Lapachhapi (2017) director Vishal Furia’s horror film project Bogie No S4 won two major awards at the 2018 Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival (BIFAN) on July 17 in Bucheon, South Korea.

Written by Furia, and produced by Saugat Bhattacharya and Yogesh Karikurve, the project won the second prize at the Bifan Industry Gathering’s Network of Asian Fantastic Films award. Bogie No S4 has also won the Ventana Sur Blood Window award.

The Network of Asian Fantastic Films is a programme of the Bifan Industry Gathering, which promotes the co-production of genre films and helps discover new talents from around Asia. Blood Window is a section of Ventana Sur, the Latin American Film Market formed by Argentina’s National Institute of Cinema and Audiovisual Arts and the Marché du Film/Festival de Cannes, which specialises in the production and distribution of genre films.

“Winning the NAFF award from across 26 pitches across the world gives Bogie No S4 a stamp of approval that the concept is commercially feasible and also good for global release,” Karikurve told Scroll.in. “This betters the chances of getting co-production funding tremendously and also increases the possibility of an international release once it is made.”

Bogie No S4 is the only Indian film to win at BIFAN this year. It was one of four Indian projects pitched at the Network of Asian Fantastic Films this year.

Written by Vishal Furia and Vishal Kapoor, the screenplay revolves around Karan, a sales executive in his mid-thirties who is in a dead-end job and is reeling from the responsibilities of a new marriage and the unexpected pregnancy of his wife. One night, when Karan is returning home by the Palghar Express train, he realises that the passengers are not who they seem to be. A benign train journey turns into a nightmarish dive into Karan’s deepest fears. No actor has been cast yet.

Depression that drives people to commit suicide in India, a majority of which happens on railway tracks, forms the basis of Bogie No S4. This is Furia’s second “socio-horror” film, as the makers put it, after his directorial debut Lapachhapi, which was woven around the real-life horror of female infanticide in India. Lapachhapi was a modest box office hit that ran for up to 11 weeks in theatres in Maharashtra “despite facing competition from films like Jagga Jasoos and Jab Harry Met Sejal”, Furia said.

Lapachhapi and Bogie No S4 were written simultaneously, Furia added, and his new project is “not the case of repeating a successful formula”. He had been pitching Bogie No S4 to Indian producers for over a year. “Horror is a director’s genre,” Furia said. “It’s about mood and timing and someone would need to believe in me and my concept first. Producers met me because of Lapachhapi’s success, but soon they would reveal that their idea of horror is very different. It’s all about putting in songs or sex.”

As an example of what a serious filmmaker in the horror genre could experience in an Indian producer’s office, Furia spoke of an encounter while pitching Lapachhapi to studios.

The film begins with the protagonist and his pregnant wife travelling in a car to a remote village where the story is set. “One producer was like, let’s begin the film in UK [United Kingdom] with a honeymoon song sequence in Mauritius, and then they make out, and after getting pregnant, they are in the village,” Furia recalled. “Then, [add] a comedy track and some songs in between to give the audience a break.”

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Lapachhapi.

Lapachhapi was a fresh attempt by Furia to try new things within India horror cinema – using horror to make social commentary in the vein of films such as Get Out (2017) or The Babadook (2014), shooting the majority of the story in broad daylight, and making ubiquitous Indian imagery – huts, palm trees, and sugarcane fields – objects of terror.

“The maze created by the sugarcane fields [in Lapachhapi] from where the characters cannot escape was a metaphor for the complicated maze of traditions and rituals from which Indians cannot escape to this day,” Furia explained. “As for shooting in daylight, it was a way to say that this daily real-life horror of female infanticide does take place in the open, under the sun, and still, people don’t see it.”

As a fan of horror cinema, Furia feels that in Bollywood, the Ramsay movies made the genre disreputable, and that contemporary Hindi horror movies are more of the same with just better production values. The over-reliance on stars, songs, and sex in Hindi horror cinema prompted Furia to make his directorial debut in Marathi.

“I didn’t want my first film to be shabby,” Furia said. “The Marathi audience is more open to new genres, and the star system is not so prevalent here. There are no fixed ideas about what horror should or shouldn’t be.” But for Bogie No S4, Furia said that he would need a bigger market, as he wants all of India to watch it.

Lapachhapi. Courtesy Wild Elephants Motion Pictures.
Lapachhapi. Courtesy Wild Elephants Motion Pictures.

Bhattacharya, an advertising filmmaker who has turned producer with Bogie No S4, notes that no one in the Indian film industry wants to deal with horror films in a way they should be made. “Whenever horror [movies] comes from Hollywood, theatres are jam-packed, so why not tap into this market and make authentic Indian horror films?” he asked.

With Bogie No S4, the plan is to enter the international market. “Vishal [Furia] believes that blending horror with a socio-angle will draw in not just the audience but also influencers in the market,” Bhattacharya said. “Bogie No S4 being a socio-horror film, I believe it will be taken seriously.”