“It could be the story of your mother. Or mine,” opines Sujoy Ghosh, whose fourth film, “Kahaani,” is now in theaters. Ghosh is someone who likes to move ahead after failures, and “Aladin,” his 2009 film with a cast headed by Amitabh Bachchan and Sanjay Dutt, bombed big-time. “I failed to tell a good story, and after that I decided on telling this simple story that was inspired by a woman I knew back in hometown Kolkata,” he told this reporter candidly as we lounged on diwans in his office before the release of the film.
The Viacom 18
film stars Vidya Balan and has Amitabh Bachchan coming in for a recitation of Rabindranath Tagore’s world-famous “Eklo Cholo
.” The music is by Vishal-Shekhar and the buzz around the film is very strong after the consecutive success of the last three films of his lead actress — “Ishqiya” (2010), “No One Killed Jessica” and “The Dirty Picture” (both 2011).
Balan has just won a National Award for her performance in that last film; and as of Mar. 12, “Kahaani” has earned an impressive Rs. 13 crore, and so has been officially declared a hit.
“I am thrilled that everyone has liked it,” Ghosh told India-West Mar. 12 from Kolkata.
Excerpts from a pre-release interview:
Q: It is said that “Kahaani” is a thriller adapted from a Hollywood film or on a book, “Almost Single,” by Advaita Kala. Whereas you say that it is your story idea.
A: It is painful to realize that people think you have copied a film from somewhere for no reason at all! My inspiration came from a woman I knew when he was growing up in Kolkata. In those days, she was married off at 16, had three kids and became a widow by the time she turned 21, and was thrown out of her husband’s home as she was considered unlucky. She was a pretty woman, but she could not read or write, but she actually taught herself, got a job and raised her kids. Somehow, her story always remained in my mind. Of course, in my film, the protagonist is a pregnant and well-to-do NRI, but the bottom-line is that a mother’s whole life revolves around her kids, and with kids as a motivation, she is ready to take on the world. [Balan’s character] is in her seventh month of pregnancy when she comes down from London to search for her missing husband. The story idea was developed along with Suresh Nair and Ritesh Shah. But at one point, we also brought in Advaita Kala to give a woman’s perspective to the storyline.
Q: Was Vidya Balan the first choice?
A: I could not imagine anyone other than Vidya Balan in this role. In any case, I had wanted to work with her ever since I watched her in “Salaam-E-Ishq.” I signed her immediately after “Aladin,” and her “Ishqiya” had not even released. Vidya usually does her own research and adds her bit to her role. As a director, I do not have to tell her how to act, and that suits me fine, because I would not like any actor telling me how to direct. Those watching the film might fault my direction somewhere, but they will never find a single false note in her performance.
Q: Why cast an unknown face as Vidya’s husband?
A: Stars were not exactly lining up to sign this film after my last two films bombed! (Smiles) But at the same time, a known face would have been a disadvantage because there would be expectations about how much his screen-time was. Moreover, my film is a thriller but the husband is seen in the earliest part of the film by the audience. A known star would have been a spoiler.
Q: Kolkata is almost like a character in the film.
A: I know Kolkata so well that I knew exactly when lane and locale to use for each sequence. It is always important for me to know my backdrop really well, and the only cities I really know are Kolkata and Mumbai, where my first two films were based. But shooting the film was far from a cakewalk. Budgets were limited and there were times constraints too. Shooting in real locations often led to problems in dealing with a crowd, which always gets upset by small things. At such times Vidya even took on the role of a production assistant and calmed people down!
Q: What next?
A: I am toying with many ideas, and what I make next will also depend on how “Kahani” fares. There is no formula for success. Each film is like a painting that needs its own colors. I cannot make something I cannot believe in. But let’s get it straight, along with my passion, mujhe ghar bhi chalaana hai. Hits are important too.
Q: What about the buzz of a sequel to your 2003 films “Jhankaar Beats”?
A: It’s been 10 years since I shot the film. If they allow me to make the next part, I would not want to make just a musical but also talk about the problems the characters face later in life. After all, each actor is also older by a decade and so am I. I too have evolved through life’s experiences. My daughter is 18 years old today, and she was 8 then! Yes, one other subject I have brought the rights for is the book on which one of Satyajit Ray’s finest films, “Aranyer Din Ratri,” was based. And yes, when I make it, I am ready for the brickbats of comparison!