Maa ki Shakti (Ammoru) (1996)
Cast: Suresh, Saundarya, Rami Reddy
Director: Kodi Ramakrishna
Music Director: Chakravarthy & Shree
Synopsis: Successful South Indian mythology-drama-horror special effects extravaganza
Maa Ki Shakti was a huge success when it came out in the mid 90’s. The superb special effects – quite groundbreaking for a desi horror film – dazzled audiences in the South and were the star attraction of this fangled mythology based fairytale fantasy.
A bunch of villagers decide to try to tempt a Devi to protect them from bad luck and they perform a ritual fast and cook five huge pots of food as a sacrifice to the gods. Meanwhile a nasty, grumpy hag plots and schemes about how she is going to snag a huge amount of wealth by snaring a young graduating doctor who is returning to the village having learned his trade. The hag is going to use her lusting daughter in order to snag the young doctor and once they are married she intends on having all the property signed over to her daughter so she can live happily ever after.
The hag has a son who is hoping to make it big as a tantrik of the dark forces. At the moment he has built himself quite a reputation but once in a while his endeavours don’t work out as hoped. He has yet to make it to the top flight of evil tantriks but is hoping to join their ranks sooner rather than later. One desperate young college girl approaches the sleazy evil tanktrik to get the exam papers for her in advance. The airhead is conned by the tantrik into an experiment that goes woefully wrong. The tantrik is caught red handed by a Sridevi-like girl-woman, all boggle eyes and sickly sweet innocence and irritatingly bubbly – she is the one who captures the dashing young doctors heart when he arrives home evoking the wrath of the hag, the evil tantrik brother and their nasty clan.
Meanwhile one night a grinning woman appears who speaks with a strange echoing voice and has an unreal calm and composure about her – as though on antidepressants. The mystery behind the calm persona is revealed as she turns out to be a big time Devi who has come to the village to help out. The young girl who she reveals herself slyly gets the Devi to promise to stay until she returns from an errand after which she promptly goes and jumps in a well thus forcing the Devi to remain for all time to come!
Meanwhile the devi morphs into a wonderful looking mini stupa-Devi and is worshipped by all the villagers other than the black magic following minority. As love blossoms between the debonair young doctor and the Sridevi clone the evil hag stirs up some serious trouble by plotting and scheming and turning the villagers against poor innocent Sri. The film moves along at a rapid pace along its utterly convoluted, surreal pseudo-religious plot and works more like a traditional “family drama” rather than a horror film until the last quarter of the movie when the special effects start to kick in. The effects are so effectively integrated to match the spirit of the film – they evoke a totally magical aura and bring the fantasy of the story to lurid and spectacular life.
The great special effects which were prepared in London are what elevate this mythological fantasy into something rather extraordinary and indeed memorable. Other than the effects which are the films major strength, other aspects of the film that add to its effectiveness is the impressive background score and the total reliance on local, home-grown horror ideas rather than any borrowing from The Exorcist, Evil Dead, The Omen and so on. The plot and the horrors however bizarre and fantastical, are all home grown ideas and the film is far more fascinating for it. The film is also full of old world rituals and customs from an age gone by – a film that is totally Indian in flavour and origin. The lighting-wallah and make up effects also deserve praise as the film is bathed in an assortment of dramatic blue and red hues that add to the magical, otherworldly aura of the movie. Maa Ki Shakti is a hugely dramatic and over the top, visually dazzling, mythological epic boasting some stunning and totally appropriate special effects – a tad overlong and one song too many perhaps but an engrossing if mystifying experience.