I am not a fan of horror movies and thus I keep myself as far away from the genre as possible. But the following movies were not listed as horror, and yet scared the living daylights out of me:
1. Ek Hasina Thi
Sriram Raghavan’s debut feature-length film starred Urmila Matondkar and Saif Ali Khan in lead roles and was a neo-noir thriller unlike any that Bollywood had seen. A gritty storyline and a protagonist that evoked both, sympathy and fear, thanks to a career-defining performance by Urmila, made Ek Hasina Thi a film that sent shivers down your spine. Remember that climax?
Easily one of Bollywood’s finest thrillers ever made, the suspense in Kaun? was almost impossible to guess, which made the final reveal that much more exciting yet shocking. Backed with brilliant but terrifying performances by both, Manoj Bajpayee and Urmila Matondkar, Kaun? still has me terrified, even though it has been decades since I first saw it.
3. Raman Raghav 2.0
An undoubtedly horrifying and gruesome psychological crime-thriller, Raman Raghav 2.0 was not an easy film to watch. Starring Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Vicky Kaushal in lead roles, the film explored the extent of human depravity, questioning the lines between right and wrong, and left the audience reeling in shock and fear (or was that just me?).
This Radhika Apte starrer proved her mettle as a brilliant actor, long before her stint with Netflix earned her widespread fame. The noteworthy special effects, taut writing, and powerful performance make this film, about an agoraphobic artist, a terrifying but gripping watch.
Though this is one of the more melodramatic movies on the list, Dushman (a remake of Eye for an Eye) left me so terrified as a kid that I have never been able to muster the courage to see the film again – all thanks to Ashutosh Rana’s absolutely creepy, spine-chilling act as Gokul Pandit. A special mention to Kajol’s memorable performance and the movie’s beautiful soundtrack!
6. The Stoneman Murders
This crime thriller should be on your list, if for no other reason than to watch Kay Kay Menon’s amazing performance as sub-inspector Sanjay Shellar. Based on the real-life serial killing in the Bombay of 1980s, the film sent chills down your spine, despite steering clear of gory shots. Now that’s the magic of phenomenal writing and direction!
There is a very high probability that not many people remember this crime-thriller starring Manoj Bajpayee, Antara Mali, and Vivek Oberoi. Though not without flaws, Road earns a spot on the list because of the way the story meanders between suspense and dark comedy, ultimately transforming into a disturbing thriller. Though a more taut script would have definitely made the film more memorable.
Regarded as one of Kashyap’s finest films, this thriller drama earned critical acclaim for its gripping storyline, seemingly devoid of morality. Considered to be a path-breaking film, morbid in its beauty, Ugly is definitely not for the faint-hearted.
9. Table No. 21
Table No. 21 featured a villainous avatar of Paresh Rawal that is the stuff nightmares are made of, and though it touched upon the issue of ragging it also left me fairly scarred. Even though it opened to mixed reviews, what no one could deny was that it made for a gripping, though macabre thriller indeed.
Anushka Sharma debuted as a producer with NH10, and what a thriller! With an unexpected female protagonist and a storyline that kept you on the edge-of-your-seat with the constant twists and turns, NH10 is not an easy film to sit through. But, its social commentary does make it a must-watch.
Though its inspiration from The Silence of The Lambs is contested, there is no question about the fact that the film was hard to shake off, especially Ashutosh Rana’s performance as Lajja Shankar Pandey. However, it has to be said, that in hindsight, perhaps the movie contributed to an unfair representation of the transgender community.
Rajkummar Rao was absolutely flawless in Trapped, a survival drama that was the modern-day nightmare. While the premise in itself was chilling enough, the execution is what raised the film from just another drama to a terrifying tale or urban horror.
13. Samay: When Time Strikes
Inspired by the psychological crime thriller Se7en, Samay is one of Sushmita Sen’s better films from the early 2000s. The element of fear comes not so much from the actions, but rather from the way the suspense unfolds, which keeps you guessing right till the end.
Is there a movie you’d add to the list? Let us know in the comments section below.