1920–the Review (with Minor Spoilers)

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I normally avoid writing reviews that give away “surprise” plot twists or the ending. However in this review, I am going to give way a minor spoiler (in that I give you the back story in the beginning whereas it is revealed half an hour before the end—however I do not reveal the “shocking” climax though I am sure all of you will figure what it is an hour into the movie, you will never see how it is accomplished). If you have a problem with that, I suggest you leave immediately. Of course some may argue that the moment Vikram Bhatt decides to direct a movie, it is already ruined and so it is difficult to spoil it any more than it already has been.

I do not agree to this above statement needless to say. Vikram Bhatt is a rare talent.

Talking about his movie 1920 as part of the pre-release hype, Mr. Bhatt said this:

It’s a very new attempt. It’s a supernatural film and is set in the 1920’s. It starts in Rajasthan, then goes to Bombay, to Delhi and then to the Himalayas. We have tried to recreate all these places in 1920. It’s a love story and it’s a spooky story,” says Vikram.

Now most fans of V. Bhatt’s work (and I count myself as one of them) know that all of his celluloid creations are dark tales of horror, even when he is not consciously attempting to make a movie of the horror genre. In other words, even his sweet love stories are terrifying.

Such is his caliber that the feeling of “Why did I waste three hours of my life watching this? I am three hours closer to my death” will grip you even after the end credits roll as a voice whispers into your ears “Vikram Vikram Vikram Betaal Betaal Betaal”. And one even more important thing Bhatt admirers accept as the bible. When he says it is a “new attempt” what he means is “Yes yes. I know I know. My movie has striking resemblances to a Hollywood product. So shoot me.”

In 1857, a owner of a huge haveli goes away to fight the British leaving behind his fetching daughter and the maid and the maid’s daughter. An injured Indian sepoy, with long hair that covers his face (The Ring Ring…) is found wandering the palace grounds and is taken in for rest and succor. Soon a dangerous secret is revealed. The sepoy is actually a traitor, working for the British. Once his cover his blown, he kills the maid by throwing her into a well, the exact same well that Samara, the undead girl in “The Ring”, lives. The maid’s daughter escapes with a message from the fetching daughter to her freedom-fighter dad. And what does the comely daughter do? Does she also run away? Does she kill the traitor? No. She doesn’t cause she is in a Vikram Bhatt flick. She stays back and seduces the traitor, locked with him in passionate embraces at different parts of the palace ground, while a song goes on in the background. Needless to say, something horrible will happen. Soon.

Fast forward to 1920. A couple moves into the haveli. The wife does some of the things that people in horror flicks just have to do—wander around deep at night with curtains flying, strange voices whispering, spooky pianos playing, lights flickering to the accompaniment of unmistakable disembodied guttural groans of someone with a bad case of constipation trying to pass stool in the shadows.

Such ominous things can portend only one thing.

Yes you got it.

Demonic possession.

And before you can say “The Exorcist”, the wife starts behaving exactly like the Linda Blair character in the 1973 horror masterpiece. Yes the same alternate voice. The same whitened face. The same floating in mid air. The same body contortions. The same bed-shaking. The same exorcism ritual.

Of course one must understand that this is not an “inspiration”. After all Vikram Bhatt is different from the S. Guptas of Bollywood. For while “the Exorcist” was made in 1973, this movie is, as the name suggests, set in 1920. And we all know which year comes first temporally.

And to be honest, 1920 is in many ways very different from “The Exorcist”. For one, unlike the “Exorcist” there is no shocking scene of blasphemy—like the famous sequence where the possessed girl pleasures herself with a cross or when she yells to the priest (who had recently lost his mother) that his dead mother orally services men in Hell (you can look up the original line on IMDB if you havent seen the movie). Understandably, Vikram Bhatt does not want to get into any controversy regarding his movie, unless of course it is a controversy that helps movie promotion like whether “Ankahee” , a story about a psychotically obsessed beauty queen, was based on his real life affair with one such silicon angel.

