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From Pizza to Ezra: A Treasure Trove of horror movies from the South

Even with some unique and iconic horror movies being made in the film industries in South India, the limelight is limited only to Hindi artists from Bollywood, abandoning the South Indian Film Industry.

By Sidhant Koshi and Bhavya Vemulapalli

The ignorance that the South of India faces from the North is not a new concept and has been around since India’s independence. From all four South Indian states (now five) being categorized as Madras for a long time, to certain stereotypes such as everyone from the South eating Idli, Dosa and Sambhar being thrust upon them, to being called racial slurs for being dark skinned, there is a huge divide between the North and the South that unfortunately, is not spoken about too publicly.

Bollywood has always been the Hindi film industry rather than the Indian film industry. They have rarely portrayed South Indians in films and on the off chance that they have, the characters have been played off for racist jokes and stereotypes. Shah Rukh Khan with his “Yena Rascala” act in Om Shanti Om or as a Tamilian who eats noodles with curd in Ra. One to Vinay Apte as Mr. Iyer from Dhamaal, who’s unending name is supposed to be the joke. The video of that scene has been posted on Netflix’s YouTube account and has amassed almost three lakh views. This kind of hilarious scenes has even paid attention to many people across India. Through which the number of views has also been up to lakhs and millions.

So, it comes as no surprise that when it comes to films, South India is largely ignored and usually known for the over the top Tamil action films, which are believed to be the South Indian cinema as a collective whole. People tend to ignore the fact that South India has four prominent film industries— Mollywood (Malayalam), Kollywood (Tamil), Tollywood (Telugu) and Sandalwood or Chandanavana (Kannada), all of which have their own unique styles of film.

In Indian film industries, horror has consistently been a difficult genre to present in films. Many a time, Bollywood has tried its hand with horror. But time and again it has only managed to produce mediocre to throw away cinema. While horror-comedies are usually more common in South Indian language films, recently there has been a change to more serious horror films. Many of these films belong to a contemporary genre of social horror — one that intertwines an existing societal problem like racism, sexism, patriarchy into the genre.

From Avunu (translates to “Yes” in English), a Telugu-language horror thriller film to Last Bus, a Kannada film, there are a lot of great South Indian horror films being made.

Avunu (2012), a film loosely based off the 1983 Hollywood film, The Entity, tells the story of a ghost/spirit which stalks Mohini (the main character), a recently married woman, who shifts

to a new house. The ghost takes voyeuristic pleasure in watching her while dressing up. The movie brings up themes of anonymity and predatorial men.

Last Bus, a 2016 Indian Kannada psychological horror thriller, talks about six individuals, who embark on a journey through a forest on the last bus available from a remote hamlet only to end up stranded in a haunted house. After receiving moderate success, the film is set to be dubbed in French language and released across France. This is the first Kannada film to be dubbed in French.

The Malayalam and Tamil film industries have also made very interesting and unique horror films.

The recent 2017 Malayalam film Ezra, was a pleasant surprise. The film dealt with the Jewish religion and had a Jewish evil spirit called a Dybbuk, an uncommon mythology to tap into. The film also highlighted the sense of loss that is present due to the dwindling population of Jewish Malayalis, who once used to have a large population in Kerala.

Tamil films however, are not scared to get weird, with 2012’s Pizza being the perfect example. The story is about a pizza delivery boy who gets involved in a mysterious predicament which affects his life.

One of the reasons these films do not get the recognition they deserve might be due to the public’s lack of awareness about them. In an interview with the Bangalore Mirror newspaper, a Kannada film director, Prashant Raj said, “I have worked in Mumbai for six to seven years and seen that Bollywood films will keep 20 to 30 per cent of the movie budget for the promotion. While our Kannada films are coming up with good content, they lack promotional skills and the industry is unable to perform well at an international level”.

(Edited by Jasmine Singh and Sahil Shah)