The fathers of Indian film horror, Tulsi and Shyam Ramsay, are no more, but one man is on a mission to keep their legacy alive by creating merchandise based on the ghouls and demons from their movies. Earlier this year, Bengaluru-based entrepreneur Sandesh Shenoy launched Bollywood Crypt, which brought out t-shirts bearing designs from the Ramsay movies Veerana (1988) and Bandh Darwaza (1990).
Emerging soon from the crypt are Purana Mandir (1984) t-shirts. “I have rights to use artwork from about six-seven Ramsay brothers movies,” Shenoy told Scroll.in. “We are going to produce everything from tote bags to flags.”
A former business journalist and marketing professional, Shenoy started an extreme metal and electronic music label, Cyclopean Eye Productions, in the 2010s. He published music of South Asian bands considered too niche or unmarketable: Genocide Shrines and Konflict from Sri Lanka, Reek of the Unzen Gas Fumes from Japan, and the Indo-Russian outfit Jyotisavedanga.
As Shenoy managed to turn his musical passion into a profitable venture, he looked for a way to channel his love for horror films. “I grew up in the 1980s, and at that time, we all watched the Ramsay brothers movies on VHS, including non-Ramsay titles like Khooni Panja and Roohani Taaqat,” Shenoy said. “Today, their fans are scattered across India. I had this idea for producing horror-based merchandise with South Asian content, and the biggest names to start from in India were obviously the Ramsays.”
Shenoy met Tulsi Ramsay a few months before his death in 2018 to share his idea. “He was such a witty and humble guy and very up to date about day-to-day affairs,” Shenoy recalled. He returned with the rights to key titles of the Ramsay oeuvre.
For the artwork of Bollywood Crypt’s t-shirts, Shenoy roped in artists from across the international metal and horror community. The Bollywood Crypt logo is by fellow American artist and extreme music record label owner Antichrist Kramer. Another American musician and artist, Slasher Dave, designed the Veerana t-shirt. The other t-shirts have been designed by metal music album artist Brian van der Pol from the Netherlands.
Although producing objects of a niche interest, Bollywood Crypt has so far done decent business by developing a loyal following. “Initially the metalheads and the horror geeks who grew up with the Ramsays ordered,” Shenoy said. “So far I have had orders from Mumbai, Goa, Gujarat, Assam, even Daman and Diu. Now people from abroad are enquiring.”
According to Shenoy, the South Asian horror scene is “severely underrated” and has the potential to become a tight community, just like the metal scene. “While researching for Bollywood Crypt, I found out that the UK label Mondo Macabro published three DVD volumes of the Ramsay films, and today not one copy is sold under anything less than 150 US dollars. So there’s a market there definitely,” he said.
Driving Bollywood Crypt is the love for the horror films of yore. “Today, youngsters might look back and make fun of the production values and aesthetics of the Ramsay brothers, but that’s silly, because they were genuine innovators pushing boundaries in cinema,” Shenoy pointed out. “They went out of their way collaborating with the best prop makers to get the best costumes and makeup for their monsters. Even when they got influenced by the West, they drew from the best like the Hammer Horror films, Dario Argento, Mario Bava, and the giallo films. There’s lot to learn there.”
Shenoy plans to move beyond Ramsays with Bollywood Crypt. His focus is to tap into not just South Asian horror but also international horror. Through the next year, he will be producing merchandise based on the Pakistani films Zinda Laash (1967), “known as Dracula in Pakistan”, and the zombie movie Zibahkhana (2007).
Beyond Pakistan, the company will produce content based on the Indonesian horror film Mystics in Bali (1981), as well as of black-and-white silent-era titles like Haxan (1922) and Nosferatu (1922). “But that’s about all I can reveal right now,” Shenoy added. “We also have some American titles up our sleeve, but it’s too early to announce.”