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1920 director Krishna Bhatt on learning from dad Vikram Bhatt and taking on the horror genre

This interview was first published in The Telegraph Online by the same author.

Following in the footsteps of her filmmaker father Vikram Bhatt, Krishna Bhatt has taken the plunge into calling the shots on the set. Her debut feature film 1920: Horrors of the Heart, which has hit the theatres today, is produced by her father and has been co-written by veteran filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt. Krishna spoke to us about her love for the horror genre, her learnings from Mahesh Bhatt and Vikram Bhatt, and taking the 1920 franchise forward.

You are finally making your feature film directorial debut. What are the emotions you’re going through?

Krishna Bhatt: I am going through a lot of emotions… it’s truly happening now. There’s nervousness as this is my first Friday. Even a seasoned director is nervous about his Friday. And I am also very excited. The film is garnering good reviews from people who have seen the trailer. There’s a lot of positivity around it and I hope that it does well.

At the film’s trailer launch, Mahesh Bhatt talked about you reverse mentoring him. What was that about?

Krishna Bhatt: When Mahesh uncle says reverse mentoring, it is his greatness to listen to someone who’s much younger than him. He has the ability to listen to everyone’s point of view and gives it the respect that very few people would give. And then he takes into account what you feel, the pulse of the current generation, and the pulse of the movies and audience right now. I think every generation brings something new with it and he listens to it.

But there’s no substitute to experience. What is a piece of advice that Mahesh Bhatt and Vikram Bhatt gave you?

Krishna Bhatt: Both Mahesh uncle and dad told me that I shouldn’t be just an executor. I should not just go and take shots. I should make the film mine. Even if it’s written by Mahesh uncle and the writing team, I shouldn’t be alienated from the script.

Dad always tells me that no one in the theatre is going to think that you had a bad day or you were not well. They have spent money on tickets and they want to watch a good movie. Your excuses are not going to work. So, suck it up and work.

At which moment did you have the thought ‘I am a director now!’?

Krishna Bhatt: It didn’t happen while working on 1920. It happened when we were doing short-format content for Sony LIV, when the whole OTT thing was new. Dad was doing short stories for them called Once Upon A Time… One day, dad just handed over the mic to me and said, ‘Call the shot’. I couldn’t say ‘Action’. I was shocked. But later when I took the mic in my hand and said ‘Action’ and saw my name on the clap, that’s when I realised that I was making my foray into direction.

Compared to the previous films in the 1920 franchise, in which areas were you trying to push the envelope?

Krishna Bhatt: I think where we have pushed the maximum in this film is emotion. Usually, horror films are thrills and chills. This film is called 1920: Horrors of The Heart. It’s about a girl, played by Avika Gor, who is 21 years old. She makes an error in judgment and her revenge turns sour for her. How she goes to correct the wrong shows her courage. The emotional strength of this film is different. It’s not a ‘boy loves girl and spirit is the villain’ type of film. This film is way different from its predecessors.

What makes you a fan of the horror genre?

Krishna Bhatt: I think we all feel fear. Fear of ghosts or fear of the future. It is difficult to imagine where someone will feel fear or where someone will scream. You have to create a two-hour rollercoaster ride for them. That’s where this genre becomes challenging and it’s fun.

One might lose one’s objectivity after working on a film for very long. Who do you go to then to get that objectivity?

Krishna Bhatt: I think I have learnt a lot from my father. He is very tuned into horror. He’s very tuned into the audience. There were many instances where he said that they will clap here or they will get scared there. And when I witnessed it during the screenings, I realised that he was right. That kind of experience is unpurchasable. One would be really stupid to not take that kind of advice.

Apart from horror, which other genre of films or shows do you like?

Krishna Bhatt: I have always been an emotional person, so I like emotional films. Even a film like The Reader (2009) starring Kate Winslet, or dramas like Munich (2005) and Titanic (1997) do something to me. I keep talking about the show The Exorcist (2016-2018), which has a strong emotional spine.

After the pandemic, films are being marketed as family entertainers for a wider reach. Your film too is marketed like that. Does this seem like the way forward to get more audiences to the theatres?

Krishna Bhatt: 1920: Horrors of the Heart is certified ‘A’ by the CBFC. We applied for an ‘A’ certificate. But no matter what certificate a film gets, it has to appeal emotionally. People should see themselves in the movie. I think if you identify with any character in the film, that’s when the film does well. If there’s no connection, no matter how beautifully you’ve made a film, you snap out of it. Whereas sometimes you may not get those beauty shots but if you have that core emotional current going through, then people immediately connect. The story is all that works.

Where do you want to take the 1920 franchise in the near future?

Krishna Bhatt: 1920 is a ‘possession’ franchise. Every film talks about different kinds of possessions. Keeping in mind the possession theme, we have different kinds of horrors. The first 1920 film explored the horrors of a relationship, whereas the latest one explores the horrors of the heart. There are different types of horrors in possession that are yet to be explored. It has to keep getting better and better.

I am not closed to anything. I don’t think we should limit ourselves. But I do like the classic out-and-out story horrors. I also like the Conjuring and Paranormal Activity kind of horror. The horror universe is very vast and there’s a lot to be explored.


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