As a lifelong horror fan and a recent convert to the wonderful world of Bollywood, I was looking forward to sampling the exotic world of Bollywood horror. Would it draw upon ancient Indian mythology? Would there be strange and horrible creatures that we in the West have never encountered before? Would there be singing and dancing? Sigh. No such luck, at least not in this flick. DARNA MANA HAI is a western cliche transplanted on the Indian subcontinent with nary a change or a breath of fresh air to be found in the stale old formula. It's the old tried and true bummer about a group of college kids taking a long drive through an isolated jungle and making an ill-advised short cut. Guess what happens next? They get a flat tire and have no jack. Off in the jungle one of them spots a light (yawn) so all but one of them decide to go see if they can get help. There's no help to be had however. There's just a lantern hanging on the wall of an old ruin. So they decided to build a fire and sit around and tell each other scary stories until the owner of the lantern comes back. From here on the movie slips into anthology mode as the kids tells their stories, with breaks in between so that one of them can wander into the jungle and get killed off screen--sorry, not a lot of gore here folks. Now the anthology form has been used to death but can still be effective as long as the individual stories are interesting. Here, alas, most of them are not. Only the Hitchhiker segment broke the mold (cracked it really), although the Apple story was interesting because it was an oddity; a woman buys apples from a street vendor at a ridiculous low price only to find that they have a terrible effect on all those who eat them. The film has a vague wrap-around story and the usual twist that can be seen coming a mile away, but there was an unusual shading to that ending that I won't give away in case you're reading this and still have an interest in seeing the film. I would advise against renting it however. You've seen most of this before and certainly Bollywood must have something better to offer when it comes to horror than this. DARNA MANA HAI translates to "Fear is forbidden'. I wonder how you say "Boredom is guaranteed" in Hindi?.
I can't believe that this type of film translated so literally into another culture. I had expected more in the way of cultural differences when it came to horror movies and what worked within other socities. In fact I only found two significant differences here; the first was that all the kids were really nice. There was no nasty-ass skank or foul mouthed jerk that you just couldn't wait to see get what was coming to him. The other was that there was virtually no violence whatsoever. Almost everything that happened happened off screen. I can't believe that this is representative of all Bollywood horror films, but time will tell.
I suppose that at this point I should add that DARNA MAN HAI is subtitled since I realize that not everyone enjoys having to read a movie--especially a horror movie. Other reviewers seem perturbed and confused by the fact that all modern day Bollywood films frequently have characters lapsing into a few words or even several lines of English for no apparent reason. I can't imagine why anyone would have a problem with the occasional English, it only makes sense when you consider that India was under British control for well over 300 years. Still it can make the Bollywood novice lose his/her concentration the first couple of times it happens, so be warned.