How the Marathi Film Zombivli Created an Outbreak of Zombies Amid a Pandemic

George A Romero, the king of zombie movies, summed up the essence of the genre in a 2013 interview. “What should matter is that this extraordinary thing happens and people are still arguing upstairs , who’s the boss,” Romero explained. “They are always arguing over their own agendas instead of facing the issue.”

The democratic nature of the zombie apocalypse, in which no one is safe and nothing ultimately matters, has meant that almost every country has movies about the walking dead. India has made a few, including those of Luke Kenny and Devika Singh The rise of the zombie and Raj & DK Go Goa Gone.

The latest addition to the ghoul gallery is that of Aditya Sarpotdar zombie. The January 26 release stars Amey Wagh, Lalit Prabhakar, and Vaidehi Parushmani as characters confronting a zombiedemic.

The Marathi-language film, which mixes humor and commentary, owes part of its existence to an Edgar Wright zombie comedy. “The first zombie movie I watched that had a huge impact on me was Shaun of the deadSaid Sarpotdar “I started watching other zombie movies and eventually went back to the classics.”

His all-time favorite is Yeon Sang-ho’s. Train to Busan. South Korean directors are masters of the genre due to their handling of crowd scenes, Sarpotdar observed, pointing to the film Living and the web series Kingdom.

Although a much more modest affair, zombie manages to create a vivid sense of the carnage that unfolds when the inhabitants of a slum turn into the walking dead. The inhabitants of a residential complex neighboring the shantytown are infected quite early.

Sudhir (Amey Wagh), his pregnant wife (Vaidehi Parshurami) and some neighbors escape. Vishwas (Lalit Prabhakar), a slum activist, along with a journalist and her cameraman, join the group in their quest for survival.

Zombieli (2022). Courtesy of Yodlee Films.

zombie takes place in Dombivli, one of the satellite towns of Mumbai. The actual water scarcity that puts Dombivli’s skyscraper dwellers on a par with its poor leads to events in zombie. The story is by Mahesh Iyer, a resident of Dombivli.

“Mahesh had this idea of ​​putting zombies in Dombivli, and I said it was a movie I absolutely wanted to watch,” Sarpotdar said. Iyer is also one of the screenwriters alongside Siddhesh Purkar, Sainath Ganuwad and Yogesh Vinayak Joshi.

The film was written in April 2020, with the team only meeting through Zoom calls. Outside, the coronavirus pandemic was raging.

“What was happening to us was as scary as a zombie attack, the only difference being that you can’t see the virus, but you can see zombies,” Sarpotdar said. “We thought, why not exploit this idea a little more.” Corn zombie couldn’t be a “random zombie outbreak with people running around”. This is where social commentary came into play.

“We will all eventually face a severe water crisis,” Sarpotdar said. “We thought, let’s exploit these real threats. But we also wanted to create a good time. We are going through so many difficulties. We wanted to make the audience laugh, freak out a bit and think a bit.

Zombieli (2022).

It was the cue for comedy. The humor in zombie stems from his human characters. Movie zombies, with their shuffling gait, twisted limbs, vacant eyes, and focus on feasting on flesh, can be terrifying or ridiculous. Sarpotdar didn’t want viewers to laugh at his ghouls: “It was important to convince people that you or the people around you could also become zombies.”

By the time Maharashtra lifted its lockdown in early June, the script was ready. But for Sarpotdar and cinematographer Lawrence D’Cunha, shooting in Dombivli, which like Mumbai still had a high number of cases, was a challenge.

“We wanted to shoot with a big unit and be in an area where everyone would be safe,” Sarpotdar said. Research showed that Latur was at the bottom of the list of Covid-19 positive patients. It also helped that Latur was the small borough of Vilasrao Deshmukh’s family. The late ruler’s son, Amit Deshmukh, is Latur’s guardian minister. Amit Deshmukh’s brother Riteish Deshmukh produced and starred in Sarpotdar’s Mauli in 2018.

“Riteish helped us get permissions, and after following all the standards, we recreated Dombivli in Latur,” Sarpotdar said. Apart from a few shots from above and outside Dombivli, 90% of the film was shot in Latur.

The army of extras who play the zombies have also been transported to Latur. But before that, they had to be trained in zombie body language.

Zombieli (2022). Courtesy of Yodlee Films.

“We initially wanted to cast theater actors and even acrobats,” Sarpotdar said. The first audition was a flop. Asked to impersonate zombies, wannabes sent in videos of themselves as spirits, ghosts and monsters.

Applications improved after Acting Instructor Ashish Pathode and his team shot a makeup reference video. The selected actors also participated in workshops.

“There are around 350 zombies in the movie,” Sarpotdar said. “It was exciting to see how passionate they were despite the challenges of staying in makeup all day.” Hair, makeup and prosthetic design is by Yasmin George.

It took five hours before filming began to prepare the zombies. There were at least 15 makeup aisles, like at a wedding, where a single actor transformed into a flesh-hungry beast in 45 minutes or less.

Challenges increased in climactic scenes in which zombies are doused with water (a plot requirement). “That was the hardest part because the makeup would be washed off and we had to start all over again,” the 34-year-old director said.

Aditya Sarpotdar. Courtesy of Aditya Sarpotdar on Instagram.

Despite appearances, the film was made on a tight budget. The cast has been drawn from Marathi cinema, television and stage, and includes Vijay Nikam as the evil builder.

Amey Wagh collaborated with Sarpotdar in the film Window faster, while working with Lalit Prabhakar on the web series The Raikar Affair. Sarpotdar found an equally strong actor in Vaidehi Parshurami to play Sapna, who fights side by side alongside the heroes.

“The damsel in distress is an idea made to death,” Sarpotdar said. “I always look for moments in a film where a female character takes over, and those moments always work. In any case, women handle crises better. A zombie is gender neutral, so why should we treat women differently?”

Although the film’s ending suggests a sequel, Sarpotdar says it’s too soon. “We are thinking of dubbing the film in Hindi,” he said. “We have an idea for a sequel, but let’s see what the answer will be to zombie is like the first.

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