An eerie music in the background to build up anxiety, followed by a woman’s shrill to signal the arrival of the spirit or the ghost in human form — that summarises the quintessential Tamil horror film that the audience is familiar with.
Not often considered mainstream, this genre, however, has remained an integral part of the Tamil industry. Beginning with the 50s when the lines between thriller and horror blurred, a few memorable flicks like Yaar Nee and Adhey Kangal made the mishmash popular. Shanti Nilayam, starring Gemini Ganesan and Kanchana, explored a bit of Hitchcock-like thrill, being a little inspired by Rebecca.
Possibly 80s had the most number of pure horror flicks in Tamil cinema. Some of the famous ones being My Dear Lisa starring Nizhalgal Ravi and Innocent and Yaar?
In Bollywood, Ramsay brothers propagated the category of kitschy horror films, with a typical format identified with the filmmakers. But, they set the formula for most of the flicks that followed in the same category. A few of the influences could be seen in some Tamil flicks made in those times.
Ram Gopal Varma sought to make a difference with Raat that was also released as Raatri, starring Revathi and Rohini Hattangadi in major roles.
In Tamil industry, after the 80s, the 90s too had a harvest of whodunits woven into mystery with blood curdling scenes that were just enough to run a chill down your spine.
Pathimoonam Number Veedu, Uruvam, Vaa Arugil Vaa, Rasathi Varum Naal , Ooru Vittu Ooru Vandhu that brought together horror and comedy, and Jameen Kottai were some films that may not have made a record at the box office. But, with repeat telecast on satellite TV, they made a mark as some of the memorable horror flicks of the time.
A few took a cue from Hollywood for their plot. Jenma Natchatiram based on Omen-Part 1 had its spooky elements in place, staying loyal to the original film. At a time when sequels were largely unheard of in Indian cinema, horror films in Tamil dabbled in the novelty of the idea. Nalaya Manithan and its sequel Adhisaya Manithan saw some top actors of those times like Prabhu, Amala and Gouthami in pivotal roles. However, with the failure of the second film, that was the first and the last attempt of the Hollywood approach to horror. Bollywood, in the new millennium, came up with many successful works like Raaz, a remake of What Lies Beneath. The success of the flick led to several sequels till last year.
Bhoot that was remade in Tamil as Shock starring Meena and Prashanth in major roles. In 2009, Yaavaraum Nalam that was simultaneously remade in Hindi as 13 B with Madhavan and Neetu Chandra, met with critical acclaim, bringing back the spotlight on horror flicks in Tamil cinema.
With Karthik Subbaraj’s Pizza that was a commercial success and well-received by critics, mainstream has become inclusive of horror as a film category.2013 will have its share of releases that have been line d up for release.
Pizza 2- Villa, Shivani and a few other small budget flicks, horror films have yet again become the flavour of the season in Kollywood.