‘Indian youth is not just ready for a zombie film, it is demanding one’
Siddharth Jain, the man behind Ragini MMS and now Shaadi of the Dead, India’s first zombie film, offers film writer Mayank Tewari a peek into his forthcoming zombie graphic novel and why he thinks Indian audiences are ready to blow some heads. Edited Excerpts:
Walking among the dead Siddharth Jain, producer of Shaaadi of the Dead
Sidharth Jain is obsessed with the idea of doing it first. Otherwise, there’s no fun, says the CEO of iRock. “I am now working on a swimsuit calendar which will be a first of its kind product,” Jain reveals as we settle down for a chat at a busy vegetarian joint in the film industry part of Andheri West, Mumbai. In the film writing circles of Bollywood, Sidharth Jain, or Sid, is known as the man who hires writers and pays them for developing film projects.
Zombie talkies Graphic novels are a rage among the youth and consequently, a perfect visual medium to acquaint them with the genre
What is your graphic novel about?
Bloodfest is Bollywood will be out in October. The idea is to introduce zombies to the young audiences in the most natural way so that when they come and watch our film next summer, they readily recognise the genre. Zombies were first introduced to the world through comics so a graphic novel is, perhaps, the most logical choice. The medium is very youth centric and has a visual appeal that whets the appetite for an Indian zombie film.
Why a graphic novel?
It is a perfect visual medium to acquaint the audiences with the genre. Graphic novels are a rage among the youth and since we’ve never had an Indian graphic novel with zombies in it I thought of creating a zombie graphic novel.
It’s not just about zombies, but vampires and superheroes too. I want to push the creative boundaries of entertainment for the youth in our country.
What attracts the youth? In your opinion, which is the best way to tell a story to an audience that is increasingly getting impatient with what it’s watching?
After founding iRock in 2008 I was obsessed with such problems. I looked to the West for some possible solutions. On one such trip I attended the world’s biggest comic book convention, the Comic Con festival, in San Diego and got some clues as to what will work in India. Indian audiences want to see an Indian vampire film or an Indian zombie film and they’re not just ready, but demanding it. Look at the huge success of zombie video games and TV shows in the country.
Do you really think all this will work in India?
What makes you so confident?
Past experiences. When I was making Ragini MMS, I faced similar reactions. Initially people were sceptical if found footage would work in India but a week before the release everyone had switched sides. Now everyone wants to make a low budget, high concept film like Ragini MMS. I believe there is a good receptive young audience that wants to sample new products. If we cannot match their expectations, we cannot blame them.
What is your zombie film about?
The film is called Shaadi of the Dead and we’re calling it a zom-com (zombie comedy). It is being directed by Navdeep Singh and has Abhay Deol and Genelia D’Souza as leads. It is going to be, among other things, India’s first zombie film.
Do you have a weakness for ‘first of its kind’ tag?
One doesn’t think of it like that. I think it is a consequence of trying to push the limits of what exists around us in terms of entertainment. When one tries and does that for years at a stretch one is bound to leave a trail of ‘first of its kind’ stories. I call myself a compulsive entrepreneur. If I think something will work, I will try and make it work with all my resources. One might fail but to be a serial entrepreneur one has to learn to overcome the fear of failure.
Tell us some of your firsts.
I started the world’s first website dedicated to Bollywood memorabilia (bollywoodauction.com) in 2000. The site was bought by baazi.com, which was later purchased by ebay. I also co-produced Marigold, a romantic musical comedy was a first of its kind film with Salman Khan. The latest project to add to this list is Ragini MMS, India’s first found footage horror film.