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March 3, 2021 at 1:06 pm

Collins Interviewed by ‘Bollywood Is for Lovers’ Podcast

Dr. Brian Collins holds a horror film poster from India.

Dr. Brian Collins and memorabilia dealer Shahid Mansoori at Chor Bazaar in Mumbai.

Brian Collins, the Drs. Ram and Sushila Gawande Chair in Indian Religion and Philosophy and Chair of Classics & Religious Studies, was invited to be interviewed on the popular biweekly Bollywood Is for Lovers podcast, hosted by Matt Bowes and Erin Fraser.

The episode, which aired Feb. 23, focused on a book published late last year that Collins co-edited with Ellen Goldberg and Aditi Sen of Queen’s University in Toronto. The book, Bollywood Horrors: Religion, Violence, and Cinematic Fears in India (London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2020) is a collection of essays about Indian horror films and the idea of horror in Hindi-language cinema, examined through a religious studies lens. The project comes out of a panel session called “Theorizing Horror in Bollywood” hosted by the Hinduism Group at the 2016 Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Religion in San Antonio, Texas with Aditi Sen, Ellen Goldberg, Diana Dimitrova (Ithaca College), and the late Kathleen Erndl (Florida State University).

Aside from co-editing the volume, Collins contributed the introduction and two essays, both of which he discussed on the podcast. One essay, “Vampire Man Varma: The Untold Story of the ‘Hindu Mystic’ Who Decolonized Dracula,” tells the story of the often overlooked Indian-Canadian scholar of Gothic and horror literature Devendra Prasad Varma. Varma was a lifelong friend of India’s first prime minister Jawarhalal Nehru as well as the 1960s horror movie icons Vincent Price and Christopher Lee and Psycho author Robert Bloch. A trained Shakespearian actor, he put on the first modern English-language play in Syria and forged a friendship with Egyptian leader Gamel Abdel Nassar. As a scholar, he sought out and republished lost novels like Varney the Vampire, consulted on films like The House that Dripped Blood, and hosted “Transylvania Weekends” at Dalhousie College in Nova Scotia with the real-life husband and wife exorcist team Ed and Lorraine Warren.

The other essay, “Monsters, Masala, and Materiality: Close Encounters with Hindi Horror Movie Ephemera,” looks at the posters and song booklets used to advertise these movies, which often draw from traditional Indian demonology and folklore. Over the course of several trips to the Chor Bazaar in Mumbai, he has collected dozens of song booklets and more than 30 rare posters, all of which he has photographed and archived with the help of David Colagiovanni, director of the Athens Center for Film and Video. In the near future, Collins hopes to be able to use a space on campus to display some of these posters for the general public.

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