Monday, 18 June 2012

Tahkhana (1986)

Tahkhana (1986) Bollywood horror had been around for a while but it really broke through with the Ramsay Brothers’ Purana Mandir in 1984. It was the film that launched horror into the Bollywood mainstream and launched the Bollywood horror boom which lasted until the early 90s.

The Ramsays were not inclined to let a good idea go to waste so Tahkhana in 1986 repeated the formula almost exactly. And it’s just as much fun.

Thakur Singh has one major inheritance to leave to his children. He has a map showing the location of a fabulous treasure hidden in a dungeon. But he’s not going to leave it to his eldest son Dhurjan who is a notorious black magician. He leaves it to his second son, along with strict instructions to keep his daughters away from Dhurjan.

It’s good advice, but Dhurjan murders his brother and kidnaps his daughters. One daughter is saved from his clutches but the elder, Sapna, disappears into the jungle, apparently never to be seen again.

Tahkhana (1986)
Twenty years later the younger daughter Aarti (Arti Gupta), her fiancé Vijay (Puneet Issar) and their friend Anand decide to make a serious attempt to find the missing Sapna and they track her down to a hotel in Bombay, a hotel run by Aarti’s sleazy cousin Shaakal (Imtiaz Khan). By the time they get there Shaakal has murdered her in the course of a bungled rape attempt. Our young heroes don’t at this stage know what a sleazebag Shaakal is.

Our young heroes also don’t know that the treasure is protected by a monstrous demon god, brought to life by Dhurjan’s black magic. And while they think they have the correct map they actually have a forgery while Shaakal has the original.

Tahkhana (1986)
Vijay, Aarti and Anand do have one stroke of luck though. When they are attacked by Shaakal’s thugs they are rescued and befriended by Heera (Priti Sapru), a muscle-bound but good-natured young man with the physique of the hero of an Italian peplum. They’re also joined by his girlfriend Panna (Hemant Birje). They reach Thakur Singh’s deserted mansion but once they start exploring the dungeon the trouble starts.

So the setup is that we have a group of attractive young people, two couples plus a faithful friend, who will have to run the gauntlet of the terrors of a haunted house although in this case it’s a monster-ridden dungeon but the principle is the same. It’s a profoundly unoriginal idea but that’s typical of Bollywood. They take a well-proven idea from Hollywood and then Bollywoodise it - adding some hints of Indian folklore, beefing up the  love story angle, adding some comic relief and of course some singing and dancing.

Tahkhana (1986)
It’s an object lesson in making a movie rigidly to a formula while still coming up with something very well-made an highly entertaining. The special effects and makeup effects are extremely good for what is by western standards a modestly budgeted film (although by Bollywood standards the Ramsays were at the top end of the horror scene). Even the comic relief is fairly entertaining.

The very good cast certainly helps. The acting is of course very Bollywood but Arti Gupta makes a fine heroine (as she did in Purana Mandir). The Ramsays always believed in catering to the female audience members as well so we get not only a feisty but likeable heroine but lots of male as well as female eye candy. And Arti Gupta is definitely prime eye candy. The Ramsays threw in as much sex as the Indian censors would let them get away with and both Arti Gupta and Hemant Birje are actresses who know how to be sexy without taking their clothes off. And there is of course the obligatory wet sari scene! And for the ladies Priti Sapru is a very hunky hero.

Tahkhana (1986)
The DVD is fullframe but it’s a lovely transfer and Mondo Macabro throws in an excellent documentary that not only covers the fabulous world of Bollywood horror but also provides some tantasising glimpses of the delights of Lollywood horror - the wild products of the Pakistan film industry based in Lahore (hence the term Lollywood). The frustrating thing about the documentary is that so few of these movies are available in English-friendly versions. I’m now desperate to see Haseena Atom Bomb! So how about it Mondo Macabro - will we get to see Lollywood horror given the same excellent treatment? Can we expect a Lollywood Horror Collection? Or some of the Bollywood horrors made by some of the Ramsay Brothers’ competitors?

The Ramsay Brothers aimed at making pure entertainment with a certain amount of quality and in this they consistently succeeded - Tahkhana is enormous fun. Highly recommended.

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