Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Bach Ke Zaraa (2008? 2009?)

An archeology professor has found an evil book of magic - the sort that's only genuine with its own face -  on an excavation. He takes it with him to his house in the woods and after making sweet sweet Bollywood love to his wife, decides that it is a good idea to read a conjuration from his new book aloud. Wouldn't you know? The spirit of evil possesses his wife who is now very eager to kill him. The professor turns out to be the better knife fighter of the two, though, and then does what comes natural - bury his wife in a shallow grave in the garden. He didn't expect her to rise again and end project "husband" with an axe, I suppose.

Years, days or weeks later, a quintet of adorable young people with adorable names like Sunny and Sweetie arrives in the same patch of woods to do more Bollywood sex and freeform frolicking.

Sweetie, who is there without a partner, follows a musical number sung by the professor's wife's ghost to the house where the beginning of the film took place. The building then proceeds to have a good laugh, royally freaking the girl out.

She returns to camp, only to find that her know-nothing friends care nothing about her story. Not even the sudden appearance of the local mysterious madmen uttering dire warnings can drive these young people away. Quite the opposite, being warned that entering the house means certain death only makes our "heroes" want to enter it in the first place.

Once there, the film stops even the slightest bit of pretension that it isn't an inferior copy of The Evil Dead and steals the rest of the older film nearly scene by scene, even including the sexually deviant tree.

Bach Ke Zaraa leaves me very much in two minds. On one hand, I very much approve of every attempt to shake up the terrifyingly conservative Hindi cinema to get a worthy exploitation cinema going again, and using The Evil Dead as a blueprint certainly is an agreeable enough idea, but Bach Ke Zaraa takes the theft of ideas much too far for its own good.

It is one thing to steal the basic plot of a classic, yet holding as slavishly to the script of the classic you copy as Bach's director Salim Raza does only lead to unfortunate comparisons the newer film should not wish upon itself. Basically, the second half of the film is exactly like The Evil Dead, just worse in every aspect, be it acting, effects or the extremely important timing of the shocks, leaving me with an intense need to dig out my DVD of the original.

It's just too bad, especially because that thing Raza should have learned from Raimi's original is how to make a film in one's own way, with energy and creativity taking the place of a budget. Of course, just outright stealing other people's ideas is less strenuous.

The only thing Raza does differently after the set-up lies in the amount of blood and pus he decides not to show, and that is of course less an actual creative decision than a spineless acceptance of censorship.

Having said that, I still think you can have quite a good time with the film. There's the endearingly stiff "sexiness" of the early parts not stolen from Sam Raimi, terrible actors who just happen to be terribly enthusiastic as well, and a handful of moments when Raza's inept carbon copy turns into a technically accomplished one - all things that make it difficult to outright hate Bach Ke Zaraa.

In a sense, you also have to admire the utter shamelessness of the film's intellectual theft that doesn't stop where Roger Corman or an Italian director of the 70s or 80s would have stopped - namely at the border of what I like to call "outright plagiarism" -, but instead blithely and enthusiastically flaunts its own creative bankruptcy, as if nobody working at the production had ever heard of lawsuits. Now that I think about it, Raza has managed to make a true exploitation film. Unfortunately, I can see little future in this style of filmmaking.


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