Bala – The Witch (1992)
Cast: Badar Munir, Nadia, Shahid, Saba Shaheen,Chakori, Kamran, Neimat Sarhadi
Director: Qaiser Sanober
Nutshell: Terrifying tale of sorcery and black magic and of course vengeance
Admittedly our grasp of pushto is limited at best (read non-existent) but I was left even more flummoxed than usual after watching this latest slice of pukhtoon fantasy. There were the usual wigged out goons in the jungle waging war against each other – that is virtually taken for granted, but what came as a pleasant surprise was that this was a seriously chilling horror film dealing with black magic and the supernatural and laden with the most fabulously cheesy special effects even Ed Wood would have envied.
The movie begins with a thrilling chase scene where we are shown a couple trying to escape a gang of armed hoodlums with their infant. It’s a fairly tense scene with some typically weird use of the zoom lens. As the tension mounts, the child starts to cry and the couple are caught by the hoods and taken to their leader; the dreaded cannibal and feared child eater Kublai Khan. Khan’s adoring subject’s watch in admiration as he prizes the tot away from its pleading mother and proceeds to chuck it casually into the blazing fire…a succulent barbeque for the evening. Kublai is turned-on by the mere suggestion of evil and he prides himself by being second only to Satan in perpetrating the vilest kind of horrors. In an instant the parents of the Crisp-Fried child are spectacularly beheaded…their heads rolling onto the ground in pools of blood!
Kublai is clearly not a creature to be crossed and sensible villagers flee at the mere suggestion of his name! One night while ravaging a nearby village Kublai finds a wench he fancies and swears to “have her” which incenses his girl back in the forest (a portly but still stunning Chakori) who in turn swears to unleash the most horrific kind of black magic against Kublai for spurning her. She takes to grave robbing at night, performing diabolical black magic rituals with the cadavers she drags up and preparing a special “cursed bread”.. Meanwhile, various turf wars ensue with Badar Munir being leader of a clan whose family was decimated by Kublai, seeking swift justice and an end to Kublai’s reign of terror. Kublai too has plans to increase his lands by attacking various nearby villages and therefore coming directly against Badar’s lot. Then in the middle of all this there is an area, which is infested with the most ghastly witches with severe dental problems…bloodthirsty, murderous witches who fly about the forest feasting on innocent and not so innocent victims in the most gruesome manner.
After moments of almost unbearable tension and a climax of excruciating horror matters are resolved when the beastly, flesh-eating witches are confronted with the powers of oversize Allah medallions in a scene of dazzling special effects. The movie is a gargantuan mess from start to finish with only the gory bits and the astounding witch scenes to save the day. Unfortunately even the songs are rather drab and this director (alas) doesn’t resort to the wonderfully lurid pseudo-porn that one has come to associate with the genre.
Sadly, the sleaze factor is almost zero, which is a huge disappointment, but the bone-chilling horror and the spellbinding special effects make up to some extent.
There is one fabulous scene however where a victim kept in a cage by the horrid Kublai has only her dead husband’s severed head as company. In a moment where she is overcome by unbridled lust, she takes the head off the stick it is perched on and starts kissing it all over before wrapping it in her dupatta – kissing it some more – and then handing it over to her pooch for onward transportation.
Quite amazing to see the censors approve of necrophilia, as the woman showers passionate kisses all over the severed head… the censor wouldn’t have allowed the same kisses had the head been attached to a live neck! The film was a follow up to the highly successful Adam Khor and was released on the 12th of June, 1992 just a year after Adam Khor had been acclaimed as the Best Film of the year.
The makeup effects are most impressive with the witches fangs being particularly appalling (appealing?). Unfortunately the plot is a total disaster and the film fails to hang together as a coherent piece in any sense. Nonetheless, credit at least for attempting something slightly different even if the Pushto Horror film ends up being considerably less horrifying than what their family oriented films are!