It’s not just about removals of plot elements. Vikram Bhatt also brings in value. Many critics, including myself, have always felt that “the Exorcist”, while full of profanity and green vomit, lacked one thing. And that was a jhakaas item song. That shortcoming is made up as amidst all the doom and gloom, an item number by the perennially demoniacally possessed Rakhi Sawant is inserted by the savvy director to give the audience some “release”.

One of the things that pisses me off about many horror stories is that just in order to frighten you, they sacrifice logic for scares. Not Vikram Bhatt. As I watched the Christian priest (played by Raj Zutshi whose effort in doing this role with a straight face is a testament to his emotional control) trying to exorcise a Hindu girl with the Exorcistian incantations “In the name of Jesus…” I kept thinking to myself —-“How can taking the name of Jesus work? The possessing demon is Hindu (name Mohan Kant) after all……surely this man is not taking this opportunity to do a “conversion”? ” Suffice to say, the climax (which included the possessed woman doing a break dance) resolves all such conundrums logically to such a satisfactory extent that there should have been a Q.E.D. along with “The End”.

The performances are needless to say top notch, with special mention made of Rajneesh Duggal (who in an interview said he had slapped a gay man) whose histrionic skills are nothing short of horrifying as also the special effects which were very screen-saverish in their sophistication.

If I had any complaint, it was that Deepak Parashar, India’s horror icon, was not given a role, Huma Khan had no “shower-before-murder” scene and the dancing “Khooni Dracula” (in this video he is at the very back dancing surrepititously) did not make his spectacular entry.

Ah well, I guess I have to wait for 1921, the reported sequel to 1920, for that.

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47 thoughts on “1920–the Review (with Minor Spoilers)

  1. ROTFL ! I have seen this movie and my favorite scene was when the demon started spilling the beans on the doctor’s “dark” secrets. It totally cracked me up. And was I the only person who felt that the heroine looked better when she was possessed than when she was dolled up as the demure bride?

  2. Oh these horror flicks.. Darna Mana Hai kya? Bees Saal Baad and Bhoot ain’t good enough for us desis?

    Lets stop making fun of ghostly flicks … After all, Bhooton ke bhi feelings hoti hain, hai na?

  3. Ah! Judah will bless your bad case of constipation(for this review and the review for rock on)! I have never read a funnier line than “surely this man is not taking this opportunity to do a “conversion”?”.

  4. Arnab,
    Do you remember the previous generation of Bollywood horror flicks?

    Khooni Panja? Khooni Darwaza or something like that? Those were horrible, not horrific. 🙂

    In terms of creativity and subtlety (and copying), we have come a long way from those garishly bloody Ramsey-brothers creations.

    P.S: Can any Tamil/Telugu GB reader advise us on the horror flick Chandramukhi? Was it really scary or is just fanfare?

  5. Vikram Bhatt must long for the good old days of the 90’s, when it took people a good deal longer to know where he pilfered his film from. Does anyone know how long it took for for people to realize “Ghulam” was ripped off “On the Waterfront”?

  6. well the movie does signify sth…the red tappism in Christianity….zuthsi needs to take permission of senior priest who in takes permission frm his boss where as there is ntgh like tht in hinduism..any one can read a hanuman chalisa…
    plus…the book zutsi reads frm must have costed 500 odd, cross 1000 odd, stoll 200 odd (imaginary prices) whras hanuman chalisa costs…just inr 2/-….hinduism provides more cost efficient ways to bhagao bhoot…..
    ~NOM

  7. @Hujur

    Scary..??? I din’t even find it entertaining (except the last song). A spoof on the movie aired by Star Vijay was far more entertaining..
    A emotional dialogue frm the film was turned into one of the most comical phrases…so much so that it was used in other movies as well…
    Just ask any Tamil guy ab’t “Ena Kodumai Saravanan Idhu”
    A wrd by wrd translation:( Wat Torture, Saravanan, this is?? :-))

  8. Can I be a killjoy?
    Rajneesh Duggal saves Adah Sharma by chanting the Hanuman Chaalisa in her ears.
    Can anyone beat that?
    Adah aka Gayatri aka Lisa Singh Rathod was good in her histrionics though,the only bright spot about the movie she was.

