You want to redefine India’s horror landscape, says producer Nehal Pal


January 14, 2022 12:48 STI

Bombay (Maharashtra) [India], Jan 14 (ANI): Producer Nehal Pal, along with his writer-director husband Virat Pal, has been working in the horror genre for three years now, gaining a lot of recognition for their two short films, ‘The Bells’ and ‘ Facelift’. The duo’s debut horror short ‘The Bells’ was a viral hit on YouTube, garnering over 5.7 million views.

And their sequel “Facelift” played a host of incredible genre festivals around the world and has since garnered a huge following online as well.
In this interview, Nehal Pal talks about his eclectic journey in the media industry, his plans for their future projects, and his goals of establishing a horror movie landscape in India.
– Could you briefly describe your film career so far? And what are your future projects?
Like any 90s kid in India, I grew up on a steady diet of Bollywood movies, loving all the usual romantic musicals and family dramas that came out during that era. But even though I loved watching those movies back then, and if I can be honest I still hold a soft spot for them in my heart today, a part of me has always longed for something more. Something unique, different.
Stories that would challenge me as much as excite me. Initially, this itch was scratched by the books. Being a voracious reader in my teens, I would devour any classic authors, simply losing myself in the immersive world they would create.
Everyone from Roald Dahl to Sidney Sheldon to JK Rowling to name a few. But it wasn’t until college, when I met Virat, my husband, that I was exposed to different cinema, films of all genres, from all over the world and that’s when you could say, my true passion for films developed and my cinematic journey began. However, it took a few years to get there.
After college, majoring in journalism, I did a stint at Times Now as a graphic producer for 3 years. Post to which I joined a public relations company where I worked for a few more years. Although these were really exciting opportunities and great learning experiences, especially in the media field, I realized over time that my calling was something else. And at the instigation of my husband, Virat decided to immerse himself completely in my passion for cinema and to make it my job.
Three years, two film certificates from UCLA and a plethora of projects later, I can finally say that I am living my passion. Virat and I are currently working on the development of some horror projects in India, one of which is a horror movie which we will announce soon. Our goal is to tell relatable Indian stories, stories local to our experiences and culture, but with Hollywood-style detail and execution.
– What attracted you to the ‘horror’ genre? Is this your penchant for these films or do you simply plan to meet the needs and interests of the public?
It’s a bit of both actually. To tell you the truth, I was terrified of watching horror movies until about 2017. Growing up I had watched classics like ‘The Shining’, ‘Jaws’, ‘Halloween’, ‘Nightmare on Elm Street’ and the like and would even watch the likes of ‘Mama’, ‘The Conjuring’ once in a while. ‘ and ‘IT’ in the early 2010s (more than half with their eyes closed). But it wasn’t until after Virat and I got married and I moved to Los Angeles that I really developed a big interest in the genre.
For the first 6 months of our marriage, Virat made me watch a horror movie a night and helped me broaden my perspective on the genre. We watched movies from all over the world, from Japanese horror to Spanish horror, and the more I watched those movies, the more I realized how horror was being used by filmmakers around the world to talk about contemporary issues more vast in an entertaining way.
Indian audiences, especially young people, have now developed a fantastic appetite for horror films and TV series, thanks to films like ‘The Conjuring’, ‘The Quiet Place’ and ‘Parasite’ as well as to television series like “Haunting of Hill House”. , ‘Stranger Things’ etc.
We want to cater to that taste and give them stories from India, which are more relevant and current, all carrying a certain specific social message. This is where I feel the previous filmmakers faltered. “Horror” is one of those genres that is so flexible that you can explore all sorts of rich themes and deeper ideas and present them in a fun and compelling way.
– What do you plan to do differently with the content you want to produce?
With the advent of streaming platforms and their growing popularity, although I have seen a change in the type of topics films are about in India, we still have a long way to go. The West has been progressive with its stories for ages and we have a lot of catching up to do.
Having said that, I must say that India being a young country, we have many opportunities to make good meaningful cinema that can travel the world like Korean, Japanese and Spanish films which are very popular these days. What we can learn from the West is to reduce reliance on named stars or A-listers to headline movies. Especially with horror movies, this should be the way to go.
Horror movies don’t need huge budgets, movie stars, or any of those extra frills. In horror movies, the concept is the star! Moreover, in our current cinematic landscape, no major actor in India is willing to commit to a horror movie unless it is a horror comedy.
Why can’t we make creepy, brooding movies like “Sixth Sense” or “Hereditary.” These films deal with the subject so well. This fallback to comedy or sex when making horror movies is something I’m not a fan of. Satire, I can understand, but comedy, if not done well, can make a film feel campy and schlocky. That said, I understand that a well-done horror comedy can be extremely entertaining and effective, something like “Shaun of the Dead” for example. But that shouldn’t be the only kind of horror movies made. I plan to move away from this tried and true Bollywood formula and experiment with concept ideas on a low budget, as well as dig into our rich Indian history and culture. After all, we are a country of a thousand myths and legends, just waiting to be told on screen in an endearing and thrilling way.
But with all of these factors in mind, our goal is to make movies/shows with some kind of social commentary. We draw inspiration from great works made in the west – John Carpenter’s The Thing which talks about the detrimental effects of global warming to Jordan Peele’s Get Out which highlights racism to The Purge series which is rich in political overtones. Horror, as well as genre films in general, can be used as a Trojan horse to discuss important political and social issues.
Being a horror film, there is an inherent contract with the audience that, within the genre of the film, they will be scared and scared. But that’s only 40% of the movie. The remaining 60% is actual content that goes into story themes, which can be layered with deep meanings and metaphors; with ideas that might otherwise be boring to some viewers if presented in a serious drama film. These are just a few examples of the kind of stories we want to tell and the ideas we want to pursue.
I know I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again as my final word on this – I firmly believe there’s a plethora of Indian stories waiting to be told through the lens of horror , films that are local to our country and our experiences but in their aesthetics, execution, emotions and thrills have universal appeal. (ANI)


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