PURANA MANDIR (1984)
posted 08/05/2012

Directed by:
Shyam Ramsay, Tulsi Ramsay

Starring:
Mohnish Bahl ... Sanjay
Arti Gupta ... Suman R. Singh
Puneet Issar ... Anand
Ajay Agarwal ... Samri

Country: India
Runtime: n/a
AKA: The Old Temple India
       
         
   

In 1984 the Ramsay brothers unleashed a monumental horror film in India called Purana Mandir. This super successful film kick-started the horror genre in that country. The Ramsay’s had been grinding out horror since the early 70s but it was Purana that launched the booming subgenre into the forefront. Soon other local filmmakers jumped on the bandwagon churning out similar titles to satiate an eager audience.

Indian films are known to contain several song and dance numbers and Purana was no different. What at first may appear as awkward to Western audiences usually becomes quite normal as one becomes aware of the subtle integration of these scenes into the plot. It’s a cultural novelty which grows on you if you’re willing to go with the flow. Purana also incorporates a comedic subplot, drama and romance. So what we are getting here is a whole range of experiences. This was my first foray into Bollywood horror and I was somewhat disappointed in the fact that I wasn’t getting a "full" horror film.

The first act introduces the menace of the film, the demon Samri, (Ajay Agarwal) as he terrorizes the countryside of Bijapur. A princess is traveling haunted terrain when her carriage breaks down. Samri attacks and kills the coachmen and the princess. His murder method is either to strangle choke you or peer into your eyes until they bleed and you drop dead, possibly of fright or random demonic mind blast. When we first see him Samri appears as a tall man with blood red eyes and wild hair. On the back of his black jacket there’s a diamond studded wolf and his belt buckle has shiny jewels. Agarwal has a tremendous screen presence which catapults the demonic Samri character straight into your worst nightmares.

The soldiers manage to capture the beast and the locals now ponder a fitting sentence. He’s accused of raping young women, killing children and eating corpses out of opened graves. It’s too bad we do not get to see any of his misdeeds though. They decide on burying his body in the ruins behind the temple and his severed head will be kept in a faraway palace so that they never get united. I have seen this method of keep the head away from the body of the warlock (or demon) before in other films. Before losing his head though, Samri places a curse on the female descendants of Hari Man Singh (the current emperor or king). As long as his head remain separated from his body the female heirs will die horribly in childbirth. Soon after the demon’s body is buried the head is taken away and placed in a trunk that is locked with chains. The God Shiva’s trident is placed on top. This is a holy item which can repel evil, much like a Christian cross.

We jump to the modern day city where Ranbir Singh (the last remaining heir) lives a luxurious life with his beautiful daughter Suman. She’s your typical teenage girl. She has a boyfriend, Sanjay, and goes to a dance club which for some odd reason has a Superman poster on the wall. Her father prohibits her from dating Sanjay because he’s poor but most importantly because if she gets a bun in her oven she will die the horrible death at childbirth I have spoken about. So what does Suman do? She runs off with her boyfriend and another couple, Anand and Sapna, to the old temple to figure out a way to destroy the curse.

Anand seems to have a Bruce Lee complex because he’s always practicing his martial arts and he’s damn good at it too. There are a couple of scenes where the kids run into trouble and Anand has a chance to kick everybody’s ass. When they get to the old palace the watchmen let’s them spend a few nights there. Suman starts experiencing weird things like blood coming out of the shower and seeing the demon’s severed head. She figures out there is a hidden chamber behind a portrait of the old emperor hanging on the wall. The boys break the wall down and locate the trunk which contains Samri’s head. The watchmen have been watching them and believe there is hidden treasure. What ends up happening is he gets possessed by Samri. His eyes bug out and he’s now in charge of uniting the head with the body. Soon Samri will be reborn and he will continue his legacy of horror. Will the courage of youth and true love prevail over ageless evil?

You’re in for an awesome demon action finale. I don’t want to give away what exactly happens but Samri’s demonic vengeance is simply beautiful. He now looks like a full demon Bigfoot. Yes, and that’s a good thing too. He has grown body fur and long fangs. I only wished that there were more scenes of horror in this movie. What I have described in this review is only 40 minutes of a two and a half hour long picture. I left out the song and dance and everything else that was unnecessary subplot. What I can attest to is that we bond with these characters and after hearing them sing and pour out their feelings you want them to triumph. The soap-opera romance is at times unbearable but I managed to get through it. I must give credit to the Ramsay brothers for this well directed and nicely shot film. I might not want to watch the movie again but I’m glad I saw it.

- Jorge Antonio Lopez

 

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