Purana Mandir

Aaaah! That's more like it! This is so much better than Bandh Darwaza.

No one will be more surprised than I am that I enjoyed this movie. I wasn't particularly scared - which is noteworthy, because I scare very easily - but I had a good time. It's lively, it moves along at a good clip (I only refilled my coffee once), and the cast seems to be trying without going overboard. It also helped that my watching companion, The Horror!?, was totally in his element. It's best to have a guide, no?

I think the introductory text says it all, really.

Funny! There's something so resigned-sounding about "we were forced to conclude that this is all there is." You can hear the Mondo Macabro staff throwing their hands in the air. And if anybody wants to discuss the cultural significance of Purana Mandir, by all means, please get the conversation rolling in the comments. I'm sure there are many anthropological and film studies about what the monsters and threats in horror films imply about the cultural context of the movies. If we want to be literal about it, Purana Mandir teaches us that people in India dislike child-killing, body-snatching, corpse-eating rapist monsters.

That's Ajay (some sites say Anirudh) Agrawal as the the monster, Saamri, looking like the close cousin of the vampire in Bandh Darwaza.
If I put my thinking cap on a little bit, maybe I would propose that because this monster seems to prey on groups thought to be fairly defenseless (the young, the virginal, the dead), his terror is a threat to the power, and therefore dominance, of those members of society typically considered the protectors and/or owners of said groups, namely adult men. I will leave higher-level interpretation to others better versed in Ramsay films and 1980s Indian cinema. But I digress from the visuals - and without telling you about the effects of the monster (Saamri)'s evil powers! How thoughtless of me. Saamri's attacks cause your eyes to turn white and blood to stream from your cheekbones.

The plot is not dissimilar from Bandh Darwaza (and probably countless other movies I've never even heard of): in short, monster terrrorizes family, particularly college-aged daughter Suman. Suman, her boyfriend Sanjay, and their friends try to figure out how to break the curse and kill the monster with marginal involvement from villagers and religious powers.

One major difference: the kids in Purana Mandir are smart enough to bring flashlights when they investigate the trail of the monster through old ruins at night!

There is also some uttelry pointless and shlocky comic relief in the form of a riff on Sholay that is so bad and ill-considered that I said out loud to the screen "Rajendranath, you are by far too good for this role, and Jagdeep, the same might be said of you" and then stopped paying attention to them.

Idea! Perhaps this movie teaches us that one of India's most powerful collective fears is bad Sholay references! (This does not apply to everyone in India, obviously.)
Now for a pictorial roundup of a few of my favorite moments!

When the monster was first apprehended 200 yeares ago, the priest advised the Raja to burn the monster, but noooo, he had to go and cut off his head

and store it in a box walled up in his palace behind a portrait.

And now the head can talk to the Raja's descendants through waterfalls

and paintings. Duhr!

Want a joke about how hard it is to get ahead in the art world?

It is not the most enticing item girl who sings "thousands love me, yet I am lonely" and wears a golden Aztec go-go outfit with star glitter on her eyebrows.

To be fair, her set didn't do her any favors. It's just a few sofas and chairs scattered around a room with mirrored walls, and the only decor seems to be posters for the Bee Gees, Superman, and Thums Up cola in its pre-Akshay Kumar days.

Suman's friend Sapna is so enamored of her boyfriend Anand (Puneet Issar, aka Vimmi/Babli's dad! whoa!) working out

- and frankly, who wouldn't be - that she slips into an eyebrow-raising fantasy roll in the hay.


The Asambhav split screen in embryonic form! Eeeeeevil!


Satish Shah!

Suman (Arti Gupta) and Sanjay (Mohnish Bahl) have one of those charming, young-love relationships that can be best described as CREEPY. We meet him as he leers at her in a swimming pool and tries to take pictures of parts of her body that clearly make her uncomfortable, and he really ought not to be doing any of this in public in broad daylight, especially after she tells him not to - but what's a horror film without a little skeevy leering at young women?

Beth Loves Bollywood screenwriting rule #37: if a boyfriend character is introduced in a way that makes the viewer think he's actually a stalker, that character needs to be rewritten.

It takes a really weird setting of a song to shock me out of my love and readiness for musical numbers, but Purana Mandir tossed me a curveball with the varyingly menacing and chipper "Hum Jispe Marte The" (look out for its horrible 80s instrumentation, too), which pops up just as Suman and Sanjay are about to become a blood sacrifice. The victims are chained up, torches are brandished, and knives are drawn - then SONG!

I said "Oh christ, a musical number?" just as The Horror!? was saying "the hell!?" Yeah.

And tomorrow I plan to fug the living daylights out of this movie, so stay tuned. Here's a preview.

Update to post (December 9, 2008): There might be more to my "fear of Sholay remakes" idea than I initially thought. Turns out the director of Shaitani Dracula, Harinam Singh, also made "an out and out comedy and takeoff on Sholay" called Basanti Ki Shaadi Honeymoon Gabbar Ka. Click here for details.


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Anarchivist said…
Squeee! I need to watch this again!

Yes, this movie proved to me that everything -- even human sacrifice -- is better with disco.
Anonymous said…
This says more about me than it does about the film but: did you really defend Rajendranath and Jagdeep???

I thought I was alone in my love for them. Am I? Is it a cruel joke?
Anarchavist - That is a fine philosophy, and so far, I'd have to agree! I forget if you've seen Disco Dancer?

Memsaab - I think I may have, yes. I do like Rajendranath well enough - I'm watching one of his scenes in Raja Saab at this very moment, in fact - and Jagdeep...well, I hardly remember most of the things I've seen him do, so I guess I must not hate him, right? Though this role is completely hate-worthy. Ugh.
Rum said…
YAAAY, I love horror in Bollywood as I outlined in the Horror Masala their always needs to be some scary man who looks like a sasquatch or monkey and very horny porny scenes like the roll in the hay, and the plain fuglyness of it all!
Anonymous said…

*wipes eyes*


PS - Am I alone in my love for Mohnish Behl? :( Awwww.
Rum - They've sure got all those items covered (and then some), don't they! :)

Amrita - You are not. http://briyanshu.blogspot.com/search/label/Mohnish%20Behl

I'm glad you got a good laugh - I did too!
Keith said…
I got your cultural significance of Purana Mandir coming up soon. And then I guess I'll get to that heart-wrenching romance, just as soon as I finish with Dara Singh punching dinosaurs.
Keith - BRING IT. I'm dying to know. But is there in fact life after Dara Singh punches all the dinosaurs? I would have thought not.
Anonymous said…
This movie also contains the fantastic number "Woh beete din yaad hain". The song alone is worth sitting through the entire movie imo.It was later remixed by now Ms Krishna Kumar - Tanya.

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