Ramsay Brothers sowed seeds in horror genre that Bollywood continues to reap

Mumbai, April 7 (IANS) Gangu Ramsay, the veteran cinematographer, filmmaker, and producer of the Ramsay Brothers, passed away on Sunday at the age of 83.

While, he has been a part of many iconic films like ‘Veerana’, ‘Purana Mandir’, ‘Bandh Darwaza’, ‘Tahkhana’, and ‘Purani Haveli’, his banner of the Ramsay Brothers shaped the contours of the horror genre in India.

The Ramsay Brothers banner was started by Fatehchand U. Ramsay, whose second-eldest son was Gangu Ramsay. The family landed in Mumbai after the partition of India. F.U. Ramsay came to India with his extended family, including his wife, seven sons, and two daughters. He, along with his elder sons, set up a tiny electronics shop on Lamington Road, an area famous for computer accessories and electronics.

Though the shop did reasonably well, the family was large, and generating money to take care of everyone in the family seemed difficult. That’s when F.U. Ramsay decided to enter showbiz. He joined a group of other Sindhi refugee businessmen to produce the film ‘Shaheed-e-Azam Bhagat Singh’, the film didn’t perform well at the box office.

He later produced films like ‘Rustam Sohrab’, but it was ‘Ek Nanhi Munni Ladki Thi’, starring Prithviraj Kapoor, that changed the tides for the family, and also established a new genre of horror in India. The film didn’t work, but a scene where Prithviraj Kapoor wears a devil’s mask to carry out a robbery and terrifies Mumtaz clicked with the audience.

That’s when inspiration struck, as the Ramsays (as they were known) changed gears logistically and also in terms of cost as they experimented with ‘Do Gaz Zameen Ke Neeche’. The film was based on a story narrated by Fatehchand’s daughter Asha to her father. The film was made on a shoestring budget, but it registered huge success. Finally, F.U. Ramsay cracked the code of making pulpy horror movies on shoestring budgets.

While a normal Hindi film would require a year to be made on a budget close to Rs 50 lakh, ‘Do Gaz Zameen Ke Neeche’ was wrapped up in 40 days on a budget of Rs 3.5 lakh. The lesser expenditure and lesser amount of time, directly put them on a path to higher profits.

All the members of the family handled various departments themselves, which further reduced the production cost.

The formula made the Ramsay Brothers the pioneers of horror in India. They made more than 30 horror films in India, mainly during the low in the 1980s era of Bollywood, when the industry was struggling owing to the spike in piracy because of VCR.

The Ramsay Brothers also struck gold with actor Ajay Agarwal, who became a constant in their lives and also the face of horror. Ajay had a medical condition which distorted his face, making him the ideal choice for playing the ghost in Ramsay Brothers. The genre popularised him so much as a ghost figure that he became a slave to his own success. Ajay got to explore the artiste in him more when he played the dacoit in Shekhar Kapur’s cult film ‘Bandit Queen’.

The bedrock of all the Ramsay Brothers was the creative make-up and camera tricks used by Gangu Ramsay. The Ramsay Brothers not only made a place for themselves owing to their forte in horror but also bailed the industry at a time when even the likes of Yash Chopra were struggling and directionless.



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