I don’t know whats with the mobiles and their features. My son has downloaded ( maybe it came with the phone) some application like a ghost radar on his mobile. He was walking around the house detecting the proximity or the existence of the ghost. Every now and then he was screaming with excitement . ‘’Look Mom, the arrow is pointing in your direction.’’ He screeched “and it is red, that means it has a strong presence.” I laughed out saying perhaps I am the ghost. The kids were quite excited about it and were talking about taking it out to explore the haunted areas in the neighbourhood. I dismissed it as one of the several gimmicky features on the phone such as the mood detector or your daily horoscope, but at the same time this fascination we human beings feel towards the super natural elements intrigues me.
When we were small every family used to have at least one person who had seen, interacted or felt the presence of these wandering spirits ( bhatakati atma). We used to hear the stories of some elderly uncle, aunt or a neighbor having interaction with these spirits, as they were called as. There used to be tales of a spirit showing way to a lost traveler, scaring an unassuming housewife or people seeing dead relatives. They used to be highly entertaining at the same time frightening as we were literally forced to believe in supernatural elements unintentionally. Then there used to be an antidote to counterfeit it. “ Chant Ramraksha or Hanuman Chalisa if you ever get nervous. Never turn back. Don’t appear that you are shit scared, face the spirit and it will go away, but if it makes out that you are terrified, it will posses you.” It was a generation that believed in the existence of parallel life at the same time had strong faith in God and good deeds.
In those days ghosts also had some guidelines, principles. It was considered that they never posses a Brahmin wearing a holy thread or people carrying some kind of tabij (a kind of pendant). They would follow a certain code of conduct like disappearing at the break of dawn, not getting into the worship area, appearing mostly on full moon or new moon nights and so on. I guess they had a dress code too. Although I haven’t seen any in person but from whatever I have seen in movies I believed that it was mandatory for female wandering souls (chudails) to wear a white saree and let their hair loose. It was also a must for them to be accomplished singers and have mastery over crooning melancholic tunes, usually mourning for their unrequited love, that evokes goose bumps. Believe me it’s a different genre. All those who still don’t believe me can check on youtube for Jhum jhum dhalti raat from Kohra or Gumnam hain koi from Gumnaam or the most unforgettable Ayega aanewala from Mahal. It was optional to carry a lantern. Somehow male ghosts are not very popular with film makers so I can’t visualize how they could be looking. May be normal. For them it was a must to have a baritone and sometimes a thunderous laughter. Then how a person would figure out whether it’s a human being or the other being. Simple. They have backward feet and their reflection could not be seen in a mirror. So it was compulsory for a film director to fit in a scene where the ghost talks to the lead actor in a normal way and tadannn…..she turns to face the mirror and the reflection of the other person just doesn’t show. OMG….she realizes she was talking to an apparition. That was one way of finding out. The second way was the disappearing trick. You would be talking to this person and someone calls you. You turn back and when you turn around to face this person it has vanished. Damn it was a spectre……
I love these humanly ghosts more than the gory, blood pucking, scar faced, zombie types. They used to be basically nice people died or rather killed mercilessly and have returned to earth to avenge the injustice. The visa to heaven being denied to those who have not fulfilled the duties assigned to them, they are deported to complete the project. Mission Revenge. They need a medium to put their plan into action. Who better than our macho heroes or fragile but righteous heroines. Well, then follows the train of events such as déjà vu, nightmares, hallucinations, some more morbid, macabre incidents and finally a catastrophe where the timely intervention of the ghost aids the lead protagonists to bring in poetic justice. Think of Madhumati later on parodied by Farah Khan in Om Shanti Om. These were affable ghosts who used to rescue dainty damsels from the lusty, amorous plots of villains( usually village thakurs). Todays ghosts from Bhootnath or any Ram Gopal Verma movies don’t have that punch.
There was one more subcategory of these ghosts in Hindi cinema. They were the monopoly of Ramsay brothers. These ghosts were over the top, full of vengeance, destructive creatures. These atrupta atmas would haunt mansions in desolate area complete with eerie backdrop where (you wonder why) our hero and heroine go for their honeymoon. If the movie were directed by a Chopra instead of Ramsey they would have opted for a romantic locales of Switzerland, but since it was a horror movie they select this dilapidated haveli , come in a bunch of friends to get tormented by this sadist spirit which spares no one from its cruel claws except for the main characters who are saved by a hideously dressed tantric or a mantrik, resembling a demon himself, who captures and imprisons the soul in a bottle and seals it with a magic spell…..to be opened by new characters in its sequel. Ramsay movies had their own audience. They never pretended to make any art film. There was no disappointment. You get what you expect. Even a small kid could make out from the titles such as Do Gaz Jameen ke Neeche, Sannata or Aakhari Cheekh that they are not going to be family entertainment or a rom com. Nobody noticed the sad demise of this genre and the brand itself went missing.
Only option left for the horror movie lovers is to watch Hollywood movies, unless Mahesh Bhat movies appeal to you. The foreign ghosts, poltergeists, apparitions are okay. (not to be mistaken with zombies, mummies, aliens and any such horrendous creatures). I mean there are movies such as Omen or Paranormal activity and of course, Hitchcock films, which have sent chills running down your spine. And some are like our masala horror movies such as What lies Beneath. I don’t consider The Ghost as a horror movie. What kind of a bland ghost which cannot terrorise people or The Others where the ghosts themselves are not sure about their own existence. Although Hollywood films have far better sound effects and graphics, for me they fail to make the same impact like our good old Hindi movies with their stereotypical paraphernalia ..the village lass in her ethnic costume strolling the massive palaces creating a rhythmic noise with her anklets, an owl flying into the dense darkness, a shrill sound of hounds howling somewhere far off, the clock striking twelve…………….oh how I miss that.
In today’s crowded cities there is no empty space, haunted houses or even crematoriums or cemeteries left for the poor ghosts to reside. Apart from place other equally vital requirements such as churping of crickets, ominous fluttering of bats deathly silence have all wiped out from todays cities to inspire the writers so this form of writing or for that matter films going through slow death. We need to do something pronto to revive this genre. It can be a white mini clad ghost, playing music on her I pod and may haunt a gym. She may even sport a deadly tattoo. ( anklets and lanterns are so passé )The disappearing act has to continue. I bet it will provide better entertainment than the filthy movies filled with toilet humour and so called realistic cinema with loads of cuss words. I hope some film maker may read this blog some day and will consider bringing a ghost story in all its pomp and glory to the silver screen.