Veerana is one of the top Bollywood horror movies. It’s also one of the top five horror movies from the Ramsay stable. Veerana hit the theaters in 1988. Bollywood historians will say that Veerana is a pretty late entrant in the list of Bollywood releases. Horror was on its way in Bollywood right in the seventies, with movies like Darwaza (The Door), Jaani Dushman (The Enemy) and Nagin (The Serpent) already out in the theaters. But these movies don’t make part of the current iconic movie conversations, and Veerana does. There’s a reason behind it. The eighties Bollywood was a different scenario. Bollywood audiences were much more receptive to action movies and social dramas.
The Era of Drama and Crime
The top actors of the eighties were the stars like Sanjay Dutt, Govinda and almost anyone who could sing, dance and throw a few punches The old bastion of Amitabh, Jeetendra, Rajesh Khanna and Shatrughan Sinha were still a formidable clump of names.
When it came to action, audiences lined up to watch the younger blood like Dutt and Govinda. If they were in for a family drama, there was Rajesh Khanna. Jeetendra was still doing action-oriented roles, but with an additional cast like Chunky Pandey.
Superstars of today, like Shah Rukh Khan, Aamir Khan and Salman Khan were still doing their initial movies. Akshay Kumar, Ajay Devgn, and Suneil Shetty weren’t even out of the production offices as yet.
The Coming of the Shift
In the late eighties, and most importantly in 1988, there was the beginning of a shift. The top-grossing movie in 1988 was Tezaab (Acid), the crime-action-drama that gave a boost to Anil Kapoor and Madhuri Dixit’s career. Johnny Lever concreted his position as India’s top comedy actor with the movie. Even so, movies like Hatya, Khoon Bhari Maang and Shahenshah became blockbusters. All three movies were different than the typical action/romance tropes available.
Hatya was about a man trying to catch the killers of a deaf and mute young boy. Khoon Bhari Maang (A Bloody Demand) was about a woman wronged who exacts revenge from her philandering husband. Shahenshah (The Emperor) was about a police officer literally becoming a vigilante and fighting crime in his own way.
It’s not that revenge and crime-fighting came for the first time in Bollywood with KBM and Shahenshah, but the way was definitely novel. KBM had a woman take revenge – unlike the other movies where the male relative of the woman takes revenge. There were some female-driven movies in 1988 as well.
The very idea of a movie with a female-centric name was a big thing in 1988. We had the Sridevi starrer Sherni (The Tigress), Rekha’s Biwi Ho To Aisi (The Perfect Wife) and the regressively titled Aurat Teri Yahi Kahani (A Woman’s Story), Kab Tak Chup Rahoongi (Silence, No More), Mardo Wali Baat (A Guy’s Thing),
Veerana Hits Theaters
The Ramsay Brothers hit Bollywood audiences with something that was at the periphery, but never in the main scheme of things. A female serial killer who kills because she’s possessed. The three words, female, serial, and killer were never put together by a movie crew before this in a mainstream movie.
Watch Veerana For Free On YouTube:
If the Ramsay Brothers are anything, they are great readers of the market. They knew that Bollywood audiences wanted something else than the typical crime and family drama. But what plays out in a cinema hall has an effect on the outside. Bollywood Censors are born squeamish.
Every Producer worth their salt knows what works and what doesn’t for the Censors. Forget about 1988, I am not sure if the Censors would pass a female serial killer in 2020. The Ramsays went one step ahead. They created a Bollywood horror movie with a female serial killer – problem solved.
Jasmine, the person with the mystique of a Mystery Novel
Enter Jasmine, the actress who played the infamous possessed female killer. Jasmine was, arguably, one of the most beautiful faces to hit the screens at that time. She had this exotic look about her that made the male heart flutter. That look was different from all the Bollywood heroines back in the day, whether it’s Madhuri Dixit, Juhi Chawla or even Rekha for that matter.
Modern journalists will love the idea that the actress herself became a news article because of a real-life mystery – where did she disappear. There is another clump of conspiracy theories going on.
That an Indian don fell for her charms and spirited (pun intended to a foreign land. The lesser-dramatic theories are that she married an Indian American businessman and made her life out there. In the book, Don’t Disturb the Dead, the Ramsays tell Shyama Dasgupta that they weren’t in touch with her after the Veerana released.
The Secret Society in Veerana:
Every element in the Bollywood horror movie was unique for Indian audiences. Audiences who were accustomed to seeing verbal squabbles between mother-in-law and daughter-in-law in a palatial bungalow saw a secret cult that carried out more secret activities in a dungeon sort of place.
In Veerana, the Ramsays were bold enough to depict a witch being hung by the villagers. Audiences tired of seeing the lead pair disappear behind a tree to denote a kissing scene could actually see the rawness of sexual intercourse and – gasp! – male sexual assault. The mind was in a tizzy, and the Ramsay brand of titillation and horror had arrived.
That Creepy Kid in Veerana:
Veerana was also one of the few Bollywood horror movies to have a creepy kid as part of the screenplay. Baby Swathy played the creepy kid role. I have not come across her in any other movie. So, that’s another creepy thing to add to the Veerana folklore. The creepy kid syndrome has become meme-worthy since The Sixth Sense, but it was pretty novel in India back in 1988. So, we had the creepy kid kill off her mother. I am not making this stuff up, I am just telling you what happened in the movie.
Veerana had three actors who were at their physique peak in the eighties. There was Hemant Birje, who recently hogged the headlines with his Tarzan, The B.Subhash movie about a man living in the forests who comes to the city. There was Sahila Chadha, the woman who never shied from a bare-dare scene. And of course, we had Jasmine. The Ramsays showed off these physiques in a manner that just wasn’t present in the movies of those times. The fact that all horror movies were rated A at that time gave the Ramsays a lot of leeway. When it’s an Adults film, it should be an Adults film – it’s logical.
Today, Veerana is available for free on YouTube. Its got about 49 million views – that’s numbers huge, and now you know the reason why.