In Dubai to promote the third instalment of the Raaz horror series, the cast and crew believe Raaz 3 will trump previous Bollywood films in the medium.
'We have made Raaz 3 to return 3D to its glory in Bollywood'
The press conference in Dubai for Raaz 3 – the latest movie in the Raaz franchise from Vishesh films – was a full house, with everyone from the producers Mahesh Bhatt and Mukesh Bhatt and the director Vikram Bhatt to the writer Shagufta Rafique and the actors Emraan Hashmi, Bipasha Basu and Esha Gupta making an appearance. The cast and crew, who are visiting the UAE to promote the film, seem confident that the theatres will mirror this when the film is released this weekend.
"Come on," says the director Vikram Bhatt. "It's Bipasha in 3D! Who doesn't want to see that?"
The man has a point. The sultry Bengali beauty, who starred in the first film from the Raaz franchise (2002) but skipped the second (Raaz – The Mystery Continues in 2009), returns for the third instalment, where she appears alongside Emraan Hashmi (another Bhatt favourite) and Esha Gupta, who made her Bollywood debut in Jannat 2, another Bhatt film that was released only four months ago.
A 3D erotic-horror thriller with an adult certificate, Raaz 3 tells the story of the actress Shanaya (Basu), who is intoxicated by the dizzy heights of her own fame and is unable to cope when a new starlet (Gupta) moves in and threatens her career and love life (Hashmi plays Basu's love interest). When nothing else works, Shanaya resorts to black magic and voodoo.
Black magic may be a common theme for horror films in Bollywood, but Mahesh Bhatt insists that the audience should try to "look beyond the vehicle and focus on the story". The idea for the story came to Rafique after many frustrating weeks of trying to come up with something that would translate well into 3D.
"I had this brainwave in the middle of the night and picked up my phone, called Vikram and told him to come meet me immediately because I'd finally hit on what we'd been looking for. He was sick and in bed but I dragged him out, nonetheless," says Rafique, laughing at the memory. "He heard the story and his fever magically disappeared. Magic does exist!"
The team says it was keen on making a 3D film and wanted it to be perfect in every way.
"We have seen a lot of bad 3D work in Bollywood, unfortunately," laments Vikram Bhatt. "Our industry has made a mess of the medium. I worked so hard on my first 3D film, Haunted, in 2011. It was like building a house of cards that was then totally crushed by Ra.One and Don 2 with their shoddy and bad 3D. And so we've made Raaz 3 to return 3D to its glory in Bollywood."
"Vikram had already made a 3D film and he knows all the technical stuff," says Mukesh Bhatt. "Also, since he's the creator of the Raaz franchise and knows the medium, he obviously was the best man for the job."
"We have created what is going to be a landmark product," says Mahesh Bhatt. "We sourced the best technical team. Some of our people have also worked on Avatar. The audience will have never seen a film like this from Bollywood – I guarantee that."
Bollywood's lasting obsession
Coming right after Vidya Balan's highly acclaimed The Dirty Picture and just before Kareena Kapoor's forthcoming Heroine, Raaz 3 showcases Bollywood's obsession with itself, telling the familiar tale of a neurotic actress past her prime who resorts to black magic to reclaim the space swiftly being taken up by a rising star.
"The world of Bollywood is intriguing for audiences," says the producer Mahesh Bhatt. "People want to know the inside story. But as a filmmaker once said, films are not always about fact, they are about the 'grey truth'. So is Raaz 3, which tells the story of a star in decline and of another on her way up. It shows how the people on screen are just like you and me. They fear the same things we fear – sometimes even more so."
"This is not the first film to come out of the Bhatt camp that has the film industry as a backdrop," says the writer Shagufta Rafique. She counts off Bhatt's biggest early hits – 1982's Arth with Shabana Azmi and Smita Patil, Phir Teri Kahani Yaad Aai with Rahul Roy and Pooja Bhatt (his daughter) in 1993 and, more recently, Woh Lamhe in 2006 with Kangana Ranaut.
"If it makes a compelling backdrop, why not?" asks Rafique. "What matters is that a credible story has been turned into a film that the audience will appreciate and enjoy."