3. Veerana

After Partition, the Ramsinghanis of Lahore and Karachi moved to Bombay to run a successful electronics shop on Lamington Road. But the lure of Hindi cinema was too great, and after a string of flops, a sequence in 1970’s ‘Ek Nanhi Munni Ladki Thi‘ (‘There Was a Young Girl’) – in which Prithviraj Kapoor wears a devil’s mask to carry out a robbery, terrifying Mumtaz – proved to be a surprise hit with audiences.

The Ramsay Brothers then began making movies in the style of Hammer and Amicus in Britain, on shoe-string budgets with a crew of 15 or less, often completing production in a month or less. No one was making scary sexploitation movies in the mid-70s in India. By the end of the Emergency period in 1977, the Ramsays were not only filling a niche in the Indian film market but also pushing at the boundaries of censorship and popular tastes, after a long period of paranoia, fear and pent-up emotions.

On the one hand, the Ramsay Brother’s 1988 film ‘Creepy Forest’ is a straight forward ‘Exorcist’ rip-off. It features demonic possession and strange pagan rituals, in a film made for an audience that was not predominantly Jewish, Christian or Muslim, but Hindu and polytheistic, This was four years after the death of Indira Gandhi, in a culture in which widows are still ostracised routinely by their families. The theme of a young girl unable to escape from the spirit of an old woman inhabiting her body has an entirely different and haunting meaning for an Indian audience, but which would have been lost on the majority of American film audiences for the ‘Exorcist’ and its sequels.

[Kartik Nair’s 2012 article ‘Taste, Taboo, Trash: The Story of the Ramsay Brothers‘ is indispensable].

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