Roohani Taqat (1991)


Roohani Taqat (1991)
Cast: Kiran Kumar, Meethi, Javed Khan, Sriprada
Director: Mohan Bhakri
Nutshell: Mohan Bhakri’s rather spectacular version of Stan Winston’s Pumpkinhead


Stan Winston’s Pumpkinhead has already provided fertile pilfering ground for Bhayanak Panja but seasoned pilferer Mohan Bhakri had been the first to borrow from the film in 1991 when he concocted his own indianized interpretation with intriguing results. Roohani Taqat follows the tale of a vaunted tantrik Bherunath who has the ability to summon a dreaded zombie demon with his dark tantrik powers and thus every villager with an axe to grind would turn up at Bherunath’s shack asking him to resurrect his monster to carry out some terrible revenge. Bherunath had amassed quite a solid amount using his zombie as a soldier of fortune.

One night however a grisly incident occurs that forces the villagers to turn against Bherunath and shun him altogether, banishing him to the distant edge of the forest. A village belle had just married the man of her dreams and her jilted admirer approaches Bherunath for vengeance on the newlyweds claiming that he was cheated by the conniving woman. He demands that Bherunath summon the monster and the wrinkled old rubbery faced fellow duly obliges, sending his monster on his murderous mission. The monster duly attacks and kills the newly wed husband leaving his widow enraged and screaming for vengeance from Bherunath as well as the creature. She puts on the traditional widow’s white sari, finds some red chilies and a skull and starts spouting all sorts of mumbo jumbo to it while swaying in a tantrik trance. She vows to avenge the death of her beloved husband by seeking the darkest forces and becoming an even more powerful sorceress than the dreaded Bherunath. For the moment, she devotes herself to seeking the dark powers, waiting for the day when her devilish plan for vengeance will be unleashed on Bherunath and his monster for the destruction of her marriage.

The old hag (as she now is after years have passed) is especially excited the night a jeep full of rotund, overage students breaks down in the barren vicinity – the hag senses that these young people will be the catalysts that will bring about the vengeance she has been craving for so many years. Meanwhile the students are given shelter by the kind locals but terrible events lie just around the corner as three of the more sleazy students start lustfully sizing up one of the village beauties who is engaged to be married to an earnest and upright villager Karan (Kiran Kumar). The fiancée is brutally raped and commits suicide forcing a traumatized Karan to turn to the shunned Bherunath to beg him to unleash his zombie. Karan has to give his own blood to revive the terrible zombie and makes a blood pact with Bherunath that though the zombie will kill for his revenge Karan will suffer each time the zombie attacks a new victim as the two of them, Zombie and Karan are now irrevocably linked – for better or for worse!

In a quite astoundingly spectacular special effects laden scene – the ghastly zombie is slowly reanimated using Karan’s blood. The special effects reach a totally sublime, almost surreal level as the skull and bones are stunningly and spectacularly resurrected in a scene of unparalleled Bollywood special effects magic – recalling some of the majestic effects from the glory days of B. Subash’s gob smacking Surakshaa.

Though Roohani Taqat suffers from some of the ailments that seem to afflict all non Ram Gopal Verma horror flicks – that of inflicting stretches of horribly tedious comedy, almost always courteous of the rarely amusing Jagdeep. Here too the dreaded J-man is featured in no less than a triple role – each less amusing than the other. He is given a song and several interminable scenes amounting to about a fifth of the total running time – far, far too long! Bhakri somewhat compensates by having less than the usual amount of song and dance situations though there are the obligatory minimum needless to say. However, despite the tedium of the comedy sequences there are enough madcap events in Roohani Taqat to render it a jaunty but rather enjoyable ride.

Firstly, we have the sight of Bherunath – rubber faced sorcerer pitted against new vengeful eager beaver who is trying to outdo him at his own game. We have a stunning reanimation sequence – an intoxicating delicacy of dazzling special effects as the satanic zombie lurches back to life – a marauding, bloodthirsty monster being controlled by the dastardly rubber faced Bherunath. In between is the usual concoction of cheese, turgid comic relief including fart jokes long before Austin Powers and American Pie came along, sexual innuendo and sleazy make-out scenes to keep the audience from nodding off. Kiran Kumar turns in another truly earnest performance as Karan a good man forced to turn to desperate measures in order to exact revenge. The rest of the cast ranges from dreadful to abysmal, with the young leads being particularly atrocious. The actress as the hag tries hard to look menacing but fails completely in the effort looking more goofy than sinister.

Mohan Bhakri conjures just enough desi-horror-masala to keep things moving along quite nicely and considering his ultra-low resources (no budget to speak of) manages to turn in a reasonably entertaining Bollywoodization of the Pumpkinhead tale.