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Zomcoms, bloodsucking sagas to be commonplace?

Most of us have been exposed to the Western obsession with zombies and vampires (in the form of movies, books and music). But we don’t fear zombies or vampires the way we do our own bhoots and prets. However, with Bollywood making movies with zombies and vampires, all this might change – very soon.

tv Updated: Nov 06, 2011 12:02 IST
Parul Khanna Tewari
Parul Khanna Tewari
Hindustan Times
zombie,Hindustan TImes,Robert Pattinson

Even in our weakest moments, as we leave the hall after watching American zombie favourite, Resident Evil, we don’t shrink with horror, thinking, "On the way to the loo, I might be attacked and eaten by a zombie." Nor do we open the doors to our homes fearing that a vampire may be hiding near the fridge. We’re more likely to be afraid of the local bhoot/atma.

Most of us have been exposed to the Western obsession with zombies and vampires (in the form of movies, books and music). We’ve read Dracula, watched Francis Ford Coppola’s movie version and the cult zombie flick, Night Of The Living Dead, and we’re likely to throng theatres next year to see Tom Cruise in World War Z (Z for zombies).

Pyaar ki ek kahaaniBut we don’t fear zombies or vampires the way we do our own bhoots and prets. However, with Bollywood making movies with zombies and vampires, all this might change – very soon. We will get to see the undead, the crazies, the pallid-skinned and ruby-lipped bloodsucking vampires – and all in full-on desi style.

In line with the west

A few credible filmmakers (Navdeep Singh of the Manorama Six Feet Under and Raj Nidimoru and Krishna DK of Ragini MMS fame) have just announced movies with zombies in them – a first in Bollywood. Navdeep will be directing Rock The Shaadi with Abhay Deol and Genelia Dsouza and Raj will be doing Go Goa Gone with Kunal Khemu in the lead. Apart from these two zombie flicks, there is also Pyar Ki Ek Kahaani, the Twilight-inspired vampire love story running on Star One right now.

In the pipeline is Bloody Veer (a vampire flick) and director Satish Kaushik’s new film based on Shantanu Dhar’s vampire book Company Red.

Put it down to globalisation (read Americanisation) of popular culture. But why now? After all, zombies and vampires have been favourites with Western filmmakers, authors and even TV producers for eons.

Well, the global success of the Twilight series (and TV shows such as True Blood and Vampire Diaries) may have something to do with it.

Twilight posterThe creative director of Pyar Ki Ek Kahaani, Chloe Ferns, reveals that though Ekta Kapoor, producer of the show, was keen to do a vampire show for the longest time (she is supposedly a fan of such programmes), she didn’t because she felt audiences weren’t ready. "We had saas-bahus running on TV. A vampire serial was a big risk," says Ferns.

Film critic and author Anupama Chopra feels it’s time we borrowed vampires and zombies because both lend themselves to great storytelling, especially now, when Indians audiences are at their most receptive. "Vampires are such a sexy idea," says Chopra. "There’s a seductive strain to them and they’re worthy of being copied. Zombies have an element of comedy which can be explored by us." (Rock The Shaadi aims to do exactly that, the CEO of Ekta Kapoor productions Tarun Garg tells us).

Their bhoot, our bhoot

Why is the West fascinated, intrigued and horrified by zombies and vampires? For the same reason that Indians are petrified of bhoots and atmas: it’s part of their folklore. Says Rachel Dwyer, Professor of Indian Cultures and Cinema, SOAS, University of London, "Much of the horror genre in the West is associated with the Gothic which is also closely linked to Christianity – churches, graveyards, priests, crucifixes, signs of the cross, the devil etc.

Indian horror films have used Om and similar symbols but need to create a language of horror. There is a long tradition of the other world in India, levels of hell, bhoots, vetals, chudails etc. but these haven’t been so popular for films." It’s all about our belief systems, says lifestyle management expert Rachna K Singh, who gives advice on NDTV Good Times’ horror-based reality show India’s Most Haunted. "In Christianity, the dead are buried not burnt.

That’s why the concept of the undead. But we burn our dead," she says. That could explain why zombies and vampires make for great entertainment for us but aren’t that scary.

ZombiesWill it work here?

But Indian youngsters have grown up being exposed to Western ideas, says Singh, so it’s easy for them to imagine SRK as a sci-fi superhero or even a vampire. As Dwyer says, "There’s no reason why a new type of horror film couldn’t emerge in India. But if there’s no tradition with known features, they would have to build on new fears and create a genre which will lead to expectation, which is half of the thrill. You also need scary actors. Christopher Lee was a great Dracula and, of course, Bela Lugosi lives on after his death (please excuse the bad joke)!"

Filmmakers are also trying to make the concept more relatable. Tarun Garg says says there won’t be much blood and gore (usually a patent of zombie films) in Rock The Shaadi, "which is anyway a romcom (zombies intruding a Punjabi shaadi in Rajasthan)." Pyar Ki Ek Kahaani has also been suitably Indianised.

It’s an all-new genre for India and likely to do well with the biggest audiences (16-25-year-olds). As Rachel Dwyer says, it’s a scary world.

Zombie guide for Idiots

Zombies are animated corpses, who have been brought back to life by black magic or voodoo. They are also called the undead.

In real life, people who seem hypnotised or lost in another world, are often called zombies. (People in love or those who have got ditched may display such behaviour).

White Zombie is considered the first zombie film.

There’s also an American band called White Zombie.

The zombie industry is a multi-billion dollar one in the West (specifically America). There are zombie toys, video games, movies, art.

Zombie flicks come out in a sort of pattern in America. Periods of social unrest and war are often followed by big spikes in zombie movie production. When millions of people go through something horrific together – whether it’s slavery, war or the plague – they seem to hunger for stories about zombies.

There are zombie experts in America (we kid you not) who offer zombie theories (like the ones stated above).

Rock band Cranberries immortalised the word ‘zombie’ in its cult song Zombie.

n Americans love zombies because (say the zombie experts, not us) they reflect human beings’ greatest fears. And as they say, you can shoot down a zombie, but not a recession.

From HT Brunch, November 6

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First Published: Nov 05, 2011 14:55 IST