Written by: Michael Den Boer on September 10th, 2006
Theatrical Release Dates: India, 1990 (Bandh Darwaza), India, 1984 (Purana Mandir)
Directors: Tulsi Ramsay, Shyam Ramsay (Both Films)
Cast: Hashmat Khan, Manjeet Kular, Ajay Agarwal (Bandh Darwaza), Aarti Gupta, Mohnish Bahl, Puneet Issar (Purana Mandir)
DVD released: September 26th, 2006
Approximate running time: 145 minutes (Bandh Darwaza), 145 minutes (Purana Mandir)
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1 Full Frame (Both Films)
Sound: Dolby Digital Stereo Hindi
DVD Release: Mondo Macabro
Region Coding: Region 1 NTSC
Retail Price: $24.95
Bandh Darwaza: Lajo is unable to conceive a child and her husbands’ family is pressuring him to leave her for a more fertile woman whop can bear an heir to keep the family’s legacy alive. One of the maids who works for the family tells Lajo about a black mountains man named Neola who can make any woman fertile with child. There is only one catch if Lajo gives birth to a son she is allowed to keep the child and if the child is a girl the child I then supposed to be returned to the Black Mountains and be raised by Neola and his followers. Lajo gives birth to a beautiful baby girl and she refuse to give her child as she promised to Neola for his help in bringing the child into this world. Angered by Lajo’s defiance Neola has her killed via poisoning her and has the child kidnapped and returned to him. After finding out about his wife’s death Lajo’s husband with the help of the townspeople storm the temple at Black Mountain where Neola and his displaces dwell. They kill most of his disciples with only a handful that slip away unharmed and Neola is stabbed in the heart by Lajo’s husband which sends him into an eternal sleep.
Eighteen years later Lajo’s daughter named Kamia is now a woman and looks a lot like her mother. Kamia like all girls her age has developed a crush on a young man named Kumar. Only one problem he doesn’t feel the same way she does and he desires the love of a woman named Sapna. It appears that after all these years that evil still lurks at the temple at the Black Mountains. Kamia is unable to make Kumar love her she turns the people of Black Mountain and their mystical magic to help her cast a spell over Kumar.
Bandh Darwaza is a loose reworking of the Dracula character that relies more on atmosphere like the Bela Lugosi 1931 film version of Dracula. If you are looking for a high body count and an outlandish amount of bloodshed then look else where. Bandh Darwaza is a different kind of horror film that not only mixes gratuitous sexual suggestive aerobics routines it also comes with several full blown dance numbers in which the cast members instantly burst into song. If what you have read so far about this film hasn’t frightened you yet then nothing will. Seriously the most frightening part of this film is its creepy score that is mostly comprised of synthesized motifs and a few of these musical motifs will give you a feeling of Déjà Vu.
Shyam Ramsay & Tulsi Ramsay direction is very effective as they known how to set and exploit mood to the fullest. Their love for zooming in especially on the eyes too empathize their evilness and this technique does become tiresome after awhile. The special effects look cheap and obvious most of the time like when Neola walks through a brick wall that resembles cardboard. Fog and thunder are used to great effect and they add to films overall gothic mood. The acting is nothing to get excited about with all the performers giving average to above average performances. Overall Bandh Darwaza is while not as scary as your standard horror film it is still an entertaining adventure that cleverly mixes several genres without diverging too far ay from its horror roots.
Purana Mandir: Two hundred years ago a monster known as Saamri roamed the land murdering and eating young children. One evening he is finally caught by the king’s men who chop off his head and roast the rest of his body in a fire. Before the severe his head Saamri manages to spew out a curse that he is casting over the king and his female descendents who will become unrecognizable and die during child birth. Century’s later one of the king’s descendants a young woman named Suman is having a secret affair with a young man named Sanjay. Her father greatly disapproves of their relationship and when he is unable to break them apart he tells them about the family curse. So Suman and Sanjay with the help of two friends decided to go the temple where the curse started and find a way to end the curse once and for all.
Purana Mandir is one of the most influential horror films ever to come out of India. Shyam Ramsay & Tulsi Ramsay with Purana Mandir would establish a visual style that has since been often imitated and never duplicated. Purana Mandir like Bandh Darwaza the other film included with this collection was also directed by Shyam Ramsay & Tulsi Ramsay. Visually they employee many of the same camera techniques and the pacing in this one works better then it did in Bandh Darwaza. The synthesized score is eerie and a few of the upbeat numbers get the blood pressure to rise with their infectious beats. The film also uses ambient noise in its sound design to great effect.
The acting is better all around with most of the cast giving solid performances. The bad guy is played by the actor Ajay Agarwal who is menacing and creepy at the same time without ever looking to silly. The film brilliantly mixes comedy and horror. The plot is engaging and interesting throughout. This one has it all hand to hand action, sword fighting, dancing, singing and a girl taking a shower in her bathing suit while the water turns to blood. Overall Purana Mandir is one of best Bollywood horror films as it flawlessly mixes all the various elements from different genres into one cohesive epic for the ages.
Mondo Macabro presents Bandh Darwaza and Purana Mandir in a full frame aspect ratio of about 1.33:1 that preserves their original aspect ratios. To Mondo Macabro credit they open each film up with disclaimers about the transfers included for each film. Bandh Darwaza has muted colors and lacks detail especially during wider shots. There is noticeable print damage through out still it never becomes intrusive or takes away from enjoyment of watching this film. Purana Mandir is included as a bonus feature for this release and even though it has more print damage then Bandh Darwaza it looks more colorful overall. The image is really soft and at time it is almost blurry. Both transfers look like they were taken from a tape masters and not film prints or original negative materials.
Both films are presented in their native Hindi and they are presented in a Dolby Digital stereo. Outside of noticeable hiss and some of other minor sound defects the audio is more then adequate as they dialog is easy to follow and the music and effects sound complement the rest of the sound track. Removable English subtitles that are easy to follow and understand have been included with this release.
All the extras for this release can be found on the second disc and they include two text essay’s “Bollywood Horror” and “The Ramsay Brothers” both essays were written by Pete Tombs. Other extras include a thirteen minute interview with film critic Omar Kahn titled “Freddie, Jason… & Saamri”. The main extra included for this release is a twenty five minute documentary about South Asian Horror that is broken up into three sections India’s Bollywood, Pakistan and Indonesian cinema. For anyone who ever wanted to known more about the cinema that comes from Southern Asia this is another excellent documentary from Mondo Macabro that covers a lot of ground in such a brief amount of time. Rounding out the extras is the Mondo Macabro preview trailer which includes clips from titles they have currently released or about to release.
Ultimately Bollywood cinema is an acquired tastes and ones enjoyment of Bandh Darwaza and Purana Mandir will come down too if you enjoy or have a high tolerance for this style of cinema. Mondo Macabro’s Bollywood Horror Collection volume one gives to of the genres best examples their long overdue début on DVD. This release comes with several insightful extras and is being sold at a more then reasonable price considering all the content include with this release, highly recommended.