When it comes to the art of making supernatural films in Bollywood, one name that instantly comes to mind is Vikram Bhatt. Many of his films have become box-office successes and the filmmaker now is gearing up for his next — Ghost, which releases on October 18. He says that the film is based on a true story. “There was a very famous case ‘The Devil Made Me Do It’ that occurred in the USA in 1981. Arne Cheyenne Johnson had killed his landlord and the defense argued that he did not do it but the devil made him do so,” he says. Vikram got interested in the story after reading about it. “It got me thinking, ‘If the devil made the man commit the crime, how did he go about doing it?’”
But has he made any changes to the story keeping the Indian audience in mind and Vikram replies, “Of course, there are certain changes. The basic plot is inspired by the incident but we created a story around it. Our story is about trying to prove the supernatural in the court of law.”
With Ghost, popular TV actress Sanaya Irani is making her debut as a Bollywood leading lady and Shivam Bhaargava is her co-star. Vikram can’t stop praising Sanaya and calls her a brilliant actress. “We wanted someone who looked vulnerable. Her character has her own emotional journey, and she has her own demons to fight. Sanaya has done a fabulous job in the film.”
Vikram, who has directed supernatural films like Raaz, 1920 series, Haunted, Raaz 3D and Shaapit, among others, believes that making a horror film is not any different from directing a fairytale. “We used to have these fairy tales, where the princess was taken by the dragon and the knight in shining armour would come to save her. Be it fairytale or horror, at the end of the day, you must feel for your characters. If you are not able to empathise with them, you will not be able to create fear. The audience will not just be interested,” he says adding that for viewers to feel fear, they must be able to connect with the characters. “Otherwise, they will be like, ‘If they are dying, let them die’,” the filmmaker says.
When directing a horror genre, filmmakers need to ensure that the story has an element of surprise, which Vikram calls the ‘twist in the tale’. “There are many ways in which you can scare the audience like jump starts, scary moments, eternal fight between good and evil. But at the end of the day, you have to tell the audience a unique story,” he says adding that fear and the dark side of humans is a universal subject irrespective of language. “The fight between good and evil is everywhere. In fact, I was upset that the Censor Board, after watching the trailer, asked me to put a disclaimer that it’s a work of fiction and we are not trying to promote superstition. I take objection to that. If there is god, then why not the devil? I do not understand this thing about, ‘believing in one and not believing in another’. Today, there is more proof of the paranormal, than of god,” says Vikram while putting forth his argument.
So did he have his own spooky moment ever? “Yes, of course. I have seen spirits. What is atma? Don’t we all believe in the soul? The soul is the atma. The soul without the body is the spirit. Whether you believe it or not, it does exist,” he replies.
Does he make horror films because he believes in the supernatural? “It’s become a love affair with the audience. Thanks to them, I am where I am today. The audience has supported me and has been hungry for my kind of films. I like to come back to them,” says Vikram.
He further says, “Today, there are a lot of platforms that are available (web series) and I have other avenues, where I make different kinds of content. I like the dark genre. The darker side of humans fascinate me. Everybody has their own kind of cinema.”