• The Bollywood Horror Collection Volume One: Bandh Dawarza & Purana Mandir (Mondo Macabro) DVD Review

    Released by: Mondo Macabro
    Released on: September 26th, 2006.
    Director: Tulsi Ramsay, Shyam Ramsay
    Cast: Hashmat Khan, Manjeet Kular, Ajay Agarwal, Aarti Gupta, Mohnish Bahl, Puneet Issar, Ajay Agarwal
    Year: 1990/1984
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    The Bollywood Horror Collection Volume One: Bandh Darwaza & Purana Mandir – Movie Review:

    Just as cult movie fans start to complain that the DVD well is beginning to run dry (this was written in 2006, and the well did not run dry, nor has it run dry in the years that have passed), Mondo Macabro digs up another interesting film (or in this case, a pair of films) to smack us outside the head with, reminding us that there’s still plenty of gems out there waiting to be discovered even if fans have to dig a little harder to find them these days. Enter The Bollywood Horror Collection: Volume One, consisting of two brain melting horror films from India: 1990’s Bandh Darwaza and 1984’s Purana Mandir, both courtesy of those wonderful Ramsey Brothers and their collaborators.


    This film tells the story of a man and his wife, despite living a good life, still lusting after the one thing that so far has managed to allude them – a child! They need an heir but the woman is unable to bear him any children and time is running out… to the point where her mother in law is starting to look into setting her son up with the foxy lady next door. Luckily, one of the servants has a connection up at Black Mountain where all the devil worshippers hang out. She takes our barren heroine to see Neola (Ajay Agarwal), a vampire, who has what it takes to knock our lady up. There’s a catch, however – if the baby is a boy, he’s hers to keep but if the baby is a girl, she belongs to the vampire. Nine months later it’s go time and out pops Kamia, a bouncing baby girl. The servant shows up and kidnaps the baby after poisoning the mother to death. Thankfully the father and his buddies grab their guns and run off to Black Mountain and save the poor kid before it’s too late.

    Fast forward a few years and Kamia is all grown up now. She’s crushing pretty hard on a hairy guy named Kumar but, unfortunately for her, Kumar lusts after his best friend’s sister, Sapna (despite the fact that Kamia is the hotter of the two and completely willing to get down and dirty with him). He and Sapna even sing songs together in the rain about how bad they want to get it on, but they both know that they can’t until they’ve got rings on their respective fingers so that they can do it all proper like. At any rate, they’re in love and Kumia is more than a little bit pissed off about that. Things start to get odd when Sapna, driving around one night, gives a ride to a woman (who might be a transvestite – it’s hard to tell) to Black Mountain where she’s sacrificed to Neola and his giant idol (an ultra-cool giant metal bat with glowing red eyes). No one believes Sapna, not even good old Kumar, but eventually they come to know that she speaks the truth, as Neola has come back from the grave to claim Kamia once more.

    Kamia, on the other hand, is using her evil powers to try and Seduce Kumar and make him love only her. When Sapna and her brother (who spots a nice Michael Jackson/Thriller style jacket) find him hanging out in the cemetery, it looks like her tricks might have worked, but the power of love soon works its way into his heart and he knows that he’s going to have to stop Kamia and Neola to save the day… after he sings another song or two.

    Despite the fact that there are four song and dance numbers and a few moments of awkward comic relief courtesy of Jagdeep (as Kamia’s horny servant), Bandh Dawarza is pretty much a straight horror film. It borrows elements from the Hammer Dracula films (Neola’s eyes turn red in much the same way that Christopher Lee’s did) and it swipes almost its entire soundtrack from Friday The 13th (the familiar ‘ki ki ki ma ma ma’ is heard throughout the film!). But with Bandh Dawarza, even with those obvious elements swiped from other films, Shyam and Tulsi Ramsay have crafted an effective and odd little horror movie that works quite well, even if it isn’t going to win any points for originality. The key to the success of the film is Neola, as he’s a very imposing figure and actually quite creepy whenever he’s on screen. He makes a great villain and even if the heroes and heroines are a little too cookie cutter, he’s a completely cool villain. The fact that he has an army of evil minions running around doing his bidding doesn’t hurt things either, and the guy has a giant metal bat in his lair, which is just about the best thing ever.

    Some neat gothic moments contrast strangely with the song and dance routines and their flamboyant choreography, but more often than not, Bandh Dawaraza works as well as a horror film as it does a curiosity item and most fans should be able to enjoy it as both.


    The second film in the set is one of the better known Bollywood horror exports, and it would go on to be pretty influential in the years after it proved to be a box office hit in its native India.

    The story begins in the 1600’s, where a prince and his princess, while out for a wagon ride, find themselves stranded in an eerie, remote area. She heads off to an old, rundown temple to look for help while he tries to fix their wheels. While she’s off doing her thing, a monster known as Saamri brutally murders her. The prince discovers this and comes back later with a group of men who accuse Saamri of eating little kids before chopping off his head (which they stash in a box) and burning him. Unfortunately for them, Saamri (taking a page out of the Brainiac handbook) puts a curse on them and swears to return in time to kill off their families.

    Years later, the descendants of the Prince and his men are living peaceful lives in the inner city, the rundown temple a long forgotten relic of the past. Sardar and his daughter, Suman (Aarti Gupta), live together where she spends most of her time trying to seduce her boyfriend, Sanjay (Mohnish Bahl), and taunting him with bikini shows, while he tries his best to make her behave. In a strange attempt to keep his daughter from running off with her boyfriend he tells her the legend of the Saamri and tells her that if she marries and births children for him that she’ll turn into a hairy beast herself.

