Also Known As:Black Magic (India: English title)
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Prem Chopra and his daughters drive off from the city to their ancestral village for a visit. The girls have recently lost their mother and it's a period of healing for the family as they gather at the old family house still occupied by the grandparents. As they are about to enter the village they are beckoned by a simpleton who tells them to pay respects to the holy Peepal tree that marks the entrance to the community. Chopra merely scoffs at the backwardness of the boy as they drive by disdainfully not noticing a menacing looking black cat casting fierce looks in their direction.
Baby Pinky, the younger of the daughters, waddles off exploring the fields and bursts into song about the virtues of country living "yeh lovely, lovely Gaon", when quite suddenly she becomes entranced by a distinctly wobbly if bewitchingly attractive butterfly that leads her to some derelict ruins. Upon entering the ominous ruin, Harsha (Pinky) is welcomed by a sinister man lurched on a charpoy. In his booming voice he asks her to do him a favour by opening him a bottle of medicine. As soon as she does, there is a puff of dust and Harsha goes AWOL having an almighty giggling fit accompanied by severe twitching seizures. The dark character on the charpoy cackles in victory as his spirit, enslaved for so long in a pathetic bottle of cough syrup is finally unleashed and it swiftly takes possession of poor unsuspecting Harsha. There is a horrifying scene where Harsha fly's into a rage and starts twitching and shaking and slamming up and down on the ground while cackling maniacally.
The child soon assumes superhuman strength and takes a visiting Doctor to task, pummelling him to oblivion. The grand parents claim that the child has been possessed by the vengeful spirit of Pannalal and send for the local tantrik (witch doctor). When he arrives he is insulted upon by Harsha's new-age elder sister (Reena Roy) who refuses to entertain notions of evil spirits and demonic possession. The rather impressive looking tantrik (Premnath) is humiliated and sent packing by Reena despite the protestations of profusely apologetic grand parents.
Reena and her father, upon returning to the city are told to consult the famous and incredibly brilliant and handsome psychiatrist Dr. Kailash, dashingly played by Feroz Khan. Dr. Kailash is a modern, scientific man who doesn't have the time for notions of evil spirits and demonic possession mumbo jumbo. Initially his treatment seems to work miracles as Harsha reverts to normal behaviour and even returns to school. Alas, every once in a while she lapses into her murderous demonic state which appear to be triggered by the sight of blood, a black cat or the satanic butterfly. Harsha starts skiving off school and calling up strange men for liaisons and then attacking them with murderous intent.
Inspector Jolly Goodman (Ashok Kumar) as canny a sleuth as one could imagine, is rapidly on to the case and discovers that the increasing tally of murders seem to be related. Meanwhile Dr. Kailash appears far more interested in wooing Harsha's beautiful sister rather than treating the child as he sings ponderous love songs to her while his patient lies foaming and frothing at the mouth. Ultimately science and modern techniques prove worthless and Harsha's family have to resort to the mighty powers of the Tantrik who must endanger his own life in order to save the child and drive out Pannalal's horrendous demonic spirit.
There are some spectacular special effects along the way as we are shown Harsha in all sorts of terrible states of possession. She speaks in all sorts of strange, maniacal voices and has the ability of assuming any persons voice. The twitching fits are spectacularly staged but perhaps the most astounding effect of all, other than the puking is the bit when Harsha levitates and end ups up walking upside down on the ceiling like Lionel Richie did in the video of Dancing on the Ceiling. However, having put up much stiff resistance to the mystifying antics of the tantrik baba, Panalal's priyatatma (spirit) finally breaks down in the face of an endless Bhajan and the threat of a fourth holy lemon being exploded in his direction.
The message of the film is the age old one of traditional methods and values being undermined by modern science, thought and technology and the doom that this spells. In this scenario we have the home made traditional methods of the tantrik and the old fashioned wisdom of the grand parents being rejected by the English speaking city folk who have neither time to visit the mandir nor any spiritual belief. The degree carrying, jacket and tie wearing foreign educated psychiatrist who mocks the methods of tradition finds himself hopelessly impotent in front of the dark forces of evil.
Baby Pinky is superb in the central role of the tortured child. Her eye rolling movements and especially her phenomenal twitching spells have rightfully won her worldwide acclaim. Reena Roy is her reliable self and looks suitably coy during the laborious romantic scenes. Feroz Khan is quite magnificent as the suave Dr. Kailash and Ashok Kumar lends admirable support as the quirky but insightful inspector Jolly Goodman.
Not as cheesy as the Ramsay's productions due to its superior star cast of seasoned pro's rather than the usual nobody's and reasonable production values. The music director does fairly well to infuse a sense of terror and some of the camera angles and lighting tricks are fairly effective if rather over used. The film major drawback is that it is slowed down by the injection of the romantic subplot as well as some pathetic attempts at comedy which take the film off track. But, on the whole, this desi Exorcist is a reasonably commendable effort. The film ends with the terribly profound statement "…So there is no end to the unfolding mysteries of nature. God Knows how long men will take to explain so many things yet unexplained." Indeed.