Dahshat (1981)


Dahshat (1981)
: Navin Nischal, Sarika, Om Shivpuri, Nadira, Madan Puri
Director: Tulsi & Shyam Ramsay
Music Director: Bappi Lahiri
Synopsis: Mad scientist has tables turned on him with truly horrifying results


Another early Ramsays effort which like so much of their stuff, takes its cue directly from Hammer’s Dracula series. The opening scenes are strongly reminiscent of Dracula Prince of Darkness where the village horsemen refuse to take travellers anywhere near the mist bound “basti” after dark as disturbing rumours have been circulating about the place. Navin Nischal is travelling home after a seven year break and unfortunately for him, his ancestral home happens to be right in the vicinity of the mysterious house where strange things are supposedly going on. This mystery house in the basti (locality) is inhabited by Dr. Vishal who is a full time mad scientist with various live animals in his lab which he uses for his warped experiments involving strangling bats in acid while removing their blood and then injecting the blood into apes!


Dr. Vishal also wears a queer black cloak and a very badly done bow tie yet that isn’t quite enough to have him arrested. Nadira is the Doctor’s highly frustrated alcoholic wife who is sick to death of her husbands experiments and constant rejection “You devil, you maniac, you rascal” she rants at him without the slightest response. She does however suspect that her husband is up to no good but no body appears to have any evidence to suggest that Vishal is connected in any way to the succession of deaths that have plagued the region of late. The doctor also has in his employ a mute (goonga) who suffers a dreadful ashen complexion and wears one of the doctors’ hand-me-down black shrouds which does make him appear fairly menacing.

Dahshat (1981)

One day in a mad fit of rage Vishal’s wife injects him with one of his own deadly serums. Days later she delights in watching him begin to sprout unsightly growths from various parts of the body. Slowly the gruesome plot reaches its shocking conclusion as Vishal’s condition deteriorates to cataclysmic levels. Never mess with nature, doesn’t matter where you come from or which language you speak or religion you follow….never, ever mess with nature! – One of the ten commandments of Horror Movies that.

The make up effects and transformation scenes are fairly hopeless but what elevates this movie from the garbage pail is the brilliant performance by Om Shivpuri as the deranged Dr. Vishal. The manic expressions, the bewilderment and the twitching, frothing rages are brilliantly portrayed by this master character actor who was one of the most underrated performers of his era. He single-handedly transforms a rather mediocre exercise in predictable tedium into something quite spellbinding. Alas the film is slowed down by the inevitable song sequences as well as the woeful Narendranath attempts at comedy.

Shivpuri and to a lesser extent Nadira take the only acting honours though Sarika screams well and Navin Nishal was to make a home for himself on the horror circuit for the next twenty years and more. Om Shivpuri’s tour de force supported by Nadira make this film well worth watching and the Ramsay’s to their enormous credit haven’t let the comedy or the song and dance take precedence over the horror. At least this time they have their priorities right with more emphasis on horror and less on the padding. Dahshat is a commendable effort from the Ramsay House of Horror with a sensational performance by Om Shivpuri.