The First Family of Indian Horror Genre
The story begins with a pivotal moment in history – India’s partition. Like many many families during the era, F U. Ramsay along with his wife and seven sons migrated to India. But unlike many, this family made a mark at a larger scale. May be it was coincidence or providence , they ended up in center of films after migration – Mumbai. First business was something not filmy – they opened a radio shop.. In Lamington road (whose traders have many stories to tell in themselves). They had a successful shops in Lahore and Karachi which would have left back with utter despair, probably not realizing that in few decades they will grow to beyond shops and to a legend. They would leave their mark on the film industry by becoming the masters of horror. No one in India experimented with the horror genre until then, leave along cracking the formula to make a profit out of them. No one, until this family with a radio shop in Mumbai.
The story of Indian horror genre, has to have one humongous chapter dedicated to a much benign sounding Tiffin Box production. And do get used to these kind of chuckle worthy contradictions, that is story of Ramsay brothers. Prior to this, movies used to about big studios with big sets (eg movies) winning the adoration of the family man. Ramsay’s though, tapped into the more baser man. And they did it by applying the same business acumen they did in radio shops- spend where one should but save everything else. They were the baap of jugaad. Wanna see that in action?
Instead of hiring for studio and sets, they choose to shoot on the location. Mahabaleshwor, the hill station near Mumbai were their favorite location to shoot. All the eight brothers handled different aspect of film making and the women of the house were responsible for costumes, makeup and catering for the crew. Some of the actors were instructed to bring in their own clothes from their wardrobe. There was no frill in their production- the cameras were hired, the actors traveled together in the bus, they booked rooms in State Government guest house where room charges were as low as Rs 12 per night.
The first Ramsay brothers horror movie- Do Gaz Zameen Ke Neeche was unique in it self. Those days, an average movie production cost was around 50-60 Lakh however Do Gaz was completed in 40 days with the estimated budget of Rs 3.5 Lakh ( They made 45 Lakhs in box office collection )
They didn’t look back and jointly made 30 movies until their stock ran out in the industry. They took as few retakes as they could and even reused footage and soundtracks from previous movies ( The famous theme music of Zee Horror Show was originally written for Purana Mandir but were used in almost all Ramsay projects from that date.)
Purana Mandir was indeed their best performance together. The music, the cast, the story and the craft- everything hit the top nail in the movie. Though it is difficult to track collection in those times, but Purana Mandir was rumored to be 2nd highest grosser of the year, ahead of couple of Amitabh Bachhan starers as well. After Purana mandir, they were now even noticed by the industry biggies and were even invited by other banners to make movies for them.
Cult but Infamous
Though Ramsay brothers enjoy the cult status now, however their movies are not recalled with the classical notion of cinematography or screenplay. 80’s Bollywood, which is infamous for it’s gore and sleaze were largely contributed by Ramsay’s brand of film-making. While their main course was horror and screams, the sides were usually served by extra zoom-in skin show, long love making scenes and sleazy two meaning humor.
As the interest in Ramsay’s films started to fade, they moved their focus to satellite television with India’s first Horror TV show- The Zee Horror Show. It was another master plan that was an instant hit and Ramsays copied from everything – Hollywood movies, novels, magazines, urban legends, stories that their milkmen narrated about a Churail from their village- everything was serialized to the television.
Don’t Disturb the Dead
The really enjoyed Shyama Dasgupta’s book on Ramsay brothers “Don’t Disturb the Dead “. The book is well researched, entertaining and well paced. It was also source of most of the information in this post. Do not deny yourself this pleasure. I rated it 5 out of 5 stars in goodreads.
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