje, Puneet Issar, Sahila Chadha and Preeti Sapru playing important roles.
The new decade and a liberal atmosphere brought also egged the directors to come up with newer ways to bring sensuality on screen. One of the common ways was a rain song with the actresses (victims?) wearing almost see-through white. Amitabh Bachchan’s Don brought the aspects of pan and bhaang to the forefront in 1978, and Tahkhana had their actresses dancing after having bhaang, in the rain.
Coming to the meat of the film, the horror scenes. The Ramsays make good use of prosthetics and light to bring a demon/zombie to life. The prosthetics are very, very good for the 80s, Tahkhana is one of several Ramsay films that talk about an ancient evil that mere mortals pray to – a far cry from the run-of-the-mill films of today that depict the spirit of a woman who’s died because of injustice meted out to her.
This is one of those rare, decent budget films that had 4 well-known male leads. Puneet Issar, Hemant Birje and it introduced Kamran Rizvi. On the female front, they had Aarti Gupta, Preeti Sapru, and Sheetal.
On a side note, Tahkhana is a rule breaker. You see, in films, if the director introduced a couple, it was an unsaid rule that if one of them dies, the other has to follow suit – Bollywood love stories weren’t about second chances, you see. Less than a decade back Ramesh Sippy struggled with his desire to show that a widow also has the right to start living her life once again in Sholay. Somehow, that didn’t happen and we all know the climax of the film. Here, the Ramsays kill off a character’s betrothed, and yet, he lives. That must be an inside joke among the Ramsays about what they thought of the ‘current times.’