Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Census Bloodbath: In-Die-A

Year: 1981
Director: Irshad
Cast: Vinod Mehra, Bindiya Goswami, Kavita
Run Time: 1 hour 58 minutes

Plot: Sansani: The Sensation opens with two mysterious men arriving in a rural Indian village. Almost instantly, people around town start to be murdered, and suspicion falls on one of them: Ajay Sachdev (Vinod Mehra of the previous year's Saboot), who has been staying in a local boardinghouse and fallen in love with lovely local maiden Nisha (Bindiya Goswami). Ajay knows he isn't the killer, but he sets out to discover who is, and whether or not they're linked to the mysterious woman in white who drifts through the graveyard in the middle of the night.

Analysis: A quick pair of notes. First, oopsie doopsie, here is another film that I missed during my many rounds of research on Census Bloodbath. Turns out that people aren't standing in every corner of the Internet extolling the virtues of early '80s Bollywood slasher cinema, so you really gotta dig in there for yourself. Second, this film was only accessible to me in unsubtitled Hindi, so plot details will be understandably fuzzy, and my review should be taken with a grain of salt, though I focus on the visuals and adherence to the slasher formula, which transcend language.

OK. So, I do love Bollywood cinema, but either my tastes skew more modern or the slasher is fully incompatible with the style. I think it's the latter. The cheap, tawdry nature of the American slasher film refuses to be bent and ends up snapping in half, leaving the Bollywood attempts at the subgenre anemic and boring most of the time, especially when it comes to the Ramsay Brothers (Saboot, Sannata), who were seemingly obsessed with slashers and yet had no idea how to make one.

Sansani is much the same as its predecessors, making a film that is much too noble and demure to sink to the depths that the slasher requires. The killer admittedly is wearing a kind of cool gimp mask-looking thing, but there is no blood at all and every kill but one is entirely offscreen to the point that it's unclear if the characters were even murdered at all or just dropped dead from boredom. The distribution of the kills is also tremendously uneven, leaving huge impenetrable swaths of movie where nothing happens. 

Fortunately, Sansani has its share of Bollywood pleasures to alleviate the pain of how terrible of a slasher it is. It is a full-on musical, for one thing, opting for about four musical numbers and a reprise rather than the one and a half songs we typically get in an entry like this. None of the songs are particularly exciting to my Western ear, though one of the dance numbers does pull off a neat trick where a drunk observer's double vision makes it look like there are three women dancing rather than two.

There are also two heavy doses of ridiculous kick-punching action in the third act that somewhat make up for the fact that the movie has completely forgotten it's a slasher by that point. Overall, it doesn't quite crawl across the line to becoming something I would recommend to anyone other than demented completists like myself, but it is certainly a bright spot in a sub-subgenre that hasn't really produced anything but drivel thus far in the marathon.

Killer: Beast Man
Final Girl: Nisha (Bindiya Goswami), but only incidentally
Best Kill: The kills are entirely bad, so I guess I need to pick the one where you can actually see what happened, which is when a man gets impaled in the gut with some kind of spear. OK, I guess you can sort of see what happened.
Sign of the Times: I don't pretend to be an expert on Indian fashion trends through the ages, but Ajay's shirt becoming slowly unbuttoned as the movie goes on feels sartorially horny in a way that only the early '80s could get away with, at least in America.
Scariest Moment: The killer attempts to strangle a woman with a strip of fabric, though he is unsuccessful.
Weirdest Moment: The night after the bulk of the characters get murdered, the survivors get drunk and party.
Champion Dialogue: N/A
Body Count: 6; though the kills are so vague, the number could be higher or lower by a factor of two, depending.
    1. Someone is shot (probably).
    2. Man #1 is impaled in the gut.
    3. Old Man dies offscreen, probably of poison.
    4. Man #2 dies offscreen.
    5. Beast Man is beaten with a chain.
    6. Woman is shot in the back of the neck.
TL;DR: Sansani: The Sensation is a bland, barely there slasher that is at least better at being a Bollywood movie than many of its early '80s counterparts.
Rating: 5/10
Word Count: 798

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