This is the third Kanti Shah film that SaamriCom curates. By now, if anyone paid us to direct a film like Kanti Shah, I’d Kanti Shah the film better than Kanti Shah can Kanti Shah.
‘Pyasa Haiwan’ (the hungry demon) has the same actors we saw in the previous Kanti Shah films. We also suspect that the haveli in this film is the same one that we saw in the previous Kanti Shah classic, ‘Virana’. To give credit where it’s due, Kanti Shah has a story this time. Pyasa Haiwan at least has a concept that’d have made the film a Bollywood potboiler.
A man drives away his son from his Haveli after he’s caught having an affair with a poor woman. The son lives with his elder brother. The elder brother’s wife catches him red-handed with the servant of the house. Later, the elder brother catches the man playing the peeping tom on his wife. The elder brother kills the man.
The man ‘s spirit haunts the elder brother, his wife and even his father and kills them all. Years later, the spirit kills a couple who had taken refuge in the old haveli. A woman from another rich family decides to avenge the death and drive away the demon forever. She does defeat the demon, but he returns to kill her. Her only daughter now lives with her grandfather.
Her family disagrees with her when she reveals to them that she loves a poor man. Driven away from home, she and her husband decide to stay in the same haveli that was allegedly haunted. Her uncle, who wants to usurp the haveli sends his daughters and their husbands to kill the woman. The mysterious force kills them all though. What happen next completes the film.
If you are a Kanti Shah fan, you have already got the template. A promiscuous couple, one of them dies, returns, kills a whole lot of people. Finally. it’s the main protagonist’s turn after a while and that’s when the film takes a sharp turn.
So, you have Sapna having some bare-dare outfits. You have Vinod Tripathi playing 3 roles in one film. You have several nameless women doing sex scenes and songs for Kanti Shah. You have a bikini scene.
Special note about the actors saying all the dialogues facing the camera. You wonder whether it’s the director’s call or if the actors decided that’d be the best way to emote. It is evident that apart from the likes of Sapna and Vinod Tripathi, none of the other people acting in the film consider acting their day jobs.
As for the production values, they are ‘classic Kanti Shah’. The notorious bungalow’s still there, the beds are the same too, we are guessing. Again, this film is shot on location. One other aspect that struck us is the absence of blood in Kanti Shah’s film. In Virana as well as here, there’s a sequence where one of the characters shoots another.
This isn’t done in a typical, Bollywood style sequence where the soul leaves the bloodied body – no siree. The only portrayal of a person shot dead is a sound of a bullet and the said person clutching their heart and dying. You will find 10 year olds literally doing this to play act dead while playing.
There’s also the classic Kanti Shah horror sequences. The Ramsays at least took pains to show their chase sequences. In a Kanti Shah film, a thrusting camera angle shows the demon. A sequence of the man about to die shouting at the top of his lungs follows this. Wash, Rinse, Repeat a couple of times and the man is dead. In Pyasa Haiwaan, Vinod Tripathi wears a bear costume to play the demon. Yes, a man wore a bear costume to play a demon in a Bollywood film in the late 90s/early 00s.
But a deeper look at Kanti Shah’s films tells us why his films are so infamous. He isn’t the first person to make such a film and we are sure he isn’t the last. The reason that Kanti Shah became so famous was because he brought the underlying Indian sexual and male fantasies to the fore. There is a reason that the servant in his film are bare-chested. The servant women are either overly sexed up or submissive cows. There’s a scene in a previous film where it seems the female servant’s chin is stuck to her neck.
There is a reason that his heroines almost always mouth the dialogue ‘Tumne to mujhe thaka diya’ (you have tired me out). There is a reason that his films either portray a servant’s sex life or shows the servant having an affair with his or her employer. You will find such trope in the soft-core books that are selling in rural India even today. Kanti Shah’s films brought these fantasies to the big screen. His film-making is unabashedly male. As noted earlier, in the Ramsay films, apart from Bandh Darwaza, sexual intercourse was not the central idea. Kanti Shah brought in the ‘hotness’ and the ‘boldness’ in the smaller budget Bollywood films – here’s a cheer for him.
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