Shah Rukh Khan comes from humble beginnings. The guy started as a TV actor and went on to become one of the biggest superstars of the world. Today, the moment he announces a film, it’s a superhit. But back in the nineties, Shah Rukh Khan, when he was just Shah Rukh and not SRK, acted in a cult classic horror-comedy that was the sleeper superhit of that year.
F.C Mehra’s Chamatkar was one of the first horror comedies in Bollywood. It told a simple story. The ghost of a gangster, Marco, killed by his own men seeks the help of a country bumpkin to right the wrongs that he did in life.
But the road to redemption is not that easy. In life, Marco had tried to usurp the land that housed a college. Feeling generous, Marco buys that land in name of his henchman, Kunta. However, Marco finds out that the school is run by Savitri, the woman he loved and her father. Marco now wishes to back out but Kunta will have none of that. He decides to surrender himself to the police, but Kunta has other plans. Kunta kills off Marco secretly, and creates the misunderstanding that Marco has disappeared on his own accord, leaving his wife alone, once again.
20 years later, when Sunder is stranded in a cemetery in Mumbai because of a friend cheating him, Marco meets Sunder and sees that they can communicate. Marco now takes Sunder to the same college – that’s can be razed anytime unless they come up with a specific amount of money. Now, it is upto Sunder and Marco to save the day.
This was one of the first times that a Bollywood horror film about a spirit didn’t have over the top horror sequences. Instead, director F C Mehra went ahead and tried to create slapstick comedy out of a concept that was tailormade for horror. Other films that have taken a leaf out of Chamatkar’s book is Hum, Tum aur Ghost, Bhoot Unckle and Bhootnath.
The excellent performances take the slapstick story to a whole new level. With fun, campy performances by Naseeruddin Shah, Shah Rukh Khan, Tinnu Anand and Urmila Matondkar, this Bollywood horror film has aged well.
Chamatkar’s script worked on many levels, because it is a film of many firsts. The first Bollywood film to have a sympathetic view of the spirit, the first Bollywood film to show a ghost’s past life in relevant detail, so on and so forth. Not just Bollywood horror films, there are few Bollywood films that have such a crisp and fast moving screenplay – and that’s what keeps the audience hooked.
Again, Chamatkar is one of the jewels of the 90s that are begging to be turned into a franchise. Great characters, a unique storyline and a fresh screenplay – what else would one want from a film? What added to the success of this film were a couple of chartbusters.
Netflix has done a great job of bringing this film to a whole new generation. The film is available on Netflix in possibly the best quality ever and with English subtitles. This is one of the first Shah Rukh Khan films that Netflix will bring to new Indian and foreign languages under their newly signed contract. The film is now available on Netflix with Subtitles.