Gehrayee: The Bollywood Horror Movie Marred by Controversy
Gehrayee is a Bollywood Horror Movie with a stellar star cast. After Mahal, I think of Gehrayee as the Bollywood horror movie that had a cast that few will match.
The cast comprised of Shreeram Lagoo, Anant Nag, Indrani Mukherjee, Padmini Kolhapure and Amrish Puri in a special role. Aruna Raje directs this script by Vijay Tendulkar.
It’s interesting that today, conversations about the movie are marred by some silly controversy. It is a unique and well-made movie, that could have spiraled down the way of sleaze. Maybe a female director at the helm didn’t allow that to happen. Here’s all that you’d like to know about Gehrayee.
Chennabasappa is a successful businessman who has decided to sell the land in his village. His family servant, Baswa, is not happy with it but he can do little more than accept his employer’s edict.
Chennabasappa tells Baswa that he will ensure that he will get a job in the factory that’s starting. Chenna’s family comprises his wife, son, and daughter. Chenna doesn’t believe in the supernatural and has a strict and domineering nature.
Though everyone respects him, nobody is happy with his domineering nature. His son, Nandu, already has a conflicting nature with his father. Things are never hunky-dory between father and son. Uma, the younger daughter is busy with her life as well, with her school being the center of her universe. Nandu decides to travel for a picnic on the eighteenth of that month.
Their servant, Ramu, tries to persuade him to not travel on that day. Both Chenna and Nandu dismiss this as rural superstition. On that fateful day, Chenna doesn’t have a positive board meeting. Also, they receive a call that Nandu has met with an accident. The accident news turns out to be a false alarm and Nandu is back home safe and sound.
Uma starts behaving strangely, and the family tries to solve the issue. Things take a turn for the worse when one day, Uma behaves strangely with Nandu’s girlfriend, who had come to visit the family. The family is now in despair over how Uma behaves.
The most problematic aspect is that Uma starts talking in a brash, rough tongue and speaks in a highly vulgar and rural dialect. The seemingly high society and well-cultured family cannot take it.
One day, Nandu decides to spend the whole day with his sister, so that see gets refreshed. Nandu and Uma have a good time together. When they return home, however, Uma goes into a trance and tries to seduce Nandu.
The psychiatrist now says that the only solution for Uma is the shock treatment. Uma’s mother is very worried about this. At the same time, the family is shocked about Uma’s behavior with Nandu as well.
That’s when the house servant, Ramu, suggests that they should show Uma to a Baba. When the family is a bit discerning about it, he tells them that he could at least bring a lemon that’s purified with some sacred chants. He tells them that the sacred chanted lemon must be placed under Uma’s pillow. If the next morning, the lemon turns black, Uma is possessed. If the lemon doesn’t change color, everything is all right with Uma.
Nandu tries to reason with father against the shock treatment but to no avail. Distraught, he agrees to Ramu’s idea of the sacred lemon. That night, they put the lemon under Uma’s bed.
In the morning, Nandu and Ramu check whether the lemon has turned black. However, to their shock, in the morning, the lemon had disappeared. The trio keeps this to themselves.
In the evening, when Uma is playing carrom with the family, she goes into another delusion and tells about a Mahadeamma, who committed suicide because she was pregnant out of wedlock. This is when Chenna’s wife finally understands that this is possession has something to do with her husband and Baswa’s wife.
Chenna confesses everything to his wife. He tells her that he had a one night stand with Baswa’s wife, back when he was very young. That concluded in her being pregnant. After this, Uma is given shock treatment.
Uma returns from the shock treatment but things are not going as they should be. The next day, the food turns into cow dung. Chenna goes wild and accuses Rama of trying to disturb the house. Ramu leaves the house.
Uma’s condition worsens and the trouble between Nandu and his father increases. But looking at Uma’s condition, even he agrees to use supernatural activities to cure Uma. They contact several Swamis and Gurus.
Chenna forgives Ram and Rama returns as well. One of the Gurus promises that Uma will be all right. He asks Uma’s mother whether Uma is a virgin. She replies in the positive and the Baba says that he will conduct a pooja the next day.
However, he abducts Uma in the night and tries to sacrifice her to a God that he prays to. The family doesn’t give up though, and contacts another learned Baba. When he comes into the house, he immediately finds out the lemon – thrown at the top of the roof.
The Baba then tells the family that they will find something on the trees. As expected, they find witchcraft material. The Baba burns the material along with the lemon.
He invites them to his house the next day, so he can pray with Uma and banish the demon forever and ever. Chenna has some apprehensions, but he finally bends to his family’s will.
During the prayer ceremony, the Baba finds out everything that there is to know about Uma’s possession. The demon confesses that Baswa had another Baba capture him and order him to possess Uma.
The Baba banishes the spirit, who promises that he will never return. Nandu also gets closure by going to the village and questioning Baswa’s spirit, who tells all about what occurred between his wife and Chenna.
There can be no movie like Gehrayee. Gehrayee is one of those very rare Bollywood horror movies that get under your skin, scare you, and revolt you.
All this, while sending a message about everything that’s wrong with India – the caste system, the rich and poor divide, and the strange misogyny that we live in – even today.
The movie released in 1980, but the story’s still relevant today. Switch on any of your favorite true-crime series and you will see one Gehrayee type story. The sacrifice scene, Uma’s nude in that one.
Director Aruna Raje uses a peculiar camera angle that comes across as just on this side of voyeurism. It isn’t the nineties type of camera angle, but still. Another controversial scene is where Uma comes on to Nandu, her biological brother.
Even for those who find it controversial, its a mild shock and something that creeps under the skin for a while to come. That same year saw the release of the Padmini Kolhapure starter Insaf the Tarazu.
That movie had an extended sexual assault scene filmed on Padmini as well, which put her in the infamous category. Raj Kapoor cast her in the mainstream movie Prem Rog.
She did win the Best Supporting Actress Film Fare award for Insaf ka Tarazu, though. Gehrayee is a must-watch for horror movie audiences of all ages and regions. It will be a learning experience for them.