Darna Zaroori Hai

Reviewed By Abhishek Bandekar
Posted 05/05/06 02:56:39

"Understanding Fear"
4 stars (Worth A Look)

Ramgopal Varma continues to remain one of the most interesting, if somewhat intemperate, filmmakers of Bollywood. Over the past decade and a half he has produced and directed, directed but not produced & produced but not directed or ghost-directed more than 25 films. His area of fascination is something that the other filmmakers do not even fathom exploiting. He is concerned with the darker recesses of the human condition which manifest themselves in forms of absolute and uncorrupted power, morbid and uncouth humour, and prevalent subconscious fear. It is not surprising then that his films generally revolve around the underworld- be it the criminal or the supernatural. And when in an introspective mood, he possesses a self-deriding quality to look at the funny foibles in the elements of his machinery.

In 2003, Varma gave the Indian audiences an Indian version of Campfire Tales/Stories meets Twilight Zone. A novel experiment, Darna Mana Hai(Fear Is Prohibited) had a group of friends around a campfire narrating six spooky stories to each other, while each member kept getting bumped off by a mysterious entity. Fast Forward to 2006, and we have a sequel to that surprise hit. Although this time, Varma seems to be in one of his introspective moods. He has realized that people deal with fear by a mechanism of laughing along with the sense of trepidation and thereby denying it. Hence, as a filmmaker, the more you consciously attempt to scare the pants off a viewer, the harder he’s likely to laugh. Comprehending this paradox, Varma chooses this time to take his viewer on a ride that doesn’t so much try to scare than make you understand the mechanics of fear. His tongue firmly in cheek, the sequel is titled Darna Zaroori Hai(Fear Is Compulsory)! How can you understand fear without acknowledging it? To make his dissection of fear further conclusive, Varma enlists, apart from himself, six directors to paint their personal images of fear.

Story One
Written and directed by- Sajid Khan
Cast- Manoj Pahwa
Rating- *****
A wonderful beginning, TV comedian Sajid Khan in his writing-directing debut successfully manages to translate Varma’s intent and more importantly set the tone for the movie. Satish(Manoj Pahwa) is an overgrown man living with his mother. Foul-mouthed, he is silent when he’s stuffing down anything edible down his throat, and even then he cannot stop talking. His only routine is to catch the first day, last show of every week’s new film release. Incidentally the night we meet him, Friday the 13th, Satish is readying himself to go to a screening of…Darna Mana Hai! Despite his mother’s admonishing, Satish chooses to take the shorter route through a graveyard on his return. This episode is most notable for the superb fashion it ends in and for its ability to poke fun at the genre that the film represents. Khan doesn’t hesitate to poke fun at Ramgopal Varma either.

Story Two
Dir- Ramgopal Varma
Cast- Amitabh Bachchan and Ritesh Deshmukh.
Written by- Arshad Syed
Rating- ****
Varma directs this episode himself. Although not the best story; he leaves that to Chekravarthy(more on that later); one can understand why Varma chose this. Pompous that he is, this story provides the best opportunity for any director to showcase his talent. Relying completely on audience manipulation, Varma incites fear in the hearts and minds of the viewers by use of simple cinema techniques. The story of a professor(Amitabh Bachchan) who tries to convince his student(Ritesh Deshmukh) the existence of another man in his house, this episode boasts of crisp editing, fine supporting turn from Ritesh and an absolutely crackling and riveting performance from Amitabh Bachchan. Too short, this is nonetheless fine filmmaking.

Story Three
Written and directed by- Prawaal Raman
Cast- Arjun Rampal, Bipasha Basu and Makrand Deshpande.
Rating- ***
Prawaal had singularly directed Darna Mana Hai. This time he faces the less challenging task of directing a single story. Kunal(Arjun Rampal) seeks help from Varsha(Bipasha Basu) after his car breaks down in a desolate area and Varsha’s is the only house in the vicinity. Varsha allows him to make a phone call from her house, but strangely seduces Arjun as well. Arjun tries to resist her obvious overtures while finding himself drawn to accept her offer, until her dead husband Rahul(Makrand Deshpande) shows up! The three principals being established, the story goes through mind-bending twists and turns and ultimately resolves in a rather expected fashion. For its running time though it keeps you interested, thanks mainly to Makrand’s vibrant act and the smoldering sensuousness of Bipasha Basu. Arjun Rampal is sadly uninspired.

Story Four
Dir- Vivek Shah
Cast- Suniel Shetty, Sonali Kulkarni and Rajpal Yadav.
Written by- Ashish Deo
Rating- ***
The nadir of the whole exercise! Despite Rajpal’s theatrical performance, in a good sense, this story of an insurance salesman(Rajpal Yadav) trying to convince the uncertainty of life to an unwilling Maharashtrian couple(Suniel Shetty and Sonali Kulkarni) is totally inconsequential and should’ve been avoided in favour of a better story. The story does play with fear on a tangential aspect, but there is still nothing to recommend in this vapid short.

Story Five
Dir- Jijy Philip
Cast- Anil Kapoor and Mallika Sherawat.
Written by- Nikhil Mishra
Rating- ***
Through this episode of an established commercial filmmaker(Anil Kapoor) of magnum family opuses wanting to break out of his mould and experiment, Ramgopal Varma openly declares his war against candy-floss filmmakers Karan Johar and Yash Chopra! Karan Chopra(see!), having given three big family hits(he actually says that they are all the same!) wants to make a horror film as everyone is making it and more so because he wants to prove his mettle and be ranked among…ahem…Kubrick and Hitchcock! As an inside joke, Karan Chopra’s assistant is called Dharma and one of his three films is Kabhi Kabhie Hota Hai! The intended personal attack aside, this episode is a subversive example of humour that aims more to warn Johar from venturing into unfamiliar territory as he did with last year’s mega-dud Kaal! Anil Kapoor plays this part with the same relish that he displayed in Subhash Ghai’s Taal. Mallika Sherawat is bearable, and that’s saying a lot.

Story Six
Dir- Chekravarthy
Cast- Randeep Hooda, Zakir Hussain and Rasika Joshi.
Written by- Manish Gupta
Rating- *****
The icing on the cake…and what an icing it is! The spookiest, funniest and most creative of the whole enterprise- this story exists in Stephen King’s most assured world. Randeep Hooda plays Ajay, a young man who wakes up in a police cell without any memory of how he landed there. Telling anything more of the story will not only do a great disservice but is actually impossible to put in words! Chekravarthy(the lead from Satya) directs this with such class that one wishes to see him direct an out-and-out horror flick. The performances of this piece are nothing short of extraordinary. Randeep Hooda gives a performance that he’ll find difficult to better in his career, displaying the intensity of a caged animal. Randeep almost walks away with this segment, until the story allows Zakir to join in on the fun and display his histrionics. Undoubtedly an unforgettable short that’d sell copies on its own merit!

Like Darna Mana Hai, the six stories in Darna Zaroori Hai are also set against one base narrative. But while the foundation story of Darna Mana Hai was attention-grabbing in itself, the one here of six lost kids and an old woman is not only repetitive in its format but also dull. Writer-director Manish Gupta succeeds however in underlining the childish undertones of the horror genre, but is letdown by a drab routine. The next time, and one hopes there is a next time, Varma would be better off giving us six separate stories without a common thread.

'Darna Zaroori Hai', like 'Darna Mana Hai', lets you to watch six films(seven actually) for the price of one. These six shorts provide the roller-coaster ride that most Bollywood movies do not manage for their three-plus hours!

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