Chudail – The Witch (1997)
Cast: Kiran, Poonam Das Gupta, Naveen Nischal, Reeta Bhaduri, Monali Singh
Director: P. Chandra Kumar
Music Director: Usha Khanna
Nutshell: Lusting beauty condemned to die, returns for fresh meat and revenge
This low budget shocker follows familiar turf of a vengeful spirit returning from the netherworld to exact revenge on those who did her wrong. The film begins when a Tantrik of considerable repute is summoned to a grand haveli where the Lord is dying of some mysterious ailment that has left the city doctors and specialists flummoxed. The tantrik strides in purposefully with his aide and starts the exorcism, but just as he is about to begin, he glimpses the ample bosom of the Lord’s daughter and is seriously distracted from his duties thereafter.
Later on he makes his move on the sultry daughter and finds that she is a most willing partner. The two of them are busy at it when Raja sahib regains consciousness and starts edging towards the room where the “strange sounds” are emanating. In his horror at discovering his precious daughter going at it with the fraudulent tantrik, he has a stroke and dies on the spot.
Sundari, the Raja’s daughter is left to fend for herself in the vast and lonely haveli with no one to keep her company. The gormless, senile neighbour is hardly going to be the tonic for her ravenous sexual appetite and so she continues her liaison with the lecherous tantrik who teaches her all his black magic rites in return and even grants her the same immortality he has. Though delighted at the prospect of remaining gorgeous and youthful for eternity, Sundari is stunned to find that her role in life is to be the muse of the tantrik and he shall not permit her to feed her own voracious sexual appetite by keeping her own lovers. At this point Sundari uses the spells she learnt off the tantrik to bring an abrupt end to his immortality by stabbing him with a “Kaali” dagger.
When news of Sundari’s lustful romps reaches her uncle in the city he dashes over to the haveli to put a swift end to them. Though the uncle doesn’t accept the tales of Sundari’s dabbling with black magic he finds that there is no other explanation for the horrors that confront him upon arrival at the haveli. A mighty tantrik known as Jeet baba is summoned to trap Sundari and destroy her. Jeet Baba summons all his strength and compels Sundari to the exorcism ritual where through deft use of some holy exploding lemons he manages to get her in a state where she is helpless. At this point Jeet baba has three metal nails hammered into her skull which unsurprisingly leave her stone cold dead. The uncle and Jeet Baba’s accomplice then shove Sundari’s corpse in a box and bury it deep in the earth. The evil is therefore buried, but surely not for too long.
Time moves on several years and we are shown a group of unlikely archaeologists heading out for the site where we know Sundari met her grisly end. As the excavation begins, things start going mysteriously wrong with a worker plunging to his death in a crack that opens up quite suddenly where he had been digging. The archaeological unit discover Sundari’s coffin and make the terrible mistake of opening it up. Her rotting corpse is sent to the hospital for examination and then the horrors start to mount. The evil tantrik’s assistant overhears the police talking about the discovery of Sundari’s body and he dashes off to a cave and pulls out his mystical tantrik drumming kit and starts pounding away like crazy, obviously in a trance.
Meanwhile at the hospital the patient’s trolley bearing Sundari’s rotten corpse goes mad and streaks around the hospital corridors as though possessed. Her coffin starts following suit and there are scenes of total mayhem at the hospital as the tantrik’s pounding seems to bring an unearthly life back to the veins of Sundari’s corpse. Indeed the two of them team up like Dracula and Renfield and she plots her strategy of vengeance and also plans to enjoy plenty of young men to make up for lost time.
Unfortunately like most of its kind the film tends to suffer due to the injection of a totally unnecessary romantic sub-plot. All this does is slow things down considerably and also force the poor viewer to endure some truly wretched performances by the lead pair….and the horribly long and boring songs make things even more tedious. Then there is the putrid attempt at some crowd pleasing comedy (Paintal) which is tortuous at best. Other than the wretched romance and the comedy scenes the film holds together surprisingly well and there are some excellent moments like the scenes at the hospital.
Usha Khanna’s atmospheric music score enhances the horror considerably (though her songs are awful) and Sundari’s theme and demented cackling have a knockout effect. Poonam Das Gupta does brilliantly as the blood-lusting Sundari and her deranged sidekick Renfield is also performed to the hilt. In a thrilling climactic exorcism scene, the tables are turned dramatically as Jeet Baba’s might is rendered useless by the marauding power of the black magic preaching Sundari. In a departure from the usual, the mighty Tantrik is left for dead as the ghastly Chudail continues her murderous rampage. Fortunately there’s still the holy swastika book as a last resort.
Though the special effects are easily as cheesy as most of the acting and the witch itself could have been a little less scarecrow like, the film has enough energy and horrible sequences to elevate it from most Bollywood horror. Not a good film by any stretch of the imagination, but reasonably entertaining with enough moments of blood curdling Bollywood style terror to satisfy. We’ve certainly seen a lot worse.