Bollywood to make first zombie comedies

Bollywood is lurching with arms outstretched into new territory with its first zombie comedies, hoping to replicate the success of a host of light-hearted Hollywood movies about the living dead.

"Shaadi of the Dead" (Wedding of the Dead), starring Abhay Deol and up-and-coming female lead Genelia D'Souza, is due for release next year and centres around a zombie invasion at a Punjabi marriage ceremony.

The film will be vying for audiences with the Saif Ali Khan vehicle "Go Goa Gone", about a group of youngsters who fight an army of the undead in the Indian resort state of Goa.

Popular Western examples of the "rom-zom-com" (romantic zombie comedy) genre include "Shaun of the Dead" (2004), starring British comic Simon Pegg, and "Zombieland" (2009), with Woody Harrelson.

"Shaadi of the Dead" director Navdeep Singh is banking on the novelty value of the genre to suit the changing tastes of younger Indian film audiences now exposed to wider outside influences.

"We feel this idea of a zombie film is very fresh," he told AFP. "It will be India's first zombie film. It is something that has never been tried in the Hindi film industry and so we feel it will work."

Bollywood may be famous for its stories of idealised love set to song and dance but belief in the supernatural is widespread in India and movie-makers have previously flirted with horror.

In the 1970s and 1980s, the Ramsay family directed a string of schlock horror monster films, like "Hotel", "Purana Mandir" (The Old Temple), "Veerana" (Wilderness) and "Purani Haveli" (The Old Mansion).

The movies are cult viewing among many Indian film fans.

But after the Ramsay brothers' "Bandh Darwaza" (Closed Door) in 1990, the genre all but disappeared, as film-makers returned to well-worn themes of love and romance.

The last decade, however, saw a partial horror revival, as directors began to experiment with different themes, introducing better production values and special effects to the shaky sets and flimsy plots of old.

Ram Gopal Verma brought out "Bhoot" (Ghost) and "Darna Mana Hai" (Being Scared Forbidden) in 2003, using more mainstream actors such as Ajay Devgn, Saif Ali Khan and Shilpa Shetty.

Saurab Narang's "Vaastu Shastra" (Possession, 2004), and "Raaz" (Secret, 2002) director Vikram Bhatt's "1920", released in 2008, were well-received. Bhatt also released a 3-D horror film "Haunted" this year.

Navdeep Singh admits that in previous years, making a zom-com would be a risk, with most Indian film-makers pandering to conservative audiences in providing a bread-and-butter diet of strong-jawed heroes and doe-eyed heroines.

But he added: "Things have changed a lot now and producers want to take a risk with films on different subjects. And 'Shaadi of the Dead' is one of them because the script of the film has come to me from Siddharth Jain."

Jain, widely known as Sid, is an emerging Bollywood film-maker and entrepreneur who is head of Mumbai-based iRock Films.

Earlier this year, he co-produced the paranormal thriller "Ragini MMS", with Ekta Kapoor, whose "Love, Sex Aur Dhokha" (Love, Sex and Betrayal, 2010) was hailed as groundbreaking for of its use of hand-held and security cameras.

In preparation for the release of "Shaadi of the Dead", Jain is to publish a graphic novel about zombies in Bollywood.

He said in an interview published earlier this year that he was proud to produce India's first zom-com and was already planning a follow-up, "Honeymoon of the Dead", a zombie-based television reality show and website.

"It ('Shaadi of the Dead') is going to be an iconic youth film as far as I am concerned and will redefine youth entertainment for this decade in India," he told entertainment.oneindia.in.

"It's mad, crazy, romantic, funny, violent and super cool. It's like a two-hour theme park ride."

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