Mahal: Not the Bollywood Horror Reincarnation Movie You Think
Mahal, released in 1949, is consistently cited as being the first Bollywood horror movie. The reincarnation arc puts it in the reincarnation subcategory.
Even after eighty years, Mahal is the biggest Bollywood horror movie that ever was. Kamal Amrohi directs. Madhubala and Ashok Kumar are part of the cast.
Lata Mangeshkar and Zohrabai have sung and Bimal Roy has edited Mahal. Mahal is still fresh in everyone’s mind because of the evergreen song, “Aaega, Aaega, Aanewala’. Lata Mangeshkar sang the song.
The Bollywood horror movie is a very important movie in the history of Bollywood.
Not just because its a big movie, or because it’s a horror movie. Mahal is an important movie.
Even back in 1949, Kamal Amrohi gives us the young woman who doesn’t care about the consequences of her actions.
She is the center of her universe and it’s her antics that form the main and only reason for the tragic spiral that the movie is all about.
With Mahal, Madhubala becomes one of the very few female actors who have played characters who love someone so much that their antics hurt their love.
The two other characters that come to mind are Madhuri Dixit’s Anjali in Pukar (2000) and Kajol’s Isha Diwan in Gupt (1997).
The director has not judged Asha at all. He has not made her as the vamp, not given her the trope like characteristics of being a smoker or the follower of some other vice.
She’s just a young woman taken up with the idea of being in love and being loved.
With Mahal. Asha also becomes one of the first female stalkers in Indian cinema.
A special mention goes out to Ashok Kumar and his production company Bombay Talkies.
Even in 2020, one would require guts to pitch such a concept to investors. It would be a miracle if they come out of those meetings without creating an evil, flawed character out of Asha/Kamini.
This is a very different reincarnation movie. Every reincarnation movie is about a couple who separate in their previous life, because of a villain or villains.
In the next, current reincarnation, they meet once again and defeat the enemy and live a happy life.
Mahal is markedly different than every other Bollywood reincarnation movie in that sense.
Bollywood Horror Movie Mahal Synopsis Hari, a young man, takes over a big mansion, that his father has bought. The gardener tells him about some of the old stories about the mansion.
According to the locals, a man built the mansion so that he could spend time there with his lover.
He lived across the river, and his lover would wait for him to cross the river every night. The man would leave before sunrise.
One night, the man’s boat capsizes and he dies. His lover, pining for him, dies a few days later. Since then, the mansion has fallen to neglect.
Hari takes it just as a story and tells the servant to go to a friend, Shrinath who lives nearby, to announce his arrival.
With the gardener gone, Hari comes across a strange woman, Kamini who seems to haunt the mansion.
By the time his friend arrives, a disturbed Hari is ready to shoot someone. Shrinath understands that Hari is disturbed and tries to solve his friend’s problem.
He even hires nautch girls to seduce him, so he can forget the woman who he thinks is a spirit haunting the mansion,but things don’t work out there.
Hari’s father forces him to marry a young woman Ranjana, but the marriage is a loveless and a luckless marriage.
Ranjana gives in to what she thinks is her bad luck, but soon finds out that her husband is pursuing another woman. Ranjana writes consistently to Shrinath’s wife, and tells her about the spirit.
After a long time, she confesses to her in a letter that she is planning to commit suicide.
In a bid to avenge the destruction of her life, Ranjana lodges a complaint against Hari.
She accuses him of poisoning and killing her. Ranjana dies in the police station. They arrest Hari on the charges of killing his wife.
During the court proceedings, the gardener’s daughter, Asha confesses that she haunted the mansion as Kamini.
She confesses she heard the story of incomplete love and wanted someone to love her like that.
When she saw the painting depicting Hari in what seemed to be his past life, she falls in love with Hari and decides to pursue him.
Though the court sympathizes with Hari, they cannot ignore the fact that his passion towards the spirit led to his wife’s death.
They sentence him to death. However, before the death sentence can be carried out, Hari’s friend, Shrinath reveals the contents of the letter that Ranjana had written to his wife, which clearly tells her that she is planning to commit suicide.
Hari wins a release and the path is clear for Hari and Asha to marry. Unfortunately, Hari is too heartbroken and tired by the end of the movie and dies, thinking about all that he has gone through, leaving Asha alone in the world.
The Bollywood Horror movie scene has changed a lot in the eight decades. Today, the movie stands a landmark movie and newer audiences will find it tame. Even so, they will get an idea of how haunting the movie would be, if one was to see it in the manner it’s supposed to be - in the theater. There’s no doubt that Mahal inspired several filmmakers to bring horror and supernatural to the screen.
Roy Daniel D’Silva writes about classic horror films, series, and books. You can find more of his articles over at Indian Horror Club
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