Prawaal Raman, the director who has given us Bollywood horror films like Darna Mana Hain, Darna Zaroori Hain and 404: Not Found comes up with his next offering, Dobaara: See Your Evil. On the sixth anniversary of his sleeper hit 404: Not Found, we settled down for a casual chat with him.
So, how did Dobaara: See Your Evil happen?
I was actually offered the film. What drove me towards the film was the unique concept. I then roped in my good friend Adil Hussain and the film started rolling. If you see my other films, they have always been different from the typical horror films. I will always want to make something different.
How was your experience shooting the film?
We shot the film in 33 days. We shot it in London. It was a great experience, mostly because of the seasoned actors that I was working with.
This is Saqib and Adil’s debut in a Bollywood horror film. Huma has worked in one earlier. How was it working with them on a horror project?
See, all of them are seasoned actors. They know their job. And they knew that I knew my job. That was always the equation. So, there was no question of me telling them their trade.
We hear Lisa Ray is playing an important role in this Bollywood horror film. Can we consider this to be her comeback film?
Actors never come back. Once they are actors, they are actors. There’s no question of her leaving anywhere.
The trailer shows Huma as the major protagonist, do you think the Indian audience is ready for a female protagonist in Bollywood horror films?
Huma’s character definitely drives the film. She plays a very strong character. But at the same time, this is a film about a family. Everyone has an equal role in the film. But if you ask me whether the Indian audience is ready for a female protagonist, definitely. There’s been so many women oriented films releasing and working well at the box office. That should be proof enough.
This is also one of the first Bollywood horror films that centers around a non-living object. It’s much different from the witches and ghouls that we have seen in previous films. Do you think the Indian audience is ready for such a film?
The Indian audiences have matured enough. Earlier, there was no access to foreign films. Now, with the advent of the Internet, they have a staple diet of foreign entertainment. There is enough maturity in them to accept a novel concept.
Mostly, siblings in Bollywood films are either the ones who die or get sexually assaulted. Do you think the audience is ready for a sibling only film?
Well, this isn’t a sibling only film. There’s a romantic track also. That’s shown in the flashback. Adil and Lisa play a happily married couple, until Adil has an affair with a woman. Of course, the siblings do play a major part in the script, but it isn’t a sibling only film.
There’s this concept that the big stars don’t work in Indian horror films. What is your take on it?
Yes, it is true that Bollywood horror films are relegated a bit, but that’s because of the type of films that a typical Indian horror film is. Most of these films had some sex thrown in, some skin show added. That doesn’t make sense for an A lister. Because, then these films are rated Adults Only and then it doesn’t make business sense for a Shah Rukh Khan to act in such a film.
This is mainly because some directors plan their films like that. They then stamp it as ‘horrex’ or something. I hate those terms. Horror doesn’t need sex and sleaze to sell. Horror can sell itself if it’s made in a proper manner. But there are some actresses like Bipasha Basu who decided to break the mold. We can just hope that this is a continuing trend.
Do you think Indian directors were sometimes forced to take any producer that they got, just so they could release their film?
Coming back to what I said in the previous answer. Directors had an idea of how a Bollywood horror film should be made. They’d project it only for the single-screen audiences and add all the masala. So, not many banners were interested in funding them. But then came the new wave of horror cinema and everything changed. Ram Gopal Varma made Raat and Bhoot. These were game changers. This opened the eyes of Bollywood horror directors as well as producers that horror films could work without the sex and tidbits too.
The trailer hints at equal parts of gore and situational horror. How gory is your film?
My film doesn’t have any gore. This is not a gory film. The scene where Huma bites into an apple and her teeth go bloody, that’s a one-off scene.
How would you compare your film to its Hollywood original, Oculus?
See, when I signed up for the film, I knew that my film will be different than Oculus. That’s because every story and its narrative changes when the narrator and the settings change. Oculus has been written by a great writer and Dobaara is my take on that story.
What’s that one thing that you’d like to tell us about Dobaara: See Your Evil?
Let me tell you, this is the most scary film that I have made. My crew, my production, my sound engineers don’t work on the film after 9 O’Clock. They tell me that this is the scariest film that they have ever seen or worked on.
The Ramsays are planning a comeback, what would be your suggestion to them?
A person like me cannot suggest anything to the Ramsays. They are the iconic name in Bollywood horror. A generation has grown on their horror films. If they are coming back, they will definitely be planning themselves. See, their films have a cult following even today. So, they have definitely done something right with their films.
You have worked on one of the most important sci-fi films in India, Gayab. What do you think is the one difference between horror and the sci-fi genre.
In horror, it is the concept that’s scary. When it comes to sci-fi, you have create a lot. A horror film can be shot in a room. For a sci-fi film, you need a lot of resources and a lot of work. That’s the major difference between a sci-fi film and a horror film.