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The Student of Horror Cinema Who Changed the Norms in Film Institute

Twenty years back a student in India’s top film institute made a film in the horror genre despite the odds and now it is the most selling genre internationally.

It was the year 2003 when a young student went to India’s top film institute, ‘Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute’, (SRFTI) to do a three years post graduate diploma in direction and screenplay writing after finishing majors in psychology and doing theatre for five years. To go to a film institute was a dream and he made most of his time to pursue the dream of filmmaking.

By that time, the only horror filmmakers in Hindi films, Ramsay brothers, were moving to romantic genres in films. None of the students of the institute made any horror film. But when that student decided to make a film in the horror genre, his project was then seen with frosty nosed. None were passionate about the project except his crew members. He was labeled as a B grade filmmaker. Even after the first screening of the film, one of his professors called it wastage of money.

But in the year 2008, that zealous student of cinema started sending his film to film festivals all over the world. The hard work and challenge paid off. The film was selected in the film competition in four international festivals at Spain, U.K., China and Estonia. The film’s screenplay was praised by the students at China’s premier film institute, ‘Beijing Film Academy’. After viewing the film a Hollywood producer offered work to this student of cinema.

Twenty years from then the time has changed. Today there is a greater demand for movies and series in the horror and supernatural genres. Twenty years back, that student of cinema perhaps saw the future of the horror genre either naively or with conviction. But it is a present now and the demand in this genre has kept increasing.

What’s a B grade film? People have no idea about it. To call a horror movie a B-grade film is a major mistake. The term emerged in the USA. There, theatres were absolutely controlled by major studios. Films made outside the studios couldn’t get released in theatres. After a law by the USA’s government, this monopoly was thrashed and films made outside major studios could get released in theatres. Such movies were called B grade films. The films were not lower in artistic quality. Even many films were awarded at various international festivals. In fact, many times, films made outside the major studios are better and make more profits. There is a long list of various low budget horror movies made independently and then making huge collections at box office.

However, that student of cinema wasn’t aware of this historical fact, when he made that film. What all he knew was his dream to make a horror and supernatural film and he did that. Later on, another horror movie was made based on his horror screenplay and he abandoned the genre for a long time to make a romantic comedy film named, Checkmate. But now, after twenty years, he is back to the horror and supernatural genre.

There is another legacy that he laid in his film institute. After his film, other students get the courage to make horror movies. And today if you go to the institute you will find a separate section of books in the library on horror movies. He not only made his horror film but also changed the attitude of students of cinema and put a legacy in India’s premier film institutes.

After twenty years, this student of cinema, Nikhil Sablania, is going to make his next horror film. His previous film was ‘Siski’ (English title – The Sigh). On this next project and on the horror genre he says, “People don’t want to touch a horror or supernatural film. It is like playing with fire or jumping on the tail of a sleeping tiger. It also needs a complete skill of cinema. One has to pre-conceive about shot designing, editing, sound design and effect that such film would produce. Even writing such a film is not like normal screenplay writing but rather designing. You have to design the entire screenplay to create the required reactions from the audience. And believe me, that it is very difficult to scare the people, to build suspense and to make the audience carry the feeling with them. That’s perhaps the reason why either filmmakers don’t make in this genre or failed to make sn interesting movie.”

The title of the next film is not disclosed yet, but the working title is, ‘Host’. It would be a movie with lesser dialogues so that anyone in the world can view the movie and experience a pure cinema. This is another challenge that Nikhil Sablania takes on to make a horror movie with minimum dialogues. The crew of renowned film professionals has been made and the casting is going on. Many newcomers will be on board in various departments of filmmaking. The film will begin its journey by 2024 with international film festivals in the USA and aims to attract an international audience. Vaaipl Private Limited is producing the film. We hope that once a student of horror cinema will give another master work in the horror genre.

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