Horror isn’t new to Indian cinema—we have a legacy of blood-curdling ghosts, spooky, invisible spirits who make things fly about and then there were the Ramsays who went overboard with imagination (but made it work at times). Enter zombies. The undead who must roam the Earth, spread terror and bite you into being one of them. Last week, Rise of The Zombie, the country’s first zombie film, released in cinemas across the country. On May 15, a zom-com, Go Goa Gone, will release, too. Is India ready to be terrorised and humoured by an army of screeching, vacant-eyed zombies, then?
More than a year ago, over a casual chat with director Devki Singh, actor-filmmaker Luke Kenny, in fact, wondered about what was keeping zombies way from India. “Germany, France—even Cuba—have zombie-themed films. And here, we celebrate 100 years of Hindi cinema and horror for us still means the supernatural and wandering spirits,” Kenny tells SMD.
Kenny’s film, Rise of The Zombie, released on April 5 and looks at a wildlife photographer’s life, death and his transformation to a zombie. “I am aware we are bringing a rather new concept to Indian cinema, although the zombie genre—in literature and cinema —is not new across the world. I didn’t want to replicate what’s popular abroad. Since my film is the first of a trilogy, I’ve started out by introducing the concept of a zombie—what really happens to a human being when he loses control over who he is?
Kenny says he feels the country is ready to see something new and be terrified in a way it hasn’t been terrified before. He is also clear that he wants to introduce the genre in the country. The concept, he feels, is here to stay because it is gripping and only waiting to be explored. “There’s so much being done with zombies across the world—stories of zombies amid leaked viruses, epidemics, aliens and so on—and the genre is evolving rapidly. But you don’t have to know anything about zombies to understand what’s happening in Rise of The Zombie—I want the world to be able to watch it without knowing what Bollywood is all about. This isn’t a typical Bollywood movie. It is an Indian zombie film,” says Kenny.
The film is be gory, Kenny can promise that. “Oh, I am not going to cheat the audiences of the gore! I know people will come to the theatre expecting to be horrified, and gore, naturally, is expected when zombies are on the loose. I don’t want to alienate the audiences by sanitising the film,” smiles Kenny. Trade analyst Komal Nahta says he would like to wait and watch to see how the trend of zombie films pans out, adding that it will all depend on how the two filmmakers handle the subject. “The audiences love something new, and I think zombies in Indian cinema will excite viewers. I hope neither film, however, assumes that the viewers know everything about zombies—because many do not. And when someone’s paying to watch a new concept at a multiplex, they don’t want to deconstruct the concept first. The filmmakers will have to do it for them, and not in documentary-style,” says Nahta.
He adds it would be exciting to see the Saif Ali Khan-starrer Go Goa Gone, too, because humour is welcome in any form. “I know a zombie-comedy comes as a bit of a surprise, but I think it is a good marriage. And why not?” Raj Nidimoru, co-director of Go Goa Gone, jokes that he has been amid a lot of zombies when he lived in Detroit, US. “I knew a man who had made eight zombie films with his family,” he smiles. Both Nidimoru and the co-director Krishna DK say they are glad they got the “ridiculous” idea of making a zom-com. “We are taking it seriously, though, and I think the Indian audience is ready for something like this. The biggest proof is that an A-list actor like Saif Ali Khan agreed to be a part of the project—why can it not work?”
Nidimoru says they might have combined zombies and humour, but aren’t breaking any zombie-land rules. “They don’t have emotions, they wont light up a cigarette or anything. It is an authentic zombie film when it comes to detail. The USP of the film is not the gore, but the humour,” he says. And, of course, there are the zombies.