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In search of the Undead

Zombies rise from the sands of Rajasthan in a British indie production that opens this year’s Frightfest in the UK

It is ironic that while Go Goa Gone,one of Bollywood’s first zombie films,had a swarm of touristy expats as the walking dead,a British indie film has done exactly the opposite. Directed by Ford brothers Jon and Howard,The Dead 2: India not only has Indian zombies,it is set and shot in the country as well. The film’s premiere on August 22 will open this year’s Frightfest,a fantasy and horror film festival in the UK,which is celebrated among fans of the genre.

What made the British director-writer-producer duo bring their independent venture all the way to India? Beside the obvious advantages of shooting in a relatively inexpensive country,it provided them landscapes of Rajasthan,untapped in the zombie genre. For the Ford brothers,who call their films “zombie-road movies” — their debut venture used the war-torn rural west African landscape for backdrop — the location becomes as important as its horror element. “Rajasthan had what we needed to ramp up the visual aspects of the story. It was even more of a wonderful counterpoint between the exotic and toxic that worked so well in The Dead,” says Jon.

“We also had to take it somewhere beautiful. India’s landscapes,architecture,spirituality and bustling central areas made the idea of a potential zombie outbreak even more terrifying,” explains Howard who,along with Jon,locked in on India after two days of location recce.

The story,like in the first installment,employs the classic zombie movie template. An American engineer visiting India for a windmill project falls in love with a local girl. Meanwhile,a infected worker aboard a ship docked from Somalia enters India. The protagonist’s ladylove,pregnant with his child,is trapped in a zombie-apocalyptic Rajasthan. What follows is the protagonist’s battle for survival across the vast expanses of the Thar desert.

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Barring its protagonist,played by British actor Joseph Millson,the rest of the cast is Indian — the actors were selected from the Barry John School of Acting,Delhi,through auditions. While India may have been inexpensive,shooting here wasn’t without its share of troubles,especially for a foreign crew filming in the hinterland. Although the Fords remember a large part of the journey as heartwarming,a few incidents left them feeling somewhat bitter.

“In one particular situation on our way to Jaisalmer,some ‘goons’,as they were described by the locals,snatched our cameras and threatened to stone us and our vehicles if we didn’t pay them off. They also apparently threatened some local female members of the crew with sexual violence. This was pretty shocking for us and not a situation I’d been in before,” recollects Howard.

The team shot The Dead 2 chiefly in Rajasthan,with parts of it in Mumbai and Delhi,over 30 days,putting in 17 hours per day of shoot. The directors plan to bring the film to India only if there is enough interest in the country. The film’s opening at the UK’s premiere horror fest will also decide its distribution in the US and Europe. A part of the team of Indian actors is expected to be present at Frightfest.

First published on: 13-08-2013 at 05:02 IST
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