Hear the ‘Kahaani’ from the storyteller Sujoy Ghosh

I hear you, and I see a man who enjoys the trials and the triumphs of filmmaking, right from weaving a story to making it all come to life. Yet, you have been part of something like TE3N wherein you wrote a story and then handed over your vision to someone else to take it forward. It might be the toughest thing to do!
It is one thing I have had to learn. And I am damn good at it! I taught myself to learn how to keep my mouth shut and, believe me, that doesn’t come easy to me. Firstly, it is not nice when there is a senior actor on the sets and you are saying something to the director. It is just rude.

How do I do it? Well, I think what worked to my advantage was that I knew nothing about filmmaking when I did my first film JHANKAAR BEATS, so I had to depend a lot on my crew. In my very first film, I got that lesson. Even today, when I shoot, I don’t talk to my DoP (director of photography), Topon does his own thing, even my editor; I don’t question her at all. Once I have trusted someone with something, I have enough courage to run with it. It might be wrong, but it is a risk you have to take.

Since the days of JHANKAAR BEATS, to today – while you take these lessons along with you, have you noticed a change within you, as a director or even as a person?
Change kyahotahaina, it’s a process of creating. Somewhere when you are writing something, suddenly I find things within me, that I didn’t know existed. It is so fascinating. Like when I am writing about a certain character, I have to be able to be that character for a few moments, to be able to understand that person, how he would think, how that person would react to that situation and so on… and you find out that there is a Bob Biswas inside, you are a little surprised. You don’t expect that person to be inside you. It is quite nice, interesting.  When I am writing a KAHAANI 2 or an AHALYA, who really cares if I am walking around like Ahalya or Bob Biswas? But for me it is really exciting. I enjoy it. Of course, there are times it scares you, you are required to bring out things in a character which you are not necessarily comfortable with, but these are interesting.

You know what’s the most interesting part of filmmaking? It surprises you, in different ways! When you are going through life, you experience so many things. When you are sitting to write a film, an experience you think you had completely forgotten, comes to you, and really helps.

Give us an example…
Vidya will kill me for this, but you know when we are making a film together, there are times when we argue. Now, a story is basically a play of emotions and there are just five or six basic emotions, ussi ko hum log ghuma phira ke use karte hai so when I have to guide Vidya to scream at someone, I would say something like ‘Remember how you screamed at me that day, use it here!’ These little things help, they come out of nowhere and salvage.

When I hear of you arguing with Vidya, I see a comfort which certainly wasn’t there during KAHAANI. How much has your rapport changed with time. How different was working with her this time around?
We have both gone through four years of life, we have gathered four years’ worth of experiences, opinions, views and age of course and that has really helped. I don’t think we could have tackled a KAHAANI 2, four years ago. I definitely wouldn’t have, neither Vidya. It took a while to get our heads wrapped around a story like this.

Maybe today it is a little easier for me to make her understand something, because I too understand her a little better. The thing is when different minds come together for a film, each has to adjust. I think we adjust to each other very well; it only gets better with time!

Vidya insists that you are child-like in your enthusiasm about filmmaking… how true is that?
I have to quote an incident… My Chemistry teacher in school was Mr. Tripathi – I don’t think he had a very high opinion about me. This once, I had to return a book to this friend of mine, who was this topper in class and I entered the classroom while Mr. Tripathi was teaching. He noticed who I gave the book to, so he told my friend rather audibly, ‘You must remember, a man is known by the company he keeps!’

So when Vidya is around, that’s the company I keep. She makes me comfortable, she carries the burden of filmmaking away from me. My crew – they really walk with me shoulder to shoulder. They have taken so much pressure off me, it is not funny. I guess that’s why I am enthusiastic on set…. I don’t have that kind of pressure. As for child-like, it is she who makes all the noise on the sets, she is just palming it off on me! You should see the kind of rubbish she does on set. Had it not been for her, we would have finished the film 10 days earlier. But then, she makes you look forward to work.

Is there a particular genre you gravitate towards?
I like a page-turner, something that makes me want to know what’s going to happen next. QAYAMAT SE QAYAMAT TAK, for me, wasn’t a love story – it was a thriller. Will they be together, what will happen if they are found out… it evokes that emotion in me thus it is a thriller. Any good film that keeps me engaged and curious is a good thriller.

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