Masters of Horror— Part 2

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[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.
Pati/Jijaji: Haan.
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.

[Video of the opening here and then there] (NSFW)

[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.]


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58 thoughts on “Masters of Horror— Part 2

  1. Ei galpotai parechilaam Uttarpara station theke kenaa chati boi te. Naam chilo “Hanabarir Kanaa Bhut”.

    Will expect some more well known cult classics like Veerana and Puaran Haveli and their connections to new wave of J-Horror in part 3.

  2. yayyy! top five me too kaushik saha *high-five* technically among top three as giribala commented twice. actually 2nd since s/he didnt even read the post. the first woman to comment!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  3. Just saw the first ten minutes on youtube.

    I bow to you, Sire, for bringing this gem of a film to my attention.

    And the ending techniques must be compared with Kiarostami’s ending of “The Taste of Cherry”, a director whom Kurosawa compared with Ray, no less. While Kiorastami’s film broke the 4th wall at the end, in this film Kanti Shah goes a step further and constantly explores the cinematic tensions of knowing that it is just a film versus realizing the horror of the human condition.

  4. Free Entry I had watched online. But I only watched Pyasaa Haiwaan in parts. Some movies are surreal experiences. While I am not an expert like you in the ‘surreal’ genre, I love being ‘enlightened.’

  5. Awesome post!! Pyaasa Haiwan was ‘arsking’ for it!
    By the way Sapna’s real name is Zaara Sheikh. She lives near 4 bungalows, andheri..:) –
    Her other critically appreciated works where Sir Kanti is not involved (yes for once!) is here

    During my on-location shooting I have come across so many spot boys, camera crew members, lightmen who have a storehouse of stories about Kanti Shah’s genius approach to the art of filmmaking. How to shoot a song, few scenes, action sequence etc – all in a day! Bashir bhai is always on sets – writing-re-writing!!

    GB, also Sir Kanti’s another forgotten work is available on net: No Parking!

  6. Is Pyaasa Haiwan a KANTI SHAH film?? Holy moly…the videos of the film are super classic, never knew about the whole film! Thanks, da, for bringing this up!

  7. I think I can bear with ecchi anime but not a movie like Pyasa Haiwaan. Pure horror is fine but if they include themes such as a lusty ghost or spirit or demon trying to make sexual advances towards the female lead….I just feel gross.

  8. LOL! Amazing review of the classic which does complete justice to this epic. I am sure you would have seen Shaitani Dracula. Though not a Kantian classic but it is also an amazing movie, testing the borders of cinema and sanity. Eagerly waiting for you to review it too.

  9. Also, Kanti Shah’s Darwaza has quite a few topless scenes – in fact all the killing scenes where the vamp lures her victims by letting them play with her boobs before killing them.. EPIC!

    And this classic end scene from Qatil Chudail with the Shakti Kapoor voice-clone (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oFp8ile4TgE)- NSFW
    Me thinks the name ‘Lolita’ is in a way, Shah’s dedication to the the “King of aesthetic X-rated movies” of the west, Kurbick.

    Pyasa Haiwaan is surely his best! And this post is best-est! :)

  10. Incredible, Arnab. Just a question: shouldn’t it be four roles by Vinod Tripathi, and not five?

    A Kanti Shah query: he wrote the screenplay for a 1991 movie called Hag Toofan. Has anyone seen this movie? If yes, can he/she confirm a long-lasting question of mine (assuming the title is in Hindi): is this a movie on diarrhoea?

  11. Dear Greatbong,

    This gem was discovered by me deep down some torrent site. me and my roomies saw the opening scene and unanimously we agreed that this one has to be from Kanti Shah. It was found true.

    I was thrilled to see all Kanti shah collection at Planet-M brought before us by MoserBaer. Ridiculously they had cut all the ‘important’ scenes.

  12. where was this gen hidden so long from me … such a classic .. never before done in hindi movies … i had to watch it … and that is what i have done just now …

    apart from all the things you mentioned, the gait of haiwaan is pure brilliance … he walks like he has titanic stuck behind his a**

  13. Arnabda thanks for sharing this gem.however the video seems to be fake.it has been re dubbed by someone. nevertheless a very humorous post

  14. @Don- It is. This and the Kashmir post. What a lovely piece of writing. That one was funny as hell, this one is wry and dry as champagne.

  15. Awesome review of another epic creation of Kanti Shah. I am scared. Very scared. BTW, GB promise us that you will tell us if you ever get a reaction from Kanti Shah on your numerous tributes to him.

  16. The idea of many roles by the same actor (Vicky Tripathi) had been stolen earlier by Peter Sellers in Dr Strangelove …

  17. My favourite scene from this movie (apart from the “Kya **** hai tumhaare” bit):

    Thakur’s son getting cosy with his girlfriend –> Enter angry Thakur, gun in hand and snitching servant in tow –> Thakur berates the woman as a cheap seductress and shoots her dead –> Son angrily demands an explanation from Thakur –> Thakur nonchalantly slaps son –> Son is immediately silent

  18. Super!

    Legend has it that once Lara and our man Kanti Shah had a bet on the subject of time-endurance-performance. Lara went out to bat and came back with 501 NO. KS, in the meantime, had finished making a film from scratch.

  19. @ Anon Nov 5th 7.39pm – “The idea of many roles by the same actor (Vicky Tripathi) had been stolen earlier by Peter Sellers in Dr Strangelove …”

    And even before that by Alec Guiness in Kind Hearts & Coronets.

  20. Arnab Da Please write a post on Bappi Lahiri.
    If you have written please provide a link for the same.I tried searching the m on ur Blogsite but wasn’t successful.

  21. Kanti Shah, a director par excellence ,a film maker destined to reach all the heights (if , “heights” is the new synonym for “lows”)

    Arnab, a great tribute. Undoubtedly!

  22. Vinod Tripathi , in multiple roles, does outperform a Peter Sellers (in Dr.Strangelove or in Lolita {that reminds me F***ti Kapoor’s “Ooouh Lolita!” :P}) anyday!
    What a pity, the film could have made an Oscar entry but Alas, the poor mortal souls with real demented minds couldn’t see KS’s brilliance!

  23. Opening scene aside, what cracked me up was the haiwaan’s brother using word “Ajit singh” in every line for about 5-minutes…that part comes up after around 20-25 minutes from the start.

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