For quite sometime now, films about ghosts have become popular in the Tamil cinema industry. A veteran producer recently asked at an association meeting: “Have ghosts taken over Tamil cinema?” In fact, so popular have horror-comedies become that there aren’t too many takers for rom-coms, action, and family-oriented films. One of the biggest hits this year has been Raghava Lawrence’s horror-comedy Kanchana-2 , which has grossed over Rs. 100 crore worldwide. Other films in the horror genre, such as Pizza , Aranmanai , Pisaasu , Yaamirukka Bayamey , Darling and Demonte Colony have all been successful. Interestingly, this is not really a new trend. Horror has always attracted Tamil cinema audiences. In the 70s and 80s, films such as Yaar? , Shanti Nilayam,Pathimoonam Number Veedu , Nooravathu Naal , and Adhey Kangal all did good business. Rajinikanth’s Chandramukhi , released 10 years ago, is one of the biggest horror-comedy hits in Tamil cinema. Lawrence revived this trend with his Muni franchise and Karthik Subbaraj brought in sophistication with Pizza . This trend is all set to continue with Pa. Vijay’s Strawberry , Nayanthara-starrer Maya , and Srinath Ramalingam’s Unakkenna Venum Sollu, all set for release during the next couple of weeks. There are at least 35-odd Tamil horror films under various stages of production. This trend has spilled over to YouTube too, with short films of the horror genre getting the most number of views. These filmmakers hope to follow in the footsteps of Karthik Subbaraj, by eventually stepping into feature film territory. Producers are also looking at foreign horror films (mostly Korean) to see if they can be adapted for Tamil audiences. Tamil TV channels also prefer to buy horror-comedies, as they rake in the TRPs. Sundar C., who is now shooting in Pollachi for his Aranmanai 2 with Siddharth, Hansika, Trisha and a host of comedians, says: “Horror films treated with humour work best at the moment. Even when we have parties at home, people prefer to watch such films. In the West, this genre attracts only the youth audiences, but here, it is patronised by family audiences too.”
Lawrence believes that making a horror-comedy is no joke. “You can add as many scary scenes as possible, including ideas like the creaking door and the sudden close-up of a ghost, but the real challenge is to infuse the script with humour. The idea is to scare the audience one minute, and to make them laugh the next. I target the family audiences, and so, avoid too many scare scenes or showing much blood. I also try to keep the comedy clean.”
The producer of upcoming Nayanthara-starrer Maya (releasing on September 17), S. R. Prabhu, isn’t fazed by the competition posed by other horror films. “In a horror film, the overriding aspect is the fear factor. Maya is a supernatural thriller and has plenty of such scares. So, we’re quite confident about its success,” he says. Mahesh Govindraj of Auraa Cinemas, which is marketing Unakkenna Venum Sollu (also releasing on September 17), says: “ Unakkenna… is a different kind of horror film. It has an emotional character that is sure to work with our audiences.” Amid all these releases, the question is, will this horror boom last? Trade experts feel that the success will go on for some more time, as the production cost of these films is low and the genre does not need star-presence to bring in the audiences. Murali Ramanarayanan of Sri Thenandal Films, which has marketed many recent hit horror-comedies including Kanchana-2 , says: “Horror films are not new, as they have been getting made from the 1960s. But back then, these films had a limited market. Today, thanks to superior VFX and sound, there exists a fan-following for this genre.” For the moment, it appears that the ghosts are safe in Kollywood.