Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Konkan folktale finds new life in Maddock Films’ latest horror-comedy ‘Munjya’

Writer-director duo Niren Bhatt and Amar Kaushik, the minds behind the chilling hits ‘Stree’ and ‘Bhediya,’ are bringing a new horror comedy to life - ‘Munjya.’ This film draws inspiration from a popular Konkan folktale about a mischievous spirit called "Munjya," said to haunt peepal trees.

The story centers around the restless spirit of a man who died unmarried before a specific ceremony, "Sod Munja." Bhatt explains, "In a man's life, there are traditionally considered to be four stages: Brahmacharya (student), Grihastha (householder), Vanaprastha (retirement), and Sannyasa (renunciation). The Upanayan or Thread Ceremony, known as Munja in Marathi, marks the initiation of a child into the student phase. Sod Munja is another ceremony, usually performed as part of marriage rituals, signifying the end of the student phase and the beginning of the Grihastha phase. If a man dies unmarried after his munja has been performed but before his Sod Munja, he becomes a Munjya: A spirit who resides in peepal trees or near wells. The Marathi expression ‘Baaraa pimpla varcha munjya’ refers to someone with a restless spirit, akin to moving from one peepal tree to another."

Bhatt and Kaushik delved deep into the legend, visiting several places in Konkan where locals believe Munjas exist. Their research involved reading numerous books, watching real-life encounter videos, and of course, talking to the locals who have their own unique "Munjya stories."  Bhatt adds, "Everyone has a munjya story but has never actually met a munjya. ‘Kissi ke sarr pe baith gaya; kissi ko pathar se maara (Sat on someone's head; pelted someone with stones).’ A ceremony is conducted to control the bal rakshas (child demon). He is a monster but a child because he died young. He bothers people to fulfill his desires and usually wants to get married. Munjyas aren’t typically malicious; just juvenile, petty nuisances. They really seem to like pelting stones at those standing underneath trees." 

In Maddock Film’s ‘Munjya’ releasing on 7th June, the munjya somehow breaks free of the peepal tree and creates havoc.

Bhatt and Kaushik's films tap into a growing trend in Bollywood, bringing lesser-known folklore from diverse regions to the forefront. This follows the success of movies like Kantara, which revive age-old stories, passed down through generations. They explore the connection between the human world and the spirit realm.

This emphasis on regional folklore is evident in Bhatt and Kaushik's work. As Bhatt explains, "If you see the movies we have worked on, they also tell the tale of the milieu. Stree is from Chanderi; there are over 42 archaeological sites in the vicinity. So her legend is born out of that world. The architecture and the heartland tropes all indicate why such a tale would have come about. It is steeped in history. Similarly, Bhediya is from the jungles of North East. Local beliefs and ideas get woven into the film. In Munjya too, there is an attempt to weave in the subculture of the Konkan belt, their fears and beliefs make up the composite of the story we have written. The sea is a big part of the belief system."

Taking the helm for ‘Munjya’ which stars Sharvari, Abhay Verma, and Mona Singh, is director Aditya Sarpotdar, known for his Marathi horror flick ‘Zombivili.’ The creative team aims to deliver a one-of-a-kind horror-comedy experience, deeply rooted in the folklore and cultural beliefs of the Konkan region.

While the possibility of a future crossover between Munjya, Stree, and Bhediya exists, the filmmakers emphasize that each film was crafted as a standalone story. Kaushik says, "If a film works, it has the legs to be more—a sequel, a spin-off, a multiverse. We didn’t write Munjya as the male equivalent of Stree. We didn’t write Bhediya with the potential to cross wires with Stree either. But it’s a good thing that there are cross-connections. The possibilities are endless." 


coming to theaters on June 7th, 2024!

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