Ask any youngster from the 90s what remains one of the most horrifying horror film memories for them and they will, in probability, refer to a close-up scene of Revathi, where her eyes mimic that of a fiendish feline from an exceptionally spine-tingling flick. Horror continues to remain one of the most underrated genres in Hindi cinema. Despite some stellar fright flicks in Bollywood, it has remained side-lined in an industry which glorifies action and romance on screen. However, there was one film which catapulted the genre to mainstream cinema circles. Featuring the immensely talented Revathi in the lead, Ram Gopal Verma's Raat, which released in 1992, continues to remain one of the scariest ghost-films to grace the Indian silver screen.

Ram Gopal Varma, renowned for challenging Bollywood conventions, ventured into the often marginalised genre of horror with Raat. The Revathi film saw critics getting captivated by the film's atmospheric tension and taken aback by its shocking climax. The eerie build-up throughout the narrative left a lasting impression, marking Raat as a standout in Varma's repertoire.

What truly distinguishes the film is its ground-breaking departure from Bollywood norms. Horror movies are already a rarity in Indian cinema, but Raat went further by eschewing musical numbers, dancing, and romantic subplots, which are typically staples of Bollywood. Varma's decision to steer clear of these elements kept the narrative firmly rooted in its eerie atmosphere without any breaks, making for a refreshingly continuous experience.

Raat unfolded with the Sharma family moving into a new home, where ominous events quickly started unraveling, starting with the death and resurrection of the family cat (Pet Sematary anyone?). From disturbing nightmares to inexplicable animal deaths, the film swiftly introduced foreboding signs of impending supernatural calamity

The build up by RGV saw Mini (Revathi), a typical college student, who shared a budding romance with Deepak (Chinna) celebrating his birthday with an out-of-town picnic. What initially appeared as a carefree montage of motorcycle rides however is seen taking a sinister turn when Mini's eyes inexplicably turn vacant blue, marking the onset of her possession.

From this point, chaos ensued as the possessed Mini started wreaking havoc on her family and neighbourhood, resulting in multiple violent incidents, including a tragic murder. As the family struggled to make sense of these malevolent occurrences, they turned to psychiatric help, which left Mini hospitalised and the entity within her increasingly antagonised. The realisation dawned that Mini is indeed possessed, plunging her loved ones into a chilling battle against forces beyond their comprehension.

Overall, Raat captivated with its atmospheric tension and unsettling events, weaving a tale that blurred the lines between the known and the inexplicable, leaving viewers both unnerved and intrigued by its enigmatic conclusion.

Revathi, best known for her romantic roles and girl-next-door persona embodied Mini like never before. In Mini, Revathi juxtaposed her popular persona of the approachable neighbourhood girl with the sinister girl possessed like never before, leaving a lasting impression on fans of all generations.

The film's finale is notably more sensational than what audiences typically expect from Indian cinema. While Bollywood action heroes occasionally display improbable feats of strength, Raat concluded with a chaotic and disorienting sequence, transitioning from eerie underground scenes bathed in crimson light to Revathi's intense and unsettling exorcism.

Despite its departures, Raat adhered to Bollywood conventions by borrowing elements from Hollywood while adding its own stylistic twists. Drawing clear inspiration from The Exorcist, the film follows a familiar trajectory: a girl becomes possessed, chaos ensues, and a priest, played with gravitas by Om Puri, arrives to restore order. Varma also pays homage to horror classics like Wes Craven's A Nightmare on Elm Street with scenes depicting characters dreaming in bed, haunted by spectral hands emerging from the walls for a shock effect as well as Pet Sematary in the way the family cat gets resurrected.

Raat thrives on the strength of its actors' compelling performances and the genuine, albeit fraught, interactions between its characters. The engaging film avoided the pitfalls of becoming formulaic or predictable, ultimately leaving a lasting impact on audiences familiar with both Bollywood and international horror cinema.

2024-07-08T11:45:04Z dg43tfdfdgfd