As Bollywood actors Saif Ali Khan and Abhay Deol prepare for a ghoulish makeover with their upcoming zom-coms, Go Goa Gone and Shaadi of The Dead respectively, the comic world is not far behind in bringing alive the walking dead.
Though zombie films have acquired a cult status in the west, India is yet to look beyond ghosts and vampires. Ahead of Deol’s film release, early next year, the producers have come up with a novel idea of introducing their audience to the mindless, half-dead, flesh-eating monsters.
“The film and graphic novel are independent works. The idea of releasing a graphic novel before the film is to familiarise the Indian audience with zombies and zombieland,” says Sidhartha Jain, CEO, iRock Productions and the brain behind Zombie Talkies: Bloodfest In Bollywood.
The comic book will release at the Comic Con Express to be held this October in the city. While Jain’s film, which stars Deol opposite Genelia D’Souza, see zombies take over a big-fat Punjabi wedding, the plot of the novel witnesses an outbreak of the undead at a film set in Agra. “The only thing in common is that they are both fun, zombie comedies,” Jain reassures, adding, “Also, the audience of the two mediums is the same — 15 to 35 year olds.” The 45-page book, written by Anish Patel and illustrated by Harashvardhan Kadam, took between four-five months to complete. “Zombies are an unexplored genre in India. And so, it’s a big risk for us, since we decided to introduce a genre like this by spoofing it,” says Patel, who confesses to being inspired by the British horror comedy, Shaun Of The Dead (2004).
Graphic novels may have inspired umpteen Hollywood films till date, but closer home, the Bollywood-Indian graphic novel nexus is completely inverted. Last month, director Anup Kurian decided to release a graphic novel to help promote his upcoming film, The Blueberry Hunt. SRK’s Don 2, which already has a PlayStation game designed around the film, is also working on releasing a graphic novel ahead of the film.
And now, 23-year-old graphic novelist Adhiraj Singh is the latest to be hit by the fad. Putting finishing touches to his latest Bollywood parody, Widhwa Ma-Andhi Behen, Singh explains the inverted relationship. “Unlike the west, our graphic writing work is still nascent. We’ve mostly grown up reading Amar Chitra Katha and that leaves little scope for filmmakers. But films and graphic novels are mass mediums. Things are picking up in general in the Indian comic world, so it’s a matter of time before the two pop culture mediums meet.” Singh’s latest work, which will also release at the Comic Con Express, does just that by bringing alive the filmi world of the ’70s with over-the-top villains and melodramatic characters.
“The idea emerged from a comic strip I wrote taking stereotypical characters from classic Hindi cinema,” says Singh, who made his writing debut with Uud Bilaw Manus, a graphic novel featuring a Bihari superhero. “It features an old-school, crime-fighting mother-daughter duo that goes around solving mysteries. And though it’s an English novel, the audience has to be well-versed in Bollywood to enjoy it,” he adds.