  9. Horror movies without deepak parashar can do, but not without that adi manav sorta actor (good resemblance to the troll in harry potter)

    forgot his name

    every scary flick of ramsay bros has one shot of him rolling up his eyes

    He’s signed up for a lifetime contract deal with all hindi horror fillum makers

    wasnt he the one in lagaan and the one in that “paanch matlab chota coke ad”

  10. chandramukhi sucks .. it was the remake of a national award wining malayalam movie called “manichithrathaazhu” .. all the positives that the latter had was nullified by the former .. even though i havent seen 1920 i think i will be far better ..

  11. Raj Zutshi’s expressions did remind me of the great actor Sukhen Das. Not to mention the interpretation of the sign on the church wall with a ‘devil’s signs’ manual. Also, the ghost publicly announcing the Dr’s sexual escapades. The movie was such a fitting tribute to Ramsay brothers meet Monty Python. I loved the movie.

  12. I wonder how they audition for the role of the possessed women. And on top of that, how do these actresses prepare for the movie?

    Go and observe monkeys in a zoo and try to replicate their behavioral patterns. If that doesn’t work out, go and mix a kilogram of chilly powder in their food and then observe them. Otherwise, you can simply mix that powder into your alcohol and get high before you go and act.

    A flop actress who gets high during the fag end of the movie and redefines the word “histrionics”. A ready-to-do-anything-for-a-role looser whose previous four movies have bombed and has agreed to take up the inconsequential part of the husband. Two semi-hot starlets who are to be killed during the movie, one in the beginning to proclaim the existence of our ghost and the other in the middle to sustain viewer interest. One b-grade movie actor to play the boyfriend of one of the starlets(The other one, of course, is killed while taking shower by the ghost who takes this opportunity to disburden himself of the pent up sexual frustration by relentlessly pawing her)who is confident of getting laid that night before realizing that the ghost has plans of his own and gets killed just after realizing it. (Often, the ghost gets laid after killing him and shape-shifting into this guy). A dumb looking kid who rides tri-cycles and plays cricket all alone and is present throughout the movie solely to remind the audience that the ghost too had a family, the kid ghost which can be played by the same kid, only this time his face is painted white. A mad-man in torn clothes and face covered with tar who keeps on laughing and claiming how everyone is going to die and finally the cross-wielding Father or the saffron clad Baba(Usually called Acharya or Swami or something lame like that), depending on whether the director is ripping the movie from a Hollywood flick or whether the director is well…still ripping it from a hollywood flick and is a supporter of BJP.

    Go get all these characters together and you’ll get a horror movie.

  13. @SDK:
    Great formula you have got over there.Here is another one.
    My idea was a “Purani Haveli” set at the backdrop of a serene “Virana” with a old tattered “Purana Mandir” in the neighbourhood to remind you of the presence of god amidst all evil.And then we have a “Samri” or a “Neola” to haunt the haveli where you find their Draculified remains “Do gaz zameen ke neeche”.
    What have we now?
    A Ramsay Classic,or all of them,I may say.
    Add to that a Deepak Parashar or a Javed Khan,with Neelam Mehta or Preety Sapru or Huma Khan having a shower scene as you said,and that Great Khali lookalike as the spirit,you have not only got a Ramsay Classic,but a blockbuster one.
    pssssssst…dont forget the famous “a-a, a-a, aaaa”(I didnt kno how to reproduce it better) theme of Zee Horror Show which used to be and still is trademark Ramsay.
    Long live Keshubhai and his brothers and his sons.

