Betaal, the Netflix Original horror webseries hits the streaming screens on May 24. IHC recently got in touch with Nikhil Mahajan, one of the directors of th show. We talked about Betaal and our common love for the Ramsay horror movies. Here’s the transcript:
How did you become part of Betaal?
I was working on a film at Blumhouse, around the time Patrick had finished Ghoul. I first met Patrick then. They thought I’d be the right person to work with on Betaal. I came in after the entire script process and the pilot episode was in place. That’s when I came in.
What made you say yes to Betaal?
I love horror. Patrick and I are very big horror fans. I found out that this is the first zombie show coming out of India. That was enough for me to want to be a part of this. Because, it’s always good to be part of something that’s the first ever. When I read the script, the vision was clear. So, I could make out what value I can add by directing it. It was a no-brainer for me from that point.
Any apprehensions about being typecast as a horror director?
You are typecast only if you do something. If I do a romantic comedy next, I stand the risk of being typecast as a romantic comedy director. That shouldn’t dither you from trying out various genres. I loved it when I read Betaal. It would be extremely disappointing for me if I had not been part of Betaal.
How much of action and how much of slowburn do we have in Betaal?
Betaal is a zombie thriller and has all the elements that one associates with the zombie subgenre. It is not conventional horror. It doesn’t have the jumpscares. Betaal is more about building tension and the final point is where you get scared. That is the kind of horror that I love. I love the movies like The Thing and the Alien franchise. For many people, Alien is not a horror movie. I love how scary Alien can be. Its a slowburn horror thriller. It will deliver all that such series promise.
Half the job was done in casting. Our casting director, Parag Mehta did a great job. When he brought us the auditions, we could just see the characters in the actors that he suggested. Both Patrick and I did a lot of workshops with all the actors, so we were on the same page when we started shooting for the series.
How was it working with Jitendra Joshi?
Jitendra Joshi is actually my best friend in real life. When we were casting him, I was staying at a distance because I didn’t want to influence that casting at all. I told Patrick that you cast him only if you want him. I don’t have any objectivity about Jitendra Joshi.
His character in Betaal is very different to his character in Sacred Games. He is a very evil, ruthless man, an antagonist. He’s very protective about his position in life. He is a very conniving character and Jitendra has done it amazingly well. You will have fun watching him.
What’s the one Betaal sequence that you are proud of?
I shot the drummer boy sequence, the one you see in the trailer. There’s the sequence where lightning strikes and you see the zombie boy playing the drums. It was incredibly difficult to shoot that shot. There were rains, I had a huge army of zombies to direct, it was night time. Me and my DOP had a very difficult time to design the sequewnce. But when I finally saw the scene, I was very proud of myself.
Which Bollywood horror movies do you identify with?
I identify myself with Tumbadd, that comes closest to me as a film maker and with movies like Tumbadd, Pari or even Ram Gopal Varma’s Raat. Kaun, I liked as well. I also enjoyed the Ramsay movies of the eighties, like Darwaza and Purana Mandir.
What’s your take on the Ramsay horror movie?
I can see that there’s a kitsch value to it and it seems B-Grade, but they made the movies with so much conviction. I see those Sam Raimi films like Evil Dead. When I see these and those, I understand that there was someone in India who was trying to do something like this. It is extremely cool that even today, you cannot talk about Indian horror without talking about the Ramsays. I love those films. They didn’t inspire me but they did introduce me to horror.
Please note: This site contains affiliate links to products. We may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.