Director: Shyan Ramsay & Tulsi Ramsay
Starring: Archana Puran Singh, Johnny Lever, Karan Shah, Kunkia
Language: Hindi with English subtitles
Run Time: 2hrs 12mins
The ‘Bollywood Elm Street’, Mahakaal follows a group of teens as they go about their lives socialising and going to college yet they are plagued by dreams of a hideous figure stalking them. Anita (Puran Singh) seems to suffer this realistic and terrifying dreams the most and wants to know why the same man appears in all of them. But as her friends start to die in their sleep she finds out a horrible family secret that put things into perspective.
Considering it’s source material is Elm Street it doesn’t use much from the film. It seems to have taken the concept of Krueger and worked loosely around it. The opening sequence is similar to that of the original and at one point a female character ‘pulls off’ the demons face like Tina did to Freddy. The scene where Tina appears dead, in a body-bag, to Nancy at school is recycled. After Seema is killed she does this to Anita. The variation is that she attacks Anita allowing the Monster to strike.
As a result a lot of Mahakaal is original and some of the main story developments are a little questionable. A group of ‘delinquents’ encounter Anita in a garden near the college and decide it would be OK to gang rape her. Luckily her boyfriend and his friends save the day, resulting in a badly choreographed group fight. Overall the way men treat women in this film is objectifying and degrading.
The scenes with the monster are good, although brief. The lighting, added with the smoke machines, gives a spooky atmosphere when the ‘teens’ are in his domain. He is a tall, bulky man with very little or noticeable burns to his face. The direction concentrates on his creepy eyes, obviously the Ramsay brothers feel this is a disturbing enough look for their picture. The monster was supposedly a crazy man named Shaakal that killed children in order to enhance his supernatural powers. The reason he plagues Anita is because it was her father that killed him after Shaakal had killed their youngest child Mohini. Again, this is similar to Elm Street .
These college students all appear to be well into their twenties, not in their late teens. And that’s because they are in that age group. Singh was 27 while Verma was 24. When the film was released they would have been even older. Mahakaal was filmed in 1988 and wasn’t released until 1993.
Longtime Bollywood actor Johnny Lever gives the standout performances as a outrageously camp café owner. In his café he dances around to Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’ while screaming, grabbing his crotch and going all goggle-eyed. When not dancing he minces around saying how he had auditioned for a part in a Ramsay brothers film. They had a “big meaty part” for him, apparently (oo-er).
The Ramsay Brothers are the directors of Mahakaal and big names in India. As the hotel manager Lever is also a pervy sex pest that lusts after any women he sees. There is even a scene when the ‘café owner’ catches the manager peaking through a keyhole at a woman undressing, resulting in a over the top gurning contest between the two. Of course split screen technology was used for this completely frivolous scene.
Typical Bollywood numbers happen for no reason, singing about the usual topics of these songs. One song features the line “Let me kiss your charms, with my eyes.” Pardon? Another song is about how they like picnics. These songs go on for quite a while when they do happen.
Mahakaal is way too long, it lasts a whopping 2hr 12mins for something that should have ended at least half an hour earlier. By the time the horror takes over the comedy and singing aspects of Mahakaal the film is already 90 minutes in and has tested the viewers patience. They still manage to slip in another song and dance number, sadly.
A film that is at times exciting, scary, dull and boring Mahakaal has its moments but ignores horror in favour of Bollywood-eqsue moments of fancy. It could have been better, considering its source material.
4 out of 10