Directed by Shyam Ramsay [Other horror films: Andhera (1975), Darwaza (1978), Aur Kaun? (1979), Saboot (1980), Guest House (1980), Dahshat (1981), Sannata (1981), Hotel (1981), Purana Mandir (1984), 3D Saamri (1985), Tahkhana (1986), Om (1986), Veerana (1988), Purani Haveli (1989), Bandh Darwaza (1990), Dhund: The Fog (2003), Ghutan (2007), Bachao – Inside Bhoot Hai… (2010), Neighbours (2014), Gentayangan (2018)] & Tulsi Ramsay [Other horror films: Do Gaz Zameen Ke Neeche (1972), Andhera (1975), Darwaza (1978), Aur Kaun? (1979), Saboot (1980), Guest House (1980), Dahshat (1981), Sannata (1981), Hotel (1981), Purana Mandir (1984), 3D Saamri (1985), Tahkhana (1986), Om (1986), Veerana (1988), Purani Haveli (1989), Bandh Darwaza (1990)]
For the longest time, I’ve found this film quite the interesting find. It’s not great – at two hours and 13 minutes, there’s little doubt that Mahakaal is overlong. Still, this is an Indian movie I’ve long held appreciation for, and definitely recommend checking out, despite it sometimes being a trying watch.
The reason for this is that it’s an Indian rip-off of A Nightmare on Elm Street. A few elements are changed and added, but for the most part, this follows the first A Nightmare on Elm Street to the dot. Elements of the second (some mild possession in the latter portion of the film), third (digging up the corpse of Indian Freddy, named Shakaal), and fourth (fight with an invisible Shakaal, along with a waterbed sequence) movies exist also, which gives more flavor, but like I said, most of the film is following the events of the first movie.
Also, and this may well be unintentional, during the scene in which Anite (this movie’s Nancy) follows Seema (Tina) in a bodybag, when she finally catches up with Seema, Seema begins laughing exactly like the possessed bodies did in The Evil Dead. It’s that high-pitched giggling, and it definitely gave me some flashbacks. I wouldn’t be surprised if, along with the music and plot of A Nightmare on Elm Street, the directors borrowed from the Evil Dead also.
The original content that they sometimes throw in can be pretty powerful, though. My favorite sequence might be the claw gloves popping out of the floor at the hotel in the first half, and out of a wall in the last twenty minutes. It’s cheap, sure, but it’s such a creepy effect. Related, that aquarium sequence was nice, as so few horror films have aquariums (the only one that comes to mind right now was Night School), and though that scene wasn’t long, I still enjoyed it.
Not all the alterations were great, of course – primarily, Shakaal (who, as I said, replaces Freddy) looks pretty shoddy at times. Also, he lacks personality. Unlike Freddy, who couldn’t shut up past the second movie, Shakaal is entirely mute, though he does chuckle quite often. He can certainly be creepy, and Mahabir Bhullar (credited as Mahaveer Bhullar) did fine with what he had, but Englund brought much more life to the character.
Archana Puran Singh is no Heather Langenkamp, but that’s okay. Singh does just fine, as do most cast-members, from Karan Shah (this movie’s Glen) and Kunika Sadanand (this movie’s Tina) to Kulbhushan Kharbanda (this movie’s John Saxon). I think the biggest problem comes from the comedy relief performance of Johnny Lever, whose character spent most of the time dressed as Michael Jackson, and dancing like him. Also, Dinesh Kaushik (who had no equivalent in A Nightmare on Elm Street) felt pretty pointless at times, and I think the movie would have gone over just as well without his character there.
Though certainly a cheap movie, I will give them props for having some pretty creepy filming locations. Early on, when dealing with Shakaal’s nightmares, these people find themselves in what looks to be an old factory, with chains hanging freely down. The location where Shakaal’s body was buried was also creepy (and we only saw it at day-time – I can’t imagine what it’d look like at night), and again, the aquarium was a nice addition also.
Origin-wise, I did like how here, Shakaal was a dark sorcerer of sorts who kidnapped children for sacrifices in order to gain more power. Adds a quality mystical element to it, and that flashback in which he throws a kid into a pit (which looks like it led to a burning fire) was, as the kids say, neato. It doesn’t quite have the same punch of Freddy’s origin, but it’s an okay facsimile.
One last note, being an Indian movie, there are musical portions. If I recall, there’s only three songs here, and problematically, none of them are really that good (or relevant, for that matter). The second one, involving a picnic, might be the most catchy, but I’ve seen a few Indian movies here and there, and I have to say that the musical bits in Mahakaal are definitely underwhelming. At the very least, just be happy that Shakaal didn’t have his own song.
Mahakaal isn’t a great movie, and I don’t love it, and more so, I don’t have a problem saying that the movie is below average. Even so, if you’re a fan of A Nightmare on Elm Street (and really, how couldn’t you be?), I’d suggest giving this a watch just to see what the same story might look like in a very different culture. It’s not a movie that’s like to amaze you, but at the very least, much like it did me, I do think it could interest people.
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