27 May 2018,23:57 IST
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I was never a major horror buff: Sourabh Usha Narang
By Subhah K Jha

Arguably, Vaastu Shastra is the scariest film ever made in Hindi. Believe it or not, director Sourabh Usha Narang claims he was never a major horror buff! “Not at all….till about eleven months ago when I met Mr Ram Gopal Varma for the first time. Until then I had directed a reality show called `Haqeeqat` on Sahara. That show won me some awards. I was introduced to Mr Varma by the Bhoot writer Samir Sharma. Ramuji asked me to make a film based on a one-liner about a family going to home called Shanti Kutir where there’s no `shanti`. That’s when I started catching up on lots of horror films, specially the Japanese ones. Like Japanese horror films we’ve used a lot of silence and kept the camera static in Vaastu Shastra. I believe terror lies not in what the camera captures but what it hides.”

Narang also likes Manoj Shyamalan. “Though too much premium is being placed on the final twist in his tales... even I feel we’ve gone overboard some sound effects in Vaastu Shastra.”

Vaastu Shastra is the only horror film where there’s a full-blown interaction between humanbeings and ghosts. “But that wasn’t the main USP of our project. Agreed we wanted to make Vaastu Shastra as different from Bhoot and other horror films as humanly and inhumanly as is possible. We decided to use the child actor for the major part of the movie. Throughout the film we see what he sees while the other characters don’t. I like to call Vaastu Shastra a scary film and not a horror film. We’ve kept out typical elements of the genre like blood, gore, tantriks, etc. The ghouls in horror films are grotesque and sometimes tacky. We wanted to make sure that the ghosts looked convincing. We got the makeup guy who did Ambedkar to do our film. Not a very politically correct thing to do. But it worked for us.”

One hundred and fifty little boys were auditioned for the role of Sushmita’s son. “We finally picked Ahsaas Channa. We were looking for someone who’s obviously cute but also a performer. One night this boy came to meet me. The moment he walked in I knew it was him. Working with him made the sheer struggle of making such a dark film so much more bearable. He always gave the performance I wanted. And he’s just four years old! The child was having a ball….literally,” laughs Narang referring to the spooky ball that the child has in the film.

To establish a comfort level Sushmita met the child several times before shooting. “She’s so good with children. And that shows in the film.”

Narang makes no bones about the in-your-face horror of his film. “It’s easy to play with audiences’ imaginations. But to actually give concrete shapes to their worst fears and nightmares is very tough. We tell the audience to stop imagining the ghosts because we give them a face. This could’ve easily backfired on us. Going by the initial response people like it. I saw the film with an audience. Throughout the film people never took their eyes off the screen.”

But the terror element in Vaastu Shastra is way beyond what’s generally prescribed for the genre. “Perhaps,” agrees Narang. “But as long as we’ve succeeded in scaring the audience I’m happy. We’ve eliminated all distractions from the film…no songs. During editing we clipped off emotional scenes because they were hampering the fear element.”

Even Narang’s TV serial `Haqeeqat` dwelled on prevalent fears of the middleclass. “In fact I’d like to believe I’ve progressed naturally from the serial to my first film. Like `Haqeeqat`, Vaastu Shastra is real in the setting. I believed in one thing. If people found the ambience believable they were more likely to get scared.”

As for the film’s over-the-top ghosts-on-a-rampage climax Narang gets thoughtful. “I’ve had mixed responses to that. The narrative does cross the threshold of cinematic terror. People say my film has a very authentic feel to it. I’m happier with people getting shocked than being indifferent to what I’ve done.”

Next, Sourabh Narang takes a holiday with his wife. “Far away from Vaastu Shastra. Trust me I won’t make a scary film next. I want to tell another story. Though I may make another horror film sometime in the near future.”