Rise Of The Zombie: Luke Kenny
There is no doubt that films that are typical of say Salman Khan and Rohit Shetty are mass entertainers, but the fact is that when we talk about films that touch us, move us or the least make sense, the 100 crore club feels redundant. It’s films like Gangs of Wasseypur that makes us think and pave the way for experimental cinema. Rise of the Zombie (ROTZ) is one such film that could see the light of day thanks to our newly evolved audience. Actor Luke Kenny, whose death in Abhishek Kapoor’s Rock On brought the band together, has co-directed ROTZ and is also the lead actor. “It wasn’t over a cup of coffee or during a zombie film showing that we suddenly decided to make ROTZ. It was a well thought out project,” points out Kenny, who plays Neil Parker, a photographer whose passion for wildlife photography leads him deep into a forest where circumstances transform him into a zombie.
Though ROTZ is India’s first zombie film, Indians are well-versed with the zombie genre thanks to Hollywood’s obsession with the same and any film based on that theme that doesn’t live up to what the genre’s fans are used to could be a sure shot dampener. Not only that, but it could also completely close the road ahead for any future endeavours on the same line. But when we put forth our apprehension to Kenny, this is what he had to say, “The film is Indian, but there are no Indian manipulations to it. The sound, makeup, script and every other element of the film are comparable to international standards.” And what about the commercial viability of such films, we ask to which he responds, “Even if the film doesn’t do well, we are sure that we will at least break even and I’m not saying this on the basis of some guesswork that I’ve done. These are projections that our marketing and finance team have done and it’s on the basis of these projections that I could convince the producers to have faith in the project.”
How much impact a horror film like ROTZ creates depends as much on the prosthetics and makeup team as it does on the direction. For this film, which has been co-directed by Kenny and Devaki Singh and co-produced by BSI Entertainment and Kenny Media, Ritu Jhanjani is the lady in charge of the prosthetics. “She has done a good job and when you watch the film, you will be convinced about it”, says Luke, who started out as the first Indian male jockey on Channel V.
Our other concern with the film was its title. Why couldn’t they come up with a name that didn’t resemble the 2012 American television series, Rise of the Zombies? “The one that you are referring to has zombie with an ‘s’, ours is just zombie because it talks about one single zombie and not a colony of them. While brainstorming about the name, we were sure that we wanted to keep the term ‘zombie’ in the title because we wanted to introduce the term to a lot of people who haven’t heard or read about them,” explains Luke while admitting that he is under no pressure concerning his task to deliver the first zombie film of the country. “It doesn’t make a difference whether it’s the first or the last film of a genre. It’s a trilogy and this one just shows how a man transforms into a zombie. Once we get done with this film, the second part will go on the floor immediately and yes, if we don’t get it right in the first part, we will see what changes we can incorporate in the next two.”
Unlike other big banner films that weave their promotions around slick trailers and big marketing campaigns, ROTZ has relied heavily on social media promotions and on-ground activities at colleges and fests. “The movie is basically targeted towards the age group of 18-21. These people are well versed with pop culture, which is something that’s relatable with the zombie culture. So when we go to a college to promote our film, guys from the other colleges invite us too and that’s how the promotional chain forms. We are creating word of mouth publicity for the film and this is what will work for us,” points out the actor who believes that zombies are a creation of human oppression. “I feel like a zombie myself when I’m not able to get my point across.”
Just when we were planning to end the interview, we had the impromptu urge to ask him about his views on Ramsay brothers’ films. “I think they were far ahead of their times when they made films and no matter how much you crib about them, the fact remains that everybody watched those films. Sadly, they couldn’t sustain the genre because they didn’t evolve with time,” concluded the actor. While we talked to him for over half an hour, we regret forgetting to ask him if zombies get scared of Hanuman Chalisaa like aatmas do. Ah well, next time!