How a family which moved from Karachi to Mumbai became the pioneer of the horror genre in Hindi cinema.
Shyam Ramsay, one of the seven Ramsay Brothers, could not claim to have worked with the likes of Amitabh Bachchan or Rajesh Khanna or any other leading Bollywood actor of their times. And yet, the history will remember him as the man who pioneered horror cinema in India.
It all started when Fatehchand U. Ramsay, father of the Ramsay brothers, moved to Bombay from Karachi. Though it all began with an electronics shop, the family soon found itself in the movie business, however, without much success.
Constrained by debt in the early 1970s, the first stroke of success came with Do Gaz Zameen Ke Neeche in 1972, directed by Shyam Ramsay himself. Until the late 1980s, Ramsay directed many horror movies, thus earning the status of a cult filmmaker with a niche fan following.
Some of the popular movies of the era by Shyam Ramsay are Veerana, Purana Mandir, Purani Haveli, Tahkhana, and Ghungroo Ki Awaaz which even today is remembered for Rekha’s performance.
Unlike the big-budget films produced under the Rajshri or Yash Raj banner, the Ramsay Brothers never had blockbuster releases. Ramsay’s world was one of ghosts, demons, and spirits.
However, even then, the movies garnered sufficient business, given their low-budgets, negligible expenditure on actor fee, costumes, and sets. On average, the shoot for one film did not last more than 7 weeks and was made at 1/15th the cost of an average movie.
In the 1990s with the advent of coloured TV, Ramsay decided to venture into TV, and thus, we got the Zee Horror Show.
Though Ramsay had signed a 24 episode deal with Zee in 1993 before the beginning of ‘The Zee Horror Show’, the series went on for 9 years, with prominent TV actors a part of it. The last episode, starring Rohit Roy, was released in 2001.
Ramsay’s last directorial venture was 2017’s ‘Koi Hai’. However, the movie had no significant reception or recognition, for the genre and filmmaking style, both were out of time. This was not a one-off, for his films had a few takers since the early 2000s
History, however, will be more kind to Shyam Ramsay, and he shall always be remembered as the man who pioneered horror cinema in India.
Tushar is a senior-sub-editor at Swarajya. He tweets at @Tushar15_
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