  14. @GB,

    Atleast 1920 had a couple of good chills…. Sometimes it borders on silly… But then the Devil’s sign on the wall and the lady feasting on some rancid animal was atleast an improvement… Atleast better than those fancy day parades… But then it will take a while to produce a The Ring or sorts…. BTW what about your review about the other one?? The one we dont believe till it happens to us… I suppose the word EXORCIST has sprayed all over in that movie… Just as the director had LOSER painted all over his forehead after he planned to play with FLAMES….

  15. You missed one of the landmark dialogues from the film. The doctor’s remarkable theory on why Adah Sharma speaks in what the makers of Phoonk call the ‘maradona awaz’

    “Insaan ke do vocal chords hote hain – primary aur secondary. Multiple personality disorder ke qaqt woh apne secondary vocal chords ka prayog karne lagta hai.”

  16. ….For while “the Exorcist” was made in 1973, this movie is, as the name suggests, set in 1920. And we all know which year comes first temporally….

    I don’t know who thought of this idea first, You or Vikram Bhatt. If it was you i advise you to quickly patent this idea and I promise you that afterwards counting royalty money from bollywood makers will leave you no time to waste on your blog.

    Cheers

  17. That last comment on Manichitrathazhu was mine. I am sorry I do not know how it got posted under Ankit’s name. I am posting it again here … GB, please delete the earlier comment if you want to.

    Both Chandramukhi & Bhool Bhullaiyaa are remakes of the Malayalam original – Manichitrathazhu. The latter is not a horror movie … it is a psychological thriller and an excellent movie. I am afraid the copies are very poor ones.

  18. Nahin!!!!! – mere Rajneesh Duggal ke barey mein kuchh mat kehna.

    He can ham and haw his way through as many films as he wants and I’d still pay good money to see him on screen :).

    Seriously, how many horror film cliches did Vikram Bhatt stuff into this film? How does this man get anyone to finance dud after dud? Ah, the mysteries and horrors of life.

  19. Veerendra Meel,

    Rajesh Vivek, thats the one !

    Remember him in “Joshilaay” – India’s second western (after ‘Sholay’, of course) ?

    P.S: Do you have any cousin by the name of Vikas Meel, ex-IIT Delhi chap who later moved to the US? 🙂

  20. Rajesh Vivek is best known for playing Guran in Lagaan. He is a regular in Gowarikar directed films now.

    Whatever you say about them, Ramsay films were great fun to watch. Some films may have been crap, but they did churn some real gems. As a kid I used to get shit scared watching them.

  21. @Sigea and Virendra:
    Rajesh Vivek definitely is the person in Lagaan and the ad but he is not the ramsay regular you are talking about.
    The mans name is Anirudh Agarwal and he played “Samri”, “Neola” and various other Ramsay draculas in the 80’s and even in the early 90’s.Believe me,he definitely would scare you with or without a Ramsay get up.
    Rajesh Vivek is a close resemblance,but he is better known for his roles as Yogi Thakur and Guraan in movies like “Joshilay” and ‘Lagaan” respectively.

  22. Abhinab:The Agarwal dude is a regular in Ramsay movies (and he can scare one shitless) but Rajesh Vivek was also a regular and a proud member of the Ramsay “tantrik/shaman” club. His best outing could be Veerana where his pronounciation of the heroine/ghost’s name “Nikiiiitaaaa” made a friend of mine pee in his pants.

  23. You are right brother….I definitely forgot his histrionics as the Tantrik in Veerana.
    But if you remember,it was this Agarwal chap who featured as the chief satan in all these flicks.I have watched most of these movies and seriously dont remember Rajesh Vivek as a regular in them.But then I might be wrong.This Ajay or Anirudh whatever Agarwal person was the 6.5 feet high count dracula incarnate in these movies and is the first impression which still comes to my mind when we discuss Ramsay.
    You sure bro the person sigea is referring to is our Yogi Thakur?

