DUBAI // Intrigue, romance and horror will reach out and grab Bollywood fans brave enough to watch a new Hindi-language film that boasts eerie special effects.
Haunted, scheduled for release tomorrow, is billed as India's first movie shot in stereoscopic 3D, unlike earlier movies shot in 2D and then converted in post-production.
"It's a great love story with phenomenal effects that are magnified with 3D," said Arun Rangachari, the chairman of the Dar Capital Group, the Dubai-based investment advisory and private equity firm that produced the film.
"The thrills and spills of horror lend themselves to 3D."
Set in the mountains of India's northern Himachal Pradesh, the plot centres around a young Indian who returns from the United States to sell his father's sprawling property.
He realises the mansion is haunted, and stumbles on to the property's dreaded secret, only to fall in love with the ghost who haunts it.
Newcomers Mahakshay Chakraborty and Tia Bajpai play the lead in the movie with the ambitious tagline: "Feel real fear for the first time."
The film's trailer is packed with essential horror ingredients that threaten to strike out at audiences, such as screaming ghosts, apparitions on badly-lit staircases and crashing chandeliers, coupled with Indian twists such as deadly stinging cobras and six song-and-dance numbers.
"This is by far my scariest movie," said Vikram Bhatt, an Indian filmmaker who has directed 25 movies over the past 19 years and is well-known for his spooky films.
"I'm a peddler of fear, that's what I am. The prime grab-value here is the horror and the 3D - that will bring the audiences in."
A team of Hollywood technicians and 3D experts who worked on action movies such as Resident Evil: Afterlife and The Incredible Hulk were called in to oversee the technical aspects.
Inspired by James Cameron's 2009 blockbuster Avatar, four Indian movie houses last year announced films in the 3-D format.
Haunted marks the first of several slick 3-D thrillers and romantic Hindi-language movies planned over the next two years. Producers aim to erase the memories of the clunky and mediocre Bollywood special effects of the past.
However, Bhatt said he believes it is the plot of the two-and-a-half-hour movie that will grip viewers.
"I think 3D can only be the icing on the cake, it cannot be the cake," said Bhatt, 42, who shot to fame in 1998 with Ghulam, a film about an amateur boxer who turns his life around when he meets the girl of his dreams. "A great story and great music is what will keep people coming in. Just brilliant effects are not enough."
Trade analyst Komal Nahta agreed. "Everyone is depending on technology to increase the horror, the fright," Mr Nahta said. "But first, the story must be compelling, or the novelty wears out."
The lead actor, Chakraborty, 26, said he believed the entire package would appeal to horror movie fans.
"During the action scenes, we had to keep in mind the 3D factor. The narrative is enhanced with the effects," he said. "My character doesn't believe in ghosts and demons but what he sees in that house changes his life completely, makes him question everything he knows."
The film has also been dubbed in Spanish, as filmmakers explore new markets in Latin America and Western Europe. Producers chose to branch out from traditional markets in the US, Britain and the UAE. The industry has in the past attempted to tap fresh markets with little success.
"Spain, Portugal and Latin America can be key markets, and there will be a concerted effort to woo these markets," said Mr Rangachari, the Dubai-based businessman who announced plans last year to invest in Bollywood.
"Horror is very big in these markets and that is the reason for our new focus."