    What Sardar doesn’t realize is that his headstrong daughter is a bit stupid. She and her boyfriend decide the only way that they can break the curse and be together is to head back to the old temple where Saamri was killed and put things to rest. Of course, they get there and accidentally raise him from the dead and he starts killing everyone in sight, leaving Suman and Sanjay to stop him and send him back to his grave.

    Ajay Agarwal shows up as the bad guy in this one as well, and as with the first feature, he proves to be the best part of the film. He’s a hairy, creepy and completely fun monster and as the movie goes on you almost find yourself cheering him on and hoping he’ll be able to kill everyone off and get away with it all. Sure, he’s evil, but the heroes and heroines are pretty much disposable and it’s more fun to watch him wreak havoc then to watch them try and stop him. Also returning this time is Jagdeep, and once again he provides more horribly wonderful comic relief that is so completely not funny that it somehow manages to transcend itself and become, in turn, very funny. The fact that this material was considered humorous is what makes it so, not the material itself. Also adding to the fun is the fact that Aarti Gupta is incredibly easy on the eyes (hubba hubba!).

    Once again, it looks like there might be a Hammer Films influence creeping into the movie, as there’s a lot of dry ice on set making for plenty of gothic looking fog-heavy sets. The monster is also lit with eerie primary lighting that really adds an alien atmosphere to the scenes in which he appears. Of course, there are some song and dance numbers where the romantic subplots come into play and yes, they do make for a weird contrast to the horror movie elements, but things are handled well and they don’t pull you out of the film completely. This one, like the first film, is a lot of fun.

    The Bollywood Horror Collection Volume One: Bandh Darwaza & Purana Mandir – DVD Review:

    Well, Mondo Macabro has issued a warning of sorts with this release stating that because so much of India’s cinematic output hasn’t been all that well preserved that the video quality isn’t going to be so hot – and they ain’t lying. That being said, both features are perfectly watchable even if there are flaws aplenty to gawk at along the way. Bandh Darwaza looks to be taken from a television or tape master as there are some rolls present, and some warbled looking spots throughout, and the image is quite soft. Some mild trailing is present and the colors are a little faded. Print damage is there, but it’s never so overpowering that it sucks you out of the movie.

    The second feature, Purana Mandir, does manage to look slightly better than the first feature does. Many of the same problems are evident in this transfer but the colors are definitely a little bit brighter and the image is, overall, in slightly better shape. Is the video perfect? Nope. Not by a country mile. However, as with their Turkish Pop Cinema Double Feature DVD, what you need to remember is that with the elements needed for a pristine transfer missing in action and possibly gone for good, you’ve got to do the best that you can with what you’ve got, and that’s what has happened here.

    Both films are presented in their lovely native language in which they were shot, with English subtitles that, aside from a typo or two, do a pretty good job of translating everything we need to know, without going into overkill and subbing screams and death cries and what not – the drawback being that some of the music isn’t completely subtitled (though the parts that aren’t subbed sound like repeated bits so if you pay close attention you can figure it out). The audio is on par with the video in terms of quality – you can hear the dialogue just fine, but it isn’t always pretty. Some background hiss is there and the high end can be a bit shrill sometimes (you’ll notice this when some of the women sing!), but there’s nothing super terrible here to complain about, especially taking into account where and when these movies were made, how low budget they were, and the source material available.

    The first disc, aside from the feature, is barebones while disc two houses the second film in addition to a few choice extra features. The main supplements, outside of the second feature, start off with a Mondo Macabro documentary on South Asian Horror. Included in here are plenty of clips from various Bollywood productions from all genres, not just horror, as well as some interviews with a few filmmakers. The history of the Ramsay Brothers is covered here and plenty of great films are discussed throughout the twenty-five minute running time.

    A second documentary entitled Freddy, Jason, And …. Saamri tells of the history of the Saamri character and the influence that he had on Indian horror films at the time, in addition to a lot of the themes that these movies deal with. There are some interesting interviews with critics and some absolutely killer clips from a few different films in this thirteen-minute documentary.

    Rounding out the extra features on this release are some extensive essays on the material from Mondo Macabro scribe Pete Tombs (one on Bollywood Horror and the other on the Ramsay Brothers), the ever present Mondo Macabro promo reel (updated with footage from the upcoming release of Snake Dancer – well, it was upcoming when this was written in 2006!), as well as menus and chapters for both discs.

    The Bollywood Horror Collection Volume One: Bandh Darwaza & Purana Mandir – The Final Word:

    Despite the fact that neither of the two films in the set look all that spectacular, this release is still a completely worthwhile purchase for fans of bizarre foreign genre films. Full of monsters, maidens and musical numbers, both features are equal parts eerie and fun and the extras provide some very welcome insight into the culture that spawned them. The Bollywood Horror Collection: Volume One is another weird winner from Mondo Macabro – now bring on Volume Two!

    Comments 2 Comments
    1. Scott's Avatar
      Scott -
      I love these movies so damn much. Still kicking myself for not picking up the followup volumes. Time and money, etc.
    1. Roderick's Avatar
      Roderick -
      Ah, Sept 2006... I had this crazy dream it was 2020 and the whole world had turned into a huge dumpster fire...