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When Fatehchand U Ramsingh moved to India after the Partition, he was relying on his electronics business to earn his livelihood. When it didn't flourish, Ramsingh — who had come to be known as Ramsay, a pronunciation more suited to the British' tongue — decided to dabble in film production.
While his first production, Shaheed-E-Azam Bhagat Singh (1954), was a box office success, his second, a period film Rustom Sohrab (1963), flopped despite the presence of yesteryear stars Prithviraj Kapoor, Suraiyya and Prem Nath. The failure of the third and, what was to be FU Ramsay's last large-scale commercial film, Ek Nanhi Munni Ladki Thi, left him in debt. "The film taught us a lesson that made us, Ramsays, the most successful producers of horror films in India," says Fatehchand's son Tulsi Ramsay. "In that film, Prithviraj Kapoor, dons a black garb and a devil's mask to carry out a robbery. A bulletproof vest worn underneath saves him from the cops' bullets. The film flopped but the sequence with the 'monster' was applauded by the audience. We then knew that our fortune lay in making low-budget horror films," he adds.
Horror as a genre in Bollywood remained synonymous with Ramsay Brothers for close to three decades. While their films were almost infamous for their kitschy production value, the filmmaker brothers — Tulsi, Shyam, Kumar, Kiran, Arjun, Gangu and Keshu — came to be dubbed as the Indian counterparts of the British Hammer Horror for their similar central themes (demons, vampires and zombies) and style of filmmaking. Times have changed and their films seem outdated in comparison to the horror thrillers made today. But, the success of horror filmmakers, most notably Vikram Bhatt (Raaz, 1920, Haunted) and Ram Gopal Varma (Phoonk, Agyaat) can be attributed to the Ramsay's formula of using fresh talent and low budgets.
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