“Toh Rahul Roy bolta hai ki main toh poornamashi ki raat mein hi shikaar karne ke liye nikalta hoon,” my friend said as we all listened to him, wide-eyed.
“Toh gaaon waale bolte hain ki aaj ki raat hi woh shaitaan sher shikaar ke liye nikalta hai. Aaj raat aap kahin mat jao. But Rahul Roy aur uska dost nahin maante aur chale jaate hain.”
This was our after-school ritual. The otherwise tedious journey back home in an overcrowded school van seemed a little more tolerable when a friend offered to tell us a story.
It could be anything. A comedy, thriller or even a new comic book someone might’ve read. But of all these genres, horror was the most preferable. We got the story minus the scary visuals. Win-win situation for everybody.
Hence, when a friend of mine came up to me in the interval that day and said “Bhai kal ek bahut sahi film dekhi maine nani ke yahan. Aaj van mein sunaoonga story”, I was naturally excited.
The film turned out to be the Rahul Roy starrer Junoon and almost 4 hours after my friend had excitedly come up to me during the interval, here I was huddled with a couple of other friends as he narrated the myth of the ‘ghost tiger’ that hunted only during poornamashi (full moon).
I did end up watching the movie a few days later and needless to say, was blown away by the film. Of course, back then I had no idea that it’d been ‘inspired’ by An American Werewolf In London. Nor did I find the special effects tacky.
For me, the reason why the movie worked back then, and still does, is because it seamlessly amalgamated our Indian sense of horror with the foreign concept of werewolves.
For an Indian audience that’d grown on a steady diet of poornamashi, amavasya and veeraan haveli, the additional chaos that a cursed tiger brought was more than welcome.
Also, for an audience that’d grown tired of the same old ghosts and evil spirits waiting for hapless victims in dilapidated buildings, the ‘ghost’ tiger as the antagonist came as a breath of fresh air.
What further helped the cause was the involvement of Mahesh Bhatt and Rahul Roy, both of whom were riding high on the stupendous success of Aashiqui that’d released two years before.
We might have some kickass special effects today but IMHO, Junoon did pretty well in the special effects department back then as well.
Considering it’s a 25-year-old Bollywood movie, which basically guaranteed a limited budget and limited technological access.
Hence, I guess we’ll all agree with these YouTube users.
Junoon was no cinematic triumph. Compared to Bhatt’s previous works like Daddy, Saaransh and Arth, Junoon came across as a mainstream departure of sorts. An effort on Bhatt’s behalf to take all the existing supernatural stereotypes and create something new out of it.
It wasn’t a quintessential horror film. Yes, there were elements of horror in it, but they were devoid of a regressive outlook Bollywood is notorious for having towards horror.
The one thing that has always been absent from Bollywood horror movies is subtlety. And even some of the later films produced by Bhatt aren’t any different. There are jump scares, an exorcism and a happy ending. That’s it.
But thankfully, Junoon was an exception. While the film had minimum gore, there were many scenes that evoked a sense of fear without being outrightly scary.
Like this scene of Rahul Roy casually taking out a chunk of his victim’s flesh from his teeth.
Or this scene where Tom Alter blows out Rahul Roy’s guts (pretty realistic by Bollywood’s standards BTW).
Visible efforts were made to show Rahul Roy’s journey from a normal human being to a monster. There was an effort made to present his psyche. There was an effort made to show his transition from someone who’s scared of his curse to someone who’s starting to enjoy it.
Junoon’s story might not have been the most original one but in the wake of movies like Creature 3D and 1920 Returns, it has acquired a newfound sense of respect. All we need now is a reboot. And I definitely wouldn’t mind Rahul Roy reprising his role.