Haiwan
India 1977
Directed by Ram Rano.


Cannons. A major, waking up in a hospital bed, hallucinating that his nurse is an enemy soldier, attempts to strangle her. A hatred of all women, buring inside him. Opening credits over scenes at the beach. A boy, killing the little girl that spurned him. A cat screams and shrieks, over and over again. "Do you see this skeleton?" says the narrator, pointing to it, bathed in red light. "It is the skeleton of a man who hated women. Watch, and see." The skeleton moves between him and the camera. A man in black, recognizable only by his belt buckle. He stalks women, the camera, hiding his identity, focuses only on his crotch. His crotch stalks women to rape and kill. If Jess Franco ever made an Indian movie, by god it would look just like this.

The story follows a reporter, sent to get an interview from the Major, a recluse who was nearly killed by a female enemy combatant and finds it hard to get close to anyone anymore. She pesters him endlessly, even to the point of falling in love, even though he never looks at him in any way but with a bug eyed, sweaty stare. Meanwhile, a serial rapist/murderer is on the loose.

But to talk about the plot is a waste of time, and the least interesting thing about HAIWAN. In fact, the plot doesn't even really start until about fourty minutes in, by that time you are skeptical that it really is the plot anyway. The movie is paced like a bad drug trip, the camera in all the wrong places to catch what is going on. Always,always the belt buckle, running towards women, grabbing them. Always, a black cat, a kitten really, shrieking like it is fighting with another cat outside your window at 2:00 in the morning. The killer's van, his license plate, appears again and again; a doll dangles from the rear view mirror. Sometimes, the cat eats the doll while the rapist is murdering someone. Image after image off kilter, unattractive, overexposed, a profusion of exciting composition: framing a woman talking on the phone between two red chairs. A man's head, as he watches TV, between his propped-up feet. Framing the dreaded belt buckle between two naked legs. It goes without saying that the climax of the film takes place at a circus, the only place remaining where the riot of visual imagery could possibly be taken up another notch.

On top of the imagery, there is the music. Written by Bappi Lahri, the king of Bollywood disco. Almost every number is alive with energy, crackling with disco beats and peppered with English language phrases. The incidental music is also excellent -- though Pink Floyd fans should listen for the inclusion of "One of these Days," a favorite of Asian cinema soundtracks, having also found its way in the Shaw Brothers production THE LIZARD (1972, HK).

When THE END finally appeared I immediately wanted more...did the production company, ironically titled the "Family Film Club," make more violent and insane movies for the whole family? Not that I can find. What of the director, Ram Rano? Again, I find no other mention of him. A pseudonym? Or was this Rano's only directorial effort? The only lead I have left is tracking down a couple other late seventies Bappi Lahri efforts, which shouldn't be too hard. Somehow I doubt there is anything else quite like HAIWAN to be found. But it doesn't hurt to keep looking.

Rating: Recommended (Recommended)

Posted by Peter Nepstad on December 05, 2004.


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