Get ready to face the zombies as horror films get smart with new flesh

In the 100th year of Indian cinema, there is a bunch of filmmakers who are busy reinventing the horror genre. It is no longer about “Saamri” or “Bhatakti Aatma”; they are introducing us to the living dead. Yes, after generating curiosity around the world zombies are here to shock the Indian audience. As many as three films are on the cards. Leading from the front is Luke Kenny, the VJ turned actor-director, who has put together “Rise of the Zombie”, about the origin of the creature that is neither dead nor alive.

“The young generation is fed up of the use of spirits and supernatural elements to justify horror stories. I have often heard youngsters complaining that there is no growth in the genre. So I am introducing zombies to India without linking them to mythology or a supernatural element,” says Luke, who has acted in “Rock On!” The film is about a wildlife photographer who wants to cut himself off from people and spend more time with nature. “But nature has other plans for him,” says Luke, adding he has employed a “natural” cause for the zombie outbreak.

Luke says internationally zombie flicks are big and are known to bring out the subversive mood of the young generation through allegories and metaphors. Sometimes the walking dead are used as metaphors for a public swooning to the tune of consumerism; at others they have been used as a mass out to annihilate the status quo. “An anthropological point of view suggests that American slaves were in fact zombies who were sedated to work ceaselessly. In African stories zombies emerge as a result of voodoo rituals where somebody controls the mind of a mass of people to make them work according to one’s wishes,” says Luke. “Today some of the most popular videogames revolve around zombies, and the connection between all this stuff is that things don’t follow a natural progression,” he notes.

Though we also have a restless public, Luke says the film is not making a social or political point. He insists he is not copying some international flick and wants to add something to the genre. “Mostly zombie stories are about a set of young characters who want to reach from point A to B but have to counter the attack of the living dead in between. The film challenges that notion.”

Often, the purveyors of horror in Hindi cinema have kept the gore element in check but Luke is not holding anything back. “It is as much as the story requires from the perspective of the events that the character goes through,” says Luke, suggesting his influence is more Japanese and Korean than American.

Up next is Raj Nidimoru and Krishna D.K.’s “Go Goa Gone”. Starring Saif Ali Khan, the film is being promoted as Bollywood’s first Zom-Com. Stars usually stay away from horror flicks, but the directors claim that Saif was so moved by the crazy storyline that he not only agreed to act in it but also offered to produce it.

“The Ramsay films were not intentionally funny but we are purposefully taking a dig at the genre. The film that we grew up watching,” says Raj. Known for their technical acumen, the directors who gave us the much applauded “Shor in the City” are in a mood to create some unadulterated fun with dollops of scary moments rather than going into the details of the origin of zombies and their appearance in India. “We love to see real people in outlandish situations. Those who are exposed to Hollywood films already know about zombies and for the rest there is a quick capsule. In fact, in a scene when one of the friends asks how the zombies have come to India he is told it is the result of globalisation,” shares Krishna.

“Similarly, the film takes a dig at the ‘three friends bonding’ theme. At one point the friends in the film are described as three idiots who go on a holiday to be eaten by the zombies,” says Raj. Saif plays Boris, a zombie slayer with blonde hair and a Russian accent, but he has a strong desi connection as the trailer has already revealed. “The role required a star to justify his actions. It is the first time that Saif is combining macho with comic,” says Krishna reminding us that “Go Goa Gone” was the first film to go on the floors, spurring a trend of sorts.

Amidst all this Navdeep Singh’s “Rock the Shaadi” has got stuck because of some production issues. The Balaji production is about a Punjabi wedding hit by zombies and has Abhay Deol and Genelia D’Souza in the lead, but Ekta has preferred “Ek Thi Dayan” over zombies doing a bhangra.

The horror story

When Luke says Indian horror stories demand reinvention, he has a point. In the last few weeks we have a couple of horror stories hitting the screens, and both “3G” and “Aatma”, despite being technically sound, have failed to create a buzz at the box office. “The Ramsays got inspired by ‘The Night of the Living Dead’ and created some zombie-like characters in their films without using the term but their focus was always on jadu tona and sleaze,” says Raj. “Ram Gopal Varma came up with technically better stuff but he also based his films on spirits and supernatural elements. We tend to believe that Indian audiences will believe in a horror story only when there is a ghost in it,” says Luke. But Vikram Bhatt continues to have a good time with ghosts. His “Raaz 3” did good business and Ekta Kapoor’s “Ek Thi Daayan” is creating good curiosity, for people want to know who among the three leading ladies is playing the spirit that is going to torment Emraan Hashmi. “It is about blending different elements to make an impact,” sums up Bipasha Basu who, having done three ‘spirited’ projects, seems to know all the secrets of the genre.

Keywords: Hindi cinema