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Ramsay 'Brother' Shyam Ramsay dies, film industry remembers soft-spoken director

PTI     September 18, 2019

Mumbai, Sep 18 (PTI) Shyam Ramsay, one of the seven Ramsay Brothers known for cult horror films such as "Puraani Haveli" and "Tahkhaana", died in a hospital here on Wednesday, his family said. He was 67. Shyam Ramsay died of pneumonia on Wednesday morning at a city-based hospital. "He was hospitalised two-three days ago as he was not feeling well. He passed away in the hospital due to pneumonia at around 5 am today," a relative told PTI. The origins of the horror empire set up by the band of brothers can be traced back to a modest radio shop in Karachi in undivided India. The shop's proprietor, Fatehchand U Ramsinghani, had relocated to Mumbai after the Partition and decided to get into the business of film production. It was Ramsinghani who adopted the last name Ramsay and went on to make films such as "Shaheed-E-Azam Bhagat Singh" (1954) and "Rustom Sohrab" (1963), which featured screen icons Prithviraj Kapoor and Suraiya. The films worked like magic on the box office and Ramsinghani pulled all seven of his sons -- Kumar, Tulsi, Shyam, Keshu, Kiran, Ganguly and Arjun -- one-by-one into filmmaking and Ramsay Brothers were born. But they suffered losses when "Ek Nanhi Munni Si Ladki" (1970), starring Kapoor and Shatrughan Sinha bombed at the ticket window. According to Amborish Roychoudhury's book "In A Cult of Their Own: Bollywood Beyond Box Office", Tulsi and Shyam Ramsay watched the film in a theatre with the audience and realised the people reacted most strongly to a particular scene. In the scene, Kapoor's character, wearing a mask and a grotesque costume, enters a museum to steal something. "The Ramsays realised that many people actually came in to watch that particular scene and left. It was then that the truth finally dawned on them. The audience loved to be terrified. It was horror that gave them a high more than anything else," Roychoudhury wrote in the book. The duo then convinced their father to start making horror films. Fatehchand U Ramsay was disillusioned with the movie business and wanted nothing to do with filmmaking but they were successful in getting him on board. The brothers now wanted to make a film all by themselves, including distribution, which led them to "Do Gaz Zameen Ke Neeche". The 1972 horror film became a great starting point for both brothers and the Indian horror film industry. The filmmaking departments were also split among the brothers -- Kumar wrote the script, Kiran was in charge of sound, Ganguly manned the camera, Keshu assisted on cinematography, while doubling up as the production guy, while Arjun handled post-production and editing. Tulsi and Shyam were to direct the film, says the book. "Their mother and wives cooked food for the cast and crew, while also handling make-up. It was the perfect family model of filmmaking, and they made it work successfully for many years to come," Roychoudhury wrote in the book. Ramsay Brothers became synonymous with the genre and went on to make a string of B-grade films in the decade of 1970s and 1980s, featuring zombies, vampires, werewolves, reanimated corpses and snowmen. The films were widely popular for their unique mix of horror and erotica. Shyam Ramsay, who was considered the brain behind the group, directed films such as "Darwaza", "Purana Mandir" and "Veerana". Towards the end of '80s, he started focusing on television programming with the advent of private channels. Shyam Ramsay made the country's first horror series "The Zee Horror Show", that went on to become a hit. He also did some episodes for "Saturday Suspense", "X Zone" and "Nagin". Shyam Ramsay returned to the big screen in 2000 when he started the production on "Dhund: The Fog", which released three years later. He also made "Ghutan" (2007), a comedy horror film, "Bachao" (2010) and "Neighbours" (2014) was hit latest release. Veteran actors Raza Murad, Puneet Issar and Pankaj Dheer were some in the film fraternity who remembered Shyam Ramsay as a "humble" and "polite" man. Murad, who worked with the Ramsay Brothers on 2006 film "Family: Ties of Blood", said despite infusing horror in the hearts of the audience, the entire kin was soft spoken. "Shyam was respectful, the entire family was. It is amazing the kind of films they have made. All the brothers were so sweet, we would joke that we'd get diabetes if we talked to them for five minutes. They were the joint family filmmakers in every department of filmmaking and extremely committed filmmakers," the actor said. Murad recounted how Shyam convinced him for "Family" after he had initially rejected the role. "It sounded like I was just among the men from the underworld. I thought I would be one of the actors who may not get the importance so I turned down the role. Shyam called and narrated the role to me in detail at his office. "He said 'I'm sorry I couldn't narrate it to you. You have an important role and we would never waste you'," he added. Issar, who starred in cult classic "Purana Mandir" remembered Shyam Ramsay as a "capable technician". "'Purana Mandir' was one of the biggest hits in the horror genre back then. Shyam ji knew the craft very well. The brothers started doing horror way back and I did 'Purana Mandir' with them in the '80s," he added. "Shyam ji was extremely soft spoken and a man of few words. He and Tulsi used to direct together. They had great clarity. I had a great association with them. It's such a great loss," he said. Shyam Ramsay is survived by two daughters Sasha and Namrata. PTI KKP JUR RDS MIN BK RDS RDS


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