Thursday, September 03, 2015

The Bollywood Nightmare on Elm Street (Abbreviated)

When Wes Craven died, my first thoughts were of Scream and how much that movie had shaped my understanding of pop culture. However, the only piece I wrote about Craven this week focused on the outlier in his filmography: Music of the Heart, Craven’s single non-horror feature and the movie he made in the break between Scream 2 and Scream 3.

And now, along similar lines, another one of Craven’s most unusual legacies: 1993’s Mahakaal, also known as the Bollywood Nightmare on Elm Street.


I actually watched this a few nights ago. It’s something I’d only recommend for hardcore Bollywood fanatics and diehard Freddy Krueger fans. (These groups must share some overlap, and I’d guess that Mahakaal is a godsend for these people.) For me, the film was interesting when it chose to cleave especially close to the source material and when it chose to diverge drastically from it.

Mahakaal runs nearly two and a half hours long, and a lot of this time has the characters singing and dancing for no reason, even after they realized they’re being stalked by the monster. Bollywood movie rules trump slasher movie rules, I guess. As a result of the lengthy run time and the long, long spans when nothing particularly interesting happens, I did a quick and dirty recut of the film, in case you also are mildly curious what a Bollywood Nightmare on Elm Street might be like but don’t have two and a half hours to spend watching Indian youth sing about how great it is to be in love.

Here, then, is a eleven-minute version of the Bollywood Nightmare on Elm Street.



In making this, I tried to highlight the scenes that were most directly inspired by the original as well as the weirder additions — like the unsettling Michael Jackson impersonator, who may or may not be speaking English.

Some notes:
  • The weird mix of horror and whimsy make me think this movie’s DNA has about as much in common with Hausu as it does with A Nightmare on Elm Street.
  • It should be noted that the main character, Anita (but pronounced ah-nee-TAH rather than uh-NEE-tah) frequently dresses like Rosie Perez probably did around the time this movie was made.

  • The villain doesn’t speak — and that’s odd, considering that even in the first film Freddy Krueger gets a few great lines and this remake seems interested in stuffing in comedy as often as possible.
  • The only character whose name bears any similarity to its counterpart in the original is Seema, the main character’s best friend. In the original, Amanda Wyss plays the role and the character’s name is Tina. Seema lasts longer than Tina does, and instead of dying at a sleepover she dies at a hotel, where the group of young people is staying only because they get stranded. I wonder if there’s some cultural reason that the group was forced to spend the night together rather than just choosing to shack up.
  • For what it’s worth, the death of the Rod character — the main character’s best friend’s boyfriend — may actually be creepier in this version than it is in the original. I always thought that bedsheet snaking around the actor’s neck seemed hokey. Mahakaal literalizes the scene.
  • Notably, the main character’s parents aren’t divorced in this version, and both Anita’s cop dad and housewife mother help vanquish the bad guy in the end. Sure, Mom doesn’t do a whole lot, but she’s there in a way Ronee Blakley’s checked-out, alcoholic character isn’t in Nightmare.
  • Though there’s a scene with a waterbed in Mahakaal, the Johnny Depp analogue doesn’t die in it. He survives to the end of the film, in fact.
  • I wonder if the appearance of Anita’s dead sister is supposed to mimic the white-clothed “ghost girls” who sing the creepy jump rope rhyme in the original.
  • There is, tragically, no Mahakaal 2 that’s rife with homoeroticism. Are you listening, Bollywood? Because I would watch that movie.

I’ve done this public service before, in case you’re interested in the Cliff’s Notes versions of movies you’d otherwise not bother to watch. My first one was actually an early Wes Craven movie: 1984’s Invitation to Hell, which features Susan Lucci as the devil and Robert Urich as a dad who has to kick the shit out of Punk Brewster and Bastian from The NeverEnding Story. The second was The Visitor, which I kind of hated but which still has some moments of primo WTF-ness that are worth watching. And finally I made a nine-minute version of the most David Lynchy moments from the one bizarrely Twin Peaks-themed episode of Darkwing Duck.

And in case you have two and a half hours to spare, the whole of Mahakaal is currently posted on YouTube here — with subtitles.

In closing, please enjoy the full discotheque sequence, just one of the many musical scenes that had me asking “Why are you singing and dancing still? Did you forget that your friends just got butchered?"



2 comments:

  1. I love this movie. It's so unnecessarily overstuffed with content.

    While I'll admit, I have a soft spot for ah-nee-TAH's predilection for jean skirts, the fact that Seema's boyfriend wears a Siouxsie and the Banshees sweatshirt at one point sent me over the edge.

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  2. I spent 3hrs going through a video shop looking for this. The owner didn't speak good English, had no idea what I was talking about,but I'd seen a 20second clip on zeetv about a year earlier and went on the hunt..bizarre ripoff ,but a day well spent, coz I enjoyed the hell outta it.

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