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Disguised as horror comedy, Zombivali takes on the issue of commercialization, says Yoodlee's Siddharth Anand Kumar

Saregama's vice-president, films and events, speaks about venturing into Marathi cinema, the difficulties of shooting during a pandemic, and why Yoodlee does not believe in playing safe.

Suyog Zore

Yoodlee Films, which has produced some unique films in the past three years, has ventured into Marathi cinema with Zombivali (2021). Helmed by Faster Fene (2017) director Aditya Sarpotdar, this zombie comedy stars Lalit Prabhakar and Amey Wagh.

In an exclusive conversation with Cinestaan.com, Siddharth Anand Kumar, vice-president, films and events, at Saregama India Ltd, spoke about why Saregama's Yoodlee banner is backing such a risky project, especially as it is their first Marathi venture.

"At Yoodlee, we believe in subjects that are slightly left of centre," Siddharth Anand Kumar said. "We bring unique stories to the board, narratives that haven’t been attempted before.

"When we first heard the script of Zombivali, it immediately resonated with all of us. Within the guise of a horror comedy, it tackles the serious issue of commercialization in today’s time and how it erodes our very essence of life.

"Being safe is not the go-to option for us at Yoodlee. In fact, if it hasn’t been done before, that’s what gets us excited. Of course, we back it up with solid commercial thinking," he added.

Marathi cinema has been going through a tough period in the past couple of years. After the fantastic run of Sairat (2016), there has not been a single film that has breached even the Rs30 crore mark at the box office. The situation has only worsened with the COVID-19 pandemic. Yoodlee Films has decided to venture into Marathi cinema when it is probably at its lowest phase in a decade.

But Siddharth Anand Kumar is confident that the team has made the right decision. "Our decision to venture into regional cinema is backed by solid strategic thinking and by evaluating the demand in the market for local stories that resonate," he said. "Today, more than ever, the cinemascope has changed — good content is not limited by language."

It has been over two months since various state governments allowed shootings to resume with strict safety guidelines in place. But some reports suggest that the strict sanitization process is putting a lot of pressure on film budgets and delaying shoots. Zombivali, which is on the floors currently, is also facing this additional strain on resources.

"It’s a tough time to be working in, but safety is paramount," the Saregama vice-president said. "Work has to happen, and we need to create content by working around strict dos and don’ts. It's not a question of choice, so we have to accept it and factor in the additional strain on resources. It will take some time to get used to it. But having said that, I dare say we are managing fine."

Owing to the pandemic and the uncertainty over when movie theatres will be allowed to reopen, many producers, including big production houses like Dharma, have opted to release some of their films directly on OTT platforms. But this is not new for Yoodlee Films as the banner has sold its films to OTT platforms even before it became the norm.

Explaining the rationale behind deciding to release a film on an OTT platform or in theatres, Siddharth Anand Kumar said, "For every film we make, we evaluate the best platform for its release. We are as open to theatrical releases as we are to direct-to-digital. We believe in churning out great content, and then giving it the best possible medium of release."