Talk about retro Bollywood horror and the conversation with veer towards a couple of names and a handful of film titles. If there’s one family that single-handed ruled the Bollywood horror, it was the Ramsays and Veerana is the crowning glory of their filmography. In a single sentence, Veerana was the embodiment of the 80s Bollywood. New faces were all around, experimental scripts, a little bit of this and a little bit of that. An entire industry had understood that it couldn’t jostle the blockbuster out of the movie theaters, so then started the dance of the macabre in earnest. At the top of the game was the Ramsay family. This retroview is about Veerana, possibly their most famous film.
Veerana is about a family of Thakurs, landlords who have an ancestral authority over the village. The villagers beg the Thakurs to help them, when there’s rumors of a witch preying on young men. The younger Thakur hoodwinks the witch and captures her, and the villagers leave her hanging in the middle of the village to die. However, the witch’s henchmen save her and vow to avenge the witch’s death. One day, as the younger Thakur and his daughter, Jasmine, are driving through a forest, the crew’s Chieftan hypnotises Jasmine and takes a lock of her hair. With the help of the lock of hair, the witch Nakita possesses Jasmine and has her walk towards the cave where Nakita’s dead body is stored. Her father, when he finds his daughter missing, follows her to the cave, but he is attacked by the crew.
Later on, the chief of the crew returns to the elder Thakur, and inform him that his brother and niece were attacked by dacoits. While his brother has died, the chief lies that it was he who saved Jasmine from the clutches of the dacoits. Overwhelmed with gratitude, the elder Thakur allows the chief to become his niece’s caretaker and live with them. Little does he know that Jasmine has now under the witch’s aura. Jasmine starts behaving weirdly and her mother almost finds out, but before she can tell anything to her brother-in-law, the elder Thakur, she is found hanging from the ceiling. Distraught, the elder Thakur sends Jasmine’s sister Sahila, to Mumbai, so that she stays away from all the trouble. The two sisters grow up away from each other.
However, many years ago, Sahila returns to her native place and that’s when the story takes a new turn. Jasmine has grown up to be an introvert girl, who is well known for her beauty but doesn’t have any friends. As Sahila is returning home, she befriends a man, Hemant, after he saves her from the clutches of a grotesque looking monster. The two strike a friendship and Sahila requests her uncle to get Hemant a job in his mill. Sahila also meets her sister, Jasmine, and is quite excited to meet her, but fate has different plans for the sisters. The Thakur thinks that Jasmine is only sleepwalking and therefore hires a doctor to treat here. On the other hand, Hemant and Sahila suspect that Jasmine’s caretaker has something to do with the disappearances and murders. While Sahila does off with the doctor, Hemant and Sahila follow the Caretaker and come cross the ruins where Jasmine had disappeared as a youngster and find out that the younger Thakur is actually alive.
Even as the younger Thakur returns home, the caretaker has kidnapped Jasmine and taken her to the same cave, but this time, all of them go to the cave to save Jasmine from the Chieftain, who wishes to sacrifice Jasmine so that he can revive the witch. There’s a climactic battle that sees good win over evil.
Veerana released in 1988, and must say, the film has aged gracefully. The concept, the screenplay and the script was right in place and had the right speed. The action sequences were unique for that point of time. Hemant Birje was quite a famous person at that time, so it made sense to book him for this film. Sahila and Jasmine add the glamour factor to the film and all this makes it the quintessential Bollywood horror film.
Another unique aspect that stands out is the rich set design and the creative way of portraying the villains lair. Bollywood is known for cutting corners but this time, the Ramsay Brothers ordered up the whole she-bang. So, you have the more than life-like statue of the Devil that’s worshipped, henchmen wearing fake heads made of papier mache, so on and so forth. The villain’s den was also quite detailed, and it was only because of the prop management that the scene turned out as it should have been. It’s a wonder that the technicians could get this done almost 20 years ago. For 1988, it was a bold move to show a woman killing men – and the Ramsays went ahead and made cinema history for the Indian Film Industry.
The DVD for this film is not easily available though YouTube has a decent print.