In Kanchana 2 , the film’s hero Raghava Lawrence gets beaten up by his girlfriend played by Taapsee Pannu, who is possessed by a ghost. Actor Kovai Sarala who plays Raghava’s mother also gets it from her. “It is one of my favourite scenes from the film,” says Kovai Sarala, who has been a part of this hugely successful franchise. As the end credits roll, the director announces filming of two more sequels. “The audience always looks for a change. After a spate of action, and romance, now they want to laugh,” she says.
The film is a blend of horror and comedy and it is drawing the audience in droves to the theatres. This is not the first film of its kind. Aranmanai , directed by Sundar C stuck to the stereotypes of a horror genre but served it with plenty of laughs. A sequel, Aranmanai 2 starring actor Siddharth and Trisha is already underway. The director’s star wife, Kushbhu recently tweeted about it.
The trailer of the much-awaited film Mass , directed by Venkat Prabhu and starring Suriya is building hype as it ends on a spooky note… and there is more to come.
“The success of horror comedies have ensured that the paei (ghost) is not taken seriously anymore,” laughs actor Aari. His new film Maya is a supernatural thriller with Nayanthara. It is directed by newcomer Ashwin Saravanan and expected to release this month end. “I play an artist. The screenplay is believable. It will scare the audience, but there is humour too,” he promises. Aari says horror and comedy is a saleable combination. “There is mystery to darkness. It is exciting to watch the ghost stories which we have listened to from our mythology and folk tales. In a horror film, the overriding emotion is the fear factor. Add comedy to it and you have a deadly combination. Kanchana 2 got everything right with a romantic angle also woven in,” he says.
But actors need to put in so much more to pull off a ghost role. Says Rupa Manjari who played the female lead in Yaamirukka Bayamey that had a long run in the theatres, “The scene where I am possessed by a ghost was physically exhausting. But the reach was phenomenal. Pizza revived the horror genre after a good decade. But the films that followed added humour to it and it is refreshing. All credit to director Deekay... I laughed my guts out even while listening to the script of Yaamirukka … But, I flatly refused offers that came my way in the same genre. I want to move on to something new now.”
Kovai Sarala who was also a part of Aranmanai adds how such films require energy levels more than triple. “It’s an interesting concept as you scare the audience and the next minute you make them laugh. Earlier I used to be scared of ghosts. Now, after having done so many paei films, I start thinking to myself Naaney Pei ,” laughs the veteran actor.
Aari says the genre, once restricted to newcomers, is now explored by bigger stars. Rajinikanth’s Chandramukhi , a horror comedy turned out to be a bigger hit than Enthiran or Linga .
Technology and visual effects make ghosts look believable, says veteran director S.P. Muthuraman. “Horror comedy films should stick to the grammar of the genre, be it performances, photography, direction, scripting… Raghava Lawrence’s performance in Kanchana 2 stood out. Good use of graphics enhanced the chills and thrills. And, we had a hearty laugh too.” Muthuraman made a horror film Thunivey Thunai starring Jaishankar in the 70s. “It was my first colour film and became a hit.”
Haunted houses and ghosts on the prowl always intrigue audience, says director Krishna. His upcoming film a rom-com is titled Maaney, Thaeney Paeye . But he warns that any trend has a saturation point. “It will go on till people get bored of it. Scaring people is also entertainment. In cinema, horror genre is universal. In the 60s we had Jaganmohini , a horror-comedy which was a big hit. But the bottom line is one can never experiment much with the genre. You have to stick to the tried and tested formula.”
Actor and director Parthiban, who was seen in the 3D horror film Ambuli says, it’s time the genre offered something new.
“I took up Ambuli as it was an experimental film. Ghost films are not new. There have been suspense thrillers like Adhey Kangal way back in the 60s. But, why follow the same template even now?,” he asks and says, “It takes cinema a step backwards. Paei should be about more than scaring people. Something psychological, for example, when I make a mistake my guilt should come back and haunt me,” says Parthiban.