Mangalsutra: The Social Bollywood Horror Movie

Mangalsutra tries to normalise the Bollywood Horror Movie.

CastRekha, Anant Nag, Prema Narayan, Om Shivpuri, Madan Puri, Rajendra Nath, Jagdeep, Reshma T
DirectorB, Vijay
Story and ScreenplayM. Sundar
DialoguesSnehlata Verma
Associate DirectorVijay Kumar Raichura
ProducersRavi Kumar,Chandrika Karla, Era Karla,

Mangalsutra, the Bollywood horror movie released in 1981. Film historians will tell you that for around 4 or 5 decades, that means from the 40s to even the 00s, the social drama was the lynchpin of Bollywood movies.  The Rajshris had been at it since the sixties, and they had several contemporaries.

The first three decades of Bollywood movies were also ruled by Mythology, Fantasy, and Sci-fi.  Horror, as earlier said, came in the forties, with one of the first horror movies being Mahal, which released in 1949.

With these decades interspersed with the social dramas and horror becoming an interesting genre, it wasn’t rocket science for someone to mix the horror genre with the social drama. And someone did it with the social drama horror Mangalsutra, Mangalsutra had an interesting cast.

The Bollywood horror movie starred Rekha and Anant Nag. Nag made a name for himself with the 1980 Bollywood horror movie Gehrayee.  Gehrayee and Mangalsutra, though clumped under the horror genre, are starkly different from each other.  That goes to show the diversity that the Indian horror genre has. Here’ what you should know about Mangalsutra.

Mangalsutra Synopsis

Vijay is the son of a rich, urban man. He’s been betrothed to Gayetri, the daughter of Vijay’s father’s friend. Vijay and Gayetri are in love and are ready to be married. Just before the wedding, Vijay and Gayetri find out one major difference in their way of thinking. Gayetri believes in God while Vijay doesn’t.

However, Vijay tells Gayetri that he won’t interfere in her faith and she has all the freedom to follow her faith, in whichever way she wants. The two gear up for a happy marital life, when the first lash of misfortune hits them.

On their honeymoon, Vijay falls violently ill and the doctors cannot put their finger on what’s wrong with Vijay. Vijay tells the doctor that he could only hear a ‘tick-tock’ sound and it was as if all his brain nerves were about to burst.

The doctors keep Vijay under observation. Vijay is distraught that he has not been able to give his wife, Gayetri, the happiness of marital life. He discusses with her about how the doctors have not been able to find out what’s wrong with him.

Gayetri tells him that she believes that God will be able to give her all the answers.  That night, Vijay has his first supernatural experience. He sleepwalks in a possessed state and Gayetri follows him.

When Vijay sees Gayetri, he tries to sexually molest her. Her in-laws and father come in time to save Gayetri. The servants say that the only to save Vijay now is to bring in a Baba.  The Baba begins to find out the truth and a female ghost begins speaking.

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The female ghost says that she hates Vijay and will rest only when she has killed him. When Gayetri and her parents ask her further, the female ghost reveals that her name is Kamini and she was Vijay’s lover.

She also shows off the ring that Vijay had given to her as a mark of their love. Kamini tells them that the two had a one night stand and Vijay left her afterward. She died and now has come back as a ghost to avenge her loss.

The Baba tells the parents to keep Gayetri and Vijay. Seeing them together will once again revive Kamini’s spirit. He says that he will get a special amulet that will solve this issue forever. But before he can return, Vijay’s condition worsens.

Vijay realizes that during his last possession, Kamini had hurt Gayetri. When he sees, Gayetri hurt, he confesses to her. He tells her that he had met Kamini a few times in college, but he never loved her.

She, however, vows that she will pursue Vijay till the end of his life.  Gayetri believes her husband and decides to fight the spirit for her husband.

Mangalsutra Review:

Mangalsutra is a masterpiece in storytelling. Firstly, the movie’s a supernatural movie disguised as a social movie. The title, literally meaning a necklace a woman wears to denote her married status, the screenplay, the characters, all hint at a social movie.

In fact, after the interval, if we had an evil sister of the father-in-law making life hell for the new couple and then turning over a new leaf, nobody would find it awkward.

Secondly, Mangalsutra is a classic case of how a mythological Indian story converts into a fine movie. In Indian mythology, we have the character of Savitri, who brings back her husband, Satyavan, from the dead.  You can read that story here.

We have had that concept repeated a couple of times, most recently the Akshay Kumar, Priyanka Chopra and Kareena Kapoor starrer Aitraaz.

Mangalsutra also becomes important because of the depiction of the possessed Vijay. This is an 80s movie, so the Hammer horror type of gore and prosthetics aren’t there, but the special effects and the make-up has aged nicely.

I wouldn’t be surprised if someone is creeped out watching the possession scenes even today. Anant Nag does a great job of playing the vulnerable husband. Rekha does the confident Bharatiya nari incredibly well.

Movies like Mangalsutra and the past year’s Gehrayee went a long way in normalizing the concept of the Bollywood horror movie. Of course,  few years down the line, the Ramsay brand of movies, closer to Hammer Horror changed the face of the Bollywood demon – literally – forever.

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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.