  24. I am in office. And I am laughing uncontrollably. GB, take a bow.

    ‘ Many critics, including myself, have always felt that “the Exorcist”, while full of profanity and green vomit, lacked one thing. And that was a jhakaas item song. ‘

    How do you come up with such lines? ROTFL.

  25. @ Thallasa
    Finding finance for films is not so difficult.
    Financer pay most of the bills in cash (No.2).
    The returns you get – from tickets, sale of rights etc. is in white (No. 1).
    Plus you get limelight as financer also.
    It has been happening in film industry for ages.

    Now the same thing is happeining in Education industry.
    You make the land / building of Engineering / MCA / MBA college from No. 2 money by hugely under invoicing. Say show 20 lakh for property of 2 crore.
    Of course, amount spent for getting coveted license etc. for running a college is mostly in cash.
    Then the fee etc. from students is totally in white. And you have assured source of income for decades. And added status of an educationist also – pillar of society.
    Now a days most of the Private colleges are of relatives of netas / bureaucrats.

  26. I am sure that sigea is referring to Yogi Thakur (btw Vivek was great in the film…his dialogue while dying “Ii kaa hui gawa” still has me in splits!)
    The Agarwal dude is the mascot of Ramsay films. He is to Ramsays what SRK is to Karan Johar (without the “gay” angle).

  27. Hey guys .. hey guys .. .
    I am telling you …
    This movie was financed by Bajrang Dal and Vishwa Hindu Parishad ..
    And they have been selling free tickets of this movie in Orissa and Karnatka to enlighten people .. but people just don’t understand them .. sigh 😦

  28. The spooky guy whom lots of readers here are confusing with rajesh vivek is actually anil agarwal . he’s the resident bhoot of ramsays’ . if u remember he was one of the guys who raped seema biswas in bandit queen – further hints- he was always one of the baddies in old anil sharma flicks like elaan-e-jung/farishtey etc. Hope people take notice of this post as im “only” 3 days late .. !!

  29. Trust me, DRONA is more scary than 1920!!!
    only 15 brave men came to theater for matinee show on first weekend, i think Goldi behel should be trying that “Phoonk” formula to get some audience.
    Suddenly box office is poured with horror(horrible) flicks in succession.

  30. 🙂

    That was a good review..But you agve up the whole plot,instead of the said ‘minor spoilers”..lol..

    I think the movie was fine as an entertainer..Err,watching it alone in the dark was indeed a ‘little’ scary..all those eee ooo sounds…lol..the end was just predictive..

  31. SOME OF THE best horror flicks of Indian cinema which I really enjoyed

    – PYASA DARINDA

    – KHOON KI PYASI DAYAN
    – SIR KATI LAASH
    – KHOONI PANJA
    – ADAM KHOR
    – SAAMRI
    – MAHAKAAL
    – KHOONI DRACULE???
    – JUNGLE KE MAZEY
    – KABRISTAAN

    MAN i LUV b GRADE KINKY STUFF!! YEAH……….BABY!!what is this bloody ‘1920’ bullshit!

  32. well the movies a HIT .no one cares what you guys think. why dont you guys make a movie before criticizing one? its very easy to criticize a horror movie aint it? if you have the balls criticize mangal pande or rock on! there were flaws in both.

  33. who said ‘mangal pande’ or ‘rock on were good ? no one,

    this ‘1920 bulls hit became a hit inly because people in our country are fucking idiots!!

  34. most of you are right the role of saamri india’s first monster villian was played by anirudh agarwal in purana mandir in 1984 was incidently was the highest grossing hindi horror film of all time ramsay were successful in exploiting the new trend of gore which was prevalent in the weast by films like friday the 13th and texas nightmare on elm street.I beleive that given the right story and effects with anirudh agarwal playing saamri they could recreate the magic of eighties.How about a reboot of purana mandir !!!

  35. rofl!..bhatt was also “inspired” by The exorcism of emily rose..that bug eating scene..:P..and the end was jus HILARIOUS!!!!…LMAO..no scaring off indian ghost with a cross…:D

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