1920: The Surprise Bollywood Horror Movie Hit

CastRajneesh Duggal, Adah Sharma, Indraneil Sengupta, Anjori Alagh
DirectorVikram Bhatt
Story and ScreenplayVikram Bhatt and Dheeraj Rattan
ProducersSurendra Sharma, Bhagwati Gabrani, Amita Bishnoi

1920 is a Bollywood horror movie that hit theaters in 2008. Ram Gopal Varma brought Bhoot to the Indian horror audiences in 2003. New content creators  saw the audience for Bollywood horror movies. Vikram Bhatt brought his special brand of Bollywood horror – marrying off erotica with horror. Vikram’s erotica was tastefully done and palatable to a bold new audience. Compared to the brash titilation of previous movies, this was new.

This gve rise to a new wave of erotic thrillers like the Raaz franchise. Audiences loved movies from the Bhatt camp anyway. Most of the movies were grounded in stark reality and the the characters and storylines dunked themselves in irony – a far cry from the fluffy cinema that dominated in the 1990s until the 2000s.

Add to that the mixed bag that Bhatt comes up with, with thrillers and even romantic comedies under his belt, the audiences were waiting for somehting new – anything, that was coming out with the Bhatt stamp over it.

And he came out trumps with 1920, a period piece horror movie that launched two new actors. 1920 released in 2008, and I can only imagine how Bhatt managed to convince his investors to make a period horror movie back then. Even in 2008, big budget Bollywood horror movies were a rarity. Bhoot, the Ram Gopal Varma movie that changed it all, hit theaters in 2008 and of course didn’t have the budget of a period piece. But that’s the task of a person who believes in his project – to rope in the money.

1920 Synopsis:

An architect comes to a old mansion in Palampur, hired to turn the mansion into a hotel. He spends the first night in the mansion and suspects something unnatural exists in the mansion. The next day, the caretake finds him dead. Since then, nobody comes to the mansion.

Unknown to all this is Arjun Singh, a young man of high caste who is in love with a woman of mixed religions, Lisa. Arjun’s father doesn’t agree to this relation and vehemently opposes it. Arjun decides to elope with his lover to Mumbai.

However, they are waylaid on their way to Bombay. Though Arjun fights them off, he disavows his religion and escapes to Mumbai with Lisa.  In Mumbai, he becomes a successfull architect and his next job in the same mansion in Palampur.

As the couple settles in, they find one room whose key is missing. That same night, Lisa has a supernatural experience and feels like someone is moving through the mansion. Arjun sees her moving around in the night and Lisa says that she felt someone in the mansion, apart from them. Arjun dimisses the event.

Watch 1920 on YouTube:

The next day, she asks Balwant, the caretaker who doesn’t give her a proper reply. Arjun gets permission from the owner of the mansion to break down the lock of the locked room.  Even before he returns, Lisa finds the door open and ventures into the room.

She finds a piano and the photograph of a woman. When Arjun returns, she tells him that the mansion is inauspicious. Arjun once again dismisses the idea and says that he is ready to leave the mansion if she isn’t comfortable.

A few days later, Lisa meets the local Priest and she tells him about their past. She now finds a confidant in the Priest and tells him about the strange incidents in the mansion.  The Priest visits the mansion and the room, and doesn’t find anything strange.

The Priest experiences strange incidents and the next night, when Lisa is at home alone, a supernatural spirit possesses her. What happens next and how it changes Arjun and Lisa’s life forever forms the rest of the movie’s story.

Movie Review:

If we didn’t know it, we’d say that 1920 is a Ramsay Bollywood horror movie. It has everything that their movies had and then some more. The mansion was there, the couple was there and so was a distinctively Indian backstory that nobody could not be attracted to.

1920 used the Indian freedom struggle as a story arc. The aspect of inter-religious love, made a comeback with 1920 and tugged at the audience’s heart strings again.

The new actors did a good job of acting in a period piece as well. Rajneesh Duggal is now a horror movie regular and Adah Sharma has some big ticket movies behind her as well.  The reason 1920 also ticked was because of the love story at the core of it all and the two young performers brought it to the big screen well.

The spook scenes, for its time, were unbelievable. Audiences looked agape at how the director was boldly showing those scenes. Until then, apart from the Varma movies, audiences hadn’t seen such scenes sans fog and dark lights and all that kind of prop stuff.

What’s amusing is that everyone, even Wikpedia, says that the movie’s loosely based off Exorcist. Actually, though Bollywood horror movies have ripped off Hollywood horror movies several times, 1920 is a very original, earthy story that has only one similarity to Exorcist.

And if only having a possessed woman tied to a bed is getting inspiration from Exorcist, I think 90 percent of all horror movies would be guilty of that. I am guessing critics just didn’t know how to admire the real spooky, big horror sequences in the movie – ergo, the Exorcist connection.

Another good aspect of the movie was an astounding backstory that was a heartbreaker as well as great story-telling. In fact, 1920 is one of the few Bollywood horror movies to sell tragedy so well that it became a franchise.

In a nutshell, the Bollywood horror movie 1920 had it all, a believable story, fresh faces and a producer who was relentless about bringing the director’s vision to the big screen.

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About Roy D'Silva 483 Articles
Roy D'Silva loves nicely made horror films,books and series. He has spent a lifetime covering various entertainment beats and has finally found his calling covering the paranormal/supernatural/horror fiction beat.