[Warning: This discussion of Pyasa Haiwaan contains shocking language that I assure you is taken from the movie. Those below the age of 18 and those with tender sensibilities are requested to not proceed further.]
Kanti Shah, the legendary director of Loha and perhaps the greatest movie ever Gunda, needs no introduction combining in himself the cynical vision of Kubrick with the romanticism of Spielberg, the angst of Bergmann with the humanism of Kurosawa. It is natural though that after Loha and Gunda, his other works have received considerably less attention—after all, the sun does blot out the stars even though the stars are, once you think about it, suns too.
His later creations, under-appreciated as they no doubt are by the mainstream, are still marked by a rich vein of symbolism, a reason for why many of them have attained underground cult status, particularly among the male sub-culture. (One of them “Angoor” for instance was referenced recently in Motwane’s critical hit “Udaan”). In this blog, I have referenced before “Free Entry”. A classic play on the concept of duality, on the surface it is a a love triangle with two identical sisters (played by Sapna, who is to Kanti Shah what Marcello Mastroianni is to Fellini). At its heart though it is a thinly disguised criticism of free entry of goods. As an example of its depth, note the classiness with which economic cycles and periods are explained.
Biwi: Aaj se char din tak tumhe mera pyar naheen milega.
Pati: Woh kyon bhala? Char din tak tumhara pyar kyon naheen milega?
Biwi: Aare buddhu, jis tarah hapte main ek din dukaan bandh rahetee hain, usi tarah aurat ki pyar ki dukaan mahine main chaar din bandh raheti hain.
Pati then hops over to twin saali’s bedroom where she has been pining for him.
Sali: Kya baat hain? Aaj itni jaldi?
Pati/Jijaji: Haan Bobby ko aaj periods hain. Hamesha tumhare paas aane ke liye uski sone ka raah dekhne parti hain. Magar aaj woh period ke waaje se jaldi so gayee. Aur main tumhare paas aa gya.
Sali: Oh is ka matlab yeh hain ki Bobby ne char din ke liye tumhare liye “No Entry” ka board laga diya.
Sali: Lekin fikar mat karo tumhare liye to mere paas “Free Entry” hain
Of course today our focus is primarily on horror and Kanti Shah’s terror-inducing directorial techniques. These we shall study with respect to possibly his most famous horror movie (slightly more famous than Ek Namard)—“Pyasa Haiwaan”, unique not just for its shocking use of the most coarse language but for some totally over-the-top toplessness, rarely seen in Hindi movies.
Pyasa Haiwaan (English translation: Lusty Monster) starts off with a terrifying opening sequence, never seen in the “annals” of history. A handsome couple come to a deserted mansion, lit up with combination of yellow-red and blue light (reminiscent of the lighting scheme used in the Italian shocker De Argento’s “Suspiria” ) the lady eager to spend the night there but the man quite scared, having heard of a terrible hairy monster (haiwaan) who lives in these parts. In order to make the man get rid of his suspicions of evil, she says “Sone se pahele, mere jawaani to dekh lo”. Exercising his right to information, the lady starts divesting herself of her clothing. The man then, totally forgetting his terror, starts talking dirty, praising her Kookaburra “balls” using fruity florid language (Kya ball hai tumhare, ekdum paake huye papipte ki taraah hai) and other parts of her anatomy that rhyme with bhoot. Finally, unable to control his desires, he says poetically, in a “Dick”ensian style “Lauda bekaraar hai, chhayee bahaar hai” (The word Lauda being a reference to the girl from the creepy PC game “Silent Hill”) and then loses himself in rhyme.
His act, like that of most men, is over in a second. The lady says she needs to take bath. She finishes it in a second (unlike most women), and comes back in the same dress she wore, her body dry but her hair wet. Then she tells him a shattering secret—–that she did not enjoy the coupling. The boyfriend is devastated, asking her if she has found someone even better endowed than him, which he thinks is remarkable considering that he has been to Lund University for many years. The girl is merciless in her rejection—she says that a monster made love to her and after that, she just cannot go back to human beings. The couple then lie down.
In the background, the monster, who seems to be covered in a dirty black rug, starts making lusty sounds. The boyfriend is first to wake up. Looking to the camera, he says “This girl is already screwed and so it does not matter if she is screwed again. But what if the haiwaan wants to ravish my ass?” and runs away leaving his paramour behind. Through this Kanti Shah exposes the true horror of the human condition—that when push comes to shove and a haiwaan is making amorous sounds outside, we forsake the ones we love for the sake of self-preservation. Needless to say, the haiwaan does not spare the reprobate boy-friend nor does he let the poor girl escape the clutches of his monster-love, an allusion to classic Shunga like “The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife” that has inspired Japanese Hentai.
[Caption: One of the handsome heroes tries to save his izzat from the lusty Haiwaan]
As the story goes on, jumping from the past to the present, Kanti Shah challenges the audience in ways only he can.
He layers in allusions to Shakespeare (like when the Haiwaan appears with his terrifying visage and the thakur says, with a surprisingly placid voice, “Haiwaan Tu?” in the style of Et Tu Brute).
He creates memorable lines that become part of popular “lingo” like the famous post-coital “Tum ne to aise kiya jaise koi haiwaan karte hai”.
He poses questions to the audience, making them think.
Like why does the bhabhi of the evil Thakur take a bath wearing a male baniyaan ?
Or why do all women in the movie wear a bra with one only shoulder strap?
How do the people stay so calm and talk so matter of factly moments after discovering dead bodies?
Why does the haiwaan after an orgy of death and mayhem start appealing like Sreesanth?
Is the haiwaan Chewbecca’s long-lost wookie cousin, an evil Sith knight, that he can give men and women the big-O remotely through the use of the force?
Finally, when the insanely fat heroine jumps up and down in the water is hydro-electric power being generated?
[Caption: Five roles played by same actor (Vinod Tripathi)]
What however is truly exceptional about “Pyasa Haiwaan” is the way Kanti Shah adopts good engineering practice by implementing extensive re-use, which is why it this movie used as an instructional tool for teaching resource optimization in Operations Research courses around the world. Kanti Shah uses not only the same set to shoot the entire film and recycles music from other movies, but also makes the same character play multiple roles (the lusty boyfriend who is killed, the haiwaan who kills him, the evil uncle, the police officer) not as an artistic flourish (like Sanjeev Kumar in Naya Din Nayi Raat or Priyanka Chopra in the terrifying “What’s Your Rashi”) but purely as a cost-cutting measure. Two of the heroines are also reused. And I do not just mean used again and again (which they are—one of them, whose acting is very “heavyweight” , gets conned into demented acts by the two evil servants) but made to do two roles.
Other highlights of Kanti Shah’s craft……
[And here the review ends, totally abruptly, as a tribute to the greatest abrupt finisher of them all---- Kanti Shah . Some believe that the movies finish the moment the stock of cinema reels is exhausted, regardless of where the story currently is. I disagree. I think the sudden finish is deliberate on the part of Kanti Shah, designed to make the audience sweat in their seats, unable to get up, wondering whether the horror has ended. Or merely begun.]