In a freewheeling chat with MAM, Sujoy Ghosh ( director of Jhankaar Beats, Home Delivery and Aladin ) who is currently busy with the pre-release activities centered around his forthcoming movie, Kahaani discussed a lot of aspects both with respect to Kahaani and otherwise. Here is an excerpt from the conversation-
Hi Sujoy, Kahaani I guess has a universal theme but it is still fairly entrenched in Kolkata. So how do you expect Indians all over India&outside to react & respond to this tale?
Well I believe that a film is all about a story primarily. The characters need to be palpable. As long as the audience connects to the environment it’s perfectly fine. The audience basically needs to be kept happy and engaged for 2 hours while watching the movie. As long as that is taken care of there is no real problem at all.
Vidya Balan plays the central character of Vidya Bagchi in the film. Was it the Tamil Brahmin character that drove you to choose Vidya Balan or was it Vidya first and then the character evolved as a Tamil Brahmin?
It was always Vidya Balan first. I had her in mind for the film and then slowly other things fell in place. The film basically is an attempt to look at life inwards. I have basically tried to derive it out of my own experiences and thus came up with Kahaani. The film is essentially about a character who is an alien in Kolkata. The easiest thing for me to have done would have been to project Vidya as a Bengali or maybe an Oriya because that would come to me naturally. But then the idea was to do something different. Also come to think of it I’m not even sure if I would have been able to do this film 10 years back.
The promo of Kahaani has widely been appreciated and noticed, in fact maybe even more than the promos of some of the ‘bigger’ Hindi films of late. What special care have you taken for the same?
Oh! Well I’m indeed glad that you’ve liked the promo and it feels good to receive such a feedback. I would give a lot of credit to the promo editor, Binny Padda. Binny has cut the promos of all my films so far and I was quite clear what I expected Binny to deliver. The idea was to let the audience know what exactly is happening in the film but just about leave something still for the audience to guess. In fact Binny was even given the script of the film well in advance and hence the hard work helped. This has even made the promo come out a lot better than expected.
You just mentioned that you gave the script to the promo editor, now that’s interesting. We are aware of actors and certain members of the crew like DOP,editor, music composer etc being given the script in advance, but never heard of a promo editor also being given the same. So is it something you’ve done in all your films? Is it something you’ve consciously been doing?
Oh! No I’ve never done it for my previous films. Come to think of it, on hindsight it looks like probably if I had done it for my previous films too then the output in terms of the promo could probably have been a lot better.
For Kahaani did you focus first on the character or the plot?
Well as I’ve mentioned before I like to write from my experiences and preferably about true people. These are people you’ve either known or can relate to. In that sense I focused on certain people I kind of knew and then developed the thread around the same.
Emraan Hashmi in Kahaani- Why does the question about his presence in the film still keep arising?
I have no idea whatsoever of why this happened or is still happening. I believe the internet is like a Chinese Whisper, you hear something and then the next moment it reaches someone else in a different way. I find the whole thing pretty amusing to be honest. Maybe it’s due to the fact that recently Vidya and Emraan were paired together in The Dirty Picture and there’s some influence of that. People do not bother to compare facts anyways.
How do you generally go about doing the casting for your films?
Well I guess it’s a little bit about guts that one needs to have. You need to take a certain call with respect to your story, crew, cast etc. I usually tend to do a visual match against the character and try to narrow down the choice in mind when it comes to choosing actors. Of course sometimes one also has to keep in mind the compatibility of the actor to certain demands of the film etc. But certainly a visual match is something by & large that I would go with.
How do you manage to cope up with both success and failures of your films? Also how do you manage to get producers to back you in spite of the failure of your previous film?
Well I just believe one has to just keep the faith on and keep moving on. I really don’t sit back and analyze why a particular movie failed because I seriously don’t think one can learn from your failures. After all there is no particular formula for success, especially for a film to succeed. So even in case of Aladin I did not waste any time sitting and trying to figure out what went wrong. See it’s like this, films are like an English exam and not a Maths exam. So things are quite subjective and cannot really be quantified easily.
So how did you go about making Kahaani after the dismal fate of Aladin at the box office? How did the film eventually get produced?
Well initially I kept knocking on various producers doors but somehow nothing seemed to be working out. Later on I realized that since it was a subject I had started to believe in strongly I thought why not produce it myself. Luckily I did have some production experience with Aladin and that helped. Later on after seeing the rough cut of the film Viacom 18 also came on board.
How do you slot yourself as a filmmaker? You are neither a hard core commercial director nor exactly an offbeat filmmaker. You do not stick to any particular genre of filmmaking per se and your movies are quite different from each other.
Well I guess I do not really believe in genres but only the story. If something really moves me then I’ll certainly try to work on the same. I’d like to be remembered by people as someone who tells good stories; yeah I guess that’s how I’d like it.
Every city has its own uniqueness and charm and people have their own ways of connecting to it. But what according to you makes it so special about Kolkata? Why does one feel that he/she is still tied to the city even years after moving away?
Well I’d say Kolkata is all about its people, for me it’s the people over there who make the place so special. That apart there are also the landmarks/the physicality of the city, there’s a lot of contrast in the city which you’d easily notice if you look closely.
Why do people in Bollywood prefer narrations over reading scripts?
Well actually it differs from person to person. In my case I ideally like to narrate to actors and some of the crew members too. It’s easier to get the actors to understand a director’s vision by narrating. Eventually it’s all about comfort level. Also I feel that the more you narrate the script is evolving and gets even more enhanced.
So you actually make changes to the script after narrations if you feel the need to?
Absolutely, that’s why I said the script is constantly evolving with narrations.
What’s your take on contemporary Bengali Cinema? How would you compare it with Hindi & also other Regional language cinema?
Oh! I think there’s a lot of progress that Bengali Cinema is making these days. The DOP’s in particular are technologically very adept and smart. They are really developing their skills very fast. Take for example a film like 22 se Srabon, you can notice how good technically the film is. Also another thing that I appreciate about Bengali Cinema is that a lot of Bengali actors also perform on stage and so are very good at improvisation. So while in front of the camera they just keep building up on their delivery and can really keep themselves going.
And finally would Borivali ever get made?
No I will never make Borivali. If I make the film now you would say that I’m just trying to come up with a film similar to A Wednesday and that’s something I’ll never want to do.