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  Bandh Darwaza Dracula? Indian
Year: 1990
Director: Shyam Ramsay, Tulsi Ramsay
Stars: Hashmat Khan, Manjeet Kular, Kuniccka Sadanand, Satish Kaul, Anita Sareen, Ajay Agarwal, Aruna Irani, Raza Murad, Vijayendra Ghatge, Karunakar Pathak, Surinder Kohli, Jack Gaud, Shyamalee, Beena Banerjee, Johnny Lever, Ashalata Wabgaonkar
Genre: Horror, Musical, Action, RomanceBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Eighteen years ago in India, near the notorious Black Mountain, a young married couple were trying to conceive, and had been doing so for the past five years with no success, therefore the wife was growing desperate. She felt the pressure of her husband's family, and indeed her husband, anxious that should she never provide him with a child this would mean he would leave her for a woman who could, so she decided to resort to black magic to get her way. She appealed to the sinister denizens of the Black Mountain to help her, and they agreed with one proviso: if the child was a boy, she could keep it and have a happy life. But if the child was a girl, it would be theirs forever...

The premier horror exponents in India for the eighties were Shyam Ramsay and Tulsi Ramsay, a pair of brothers who carved out a niche of box office bonanzas in the genre until their luck ran out in the nineties with a rip-off/remake of Wes Craven's A Nightmare on Elm Street for the South Asian market, whereupon they more or less gave up, with occasional bursts of activity over subsequent years, but nothing like the impact of those eighties hits. This made Bandh Darwaza (which translated as The Closed Door) their last hurrah, a piece ostensibly based on the success Hammer had with their Dracula series, though with a heavy Bollywood flavour for distinction.

Apparently their inspiration had been Hammer's second Christopher Lee effort, Dracula, Prince of Darkness, though aside from the forbidden castle much of the action took place in, you would be hard pressed to identify many similarities apart from the obvious presence of the vampire. He was Nervla, played by India's closest thing to a horror icon in the acting stakes, Ajay Agarwal, whose huge frame and imposing looks made him a natural for fright flicks - he had made a name for himself in the Ramsays' previous success Purana Mandir, also as the villain. In this, he was a tremendous-looking vampire, genuinely menacing and brutally physical, one of the best of his kind.

With his billowing cape, habit of moving with great speed and purpose, long fangs and blood red eyes (not to mention bulging veins in his forehead), Agarwal was so effective the rest of the film sagged a little when he wasn't around. It's not as if he was used sparingly, either, more that the film was so lengthy at almost two-and-a-half-hours that there was a lot to cram in to ensure there were no lulls in the action, and that brought in musical numbers. You may have hoped these would have a horror theme too, but they were more romantic than chilling (unless you really don't like musical numbers), albeit with a note of uncertainty struck when the lady singer's sexuality proved worryingly forthright, a sure sign that something was awry. Much of that was down to the grown up baby character Kamya (Kuniccka Sadanand), now a woman setting her sights on an uninterested man.

He already has a partner, but this doesn't put Kamya off, and she begins to turn to Nervla to bolster her claim on this hapless (but macho) chap, which results in just about every female character getting it in the neck from the fanged frightmonger. In the Hammer efforts, it was the vampire's fear of Christianity that proved a solid way of getting him to cower from you - hold up that cross and you could buy yourself some time. But what would the Ramsays do when most of their audience was Hindi and Muslim? Have the vampire cower from the Bhagavad Gita symbol, that's what, and throw in a crucifix and a copy of the Quran for good measure, so nobody feels left out. There was more of that than there was any staking or garlic, it had to be said, as the source of the bloodsucker's power turned out to be a glowing-eyed statue of... a bat-thing? If this wasn't the slickest horror you would ever see, it did have bags of energy, even over this running time, and a truly memorable bad guy. Music by Anand and Milind Chitragupth (with a bit of Friday the 13th).
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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