|Sandip Ray at a script-reading session with Paran Bandopadhyay and Saswata Chatterjee in his Bishop Lefroy Road residence. Picture by Hirak Sen
A spooky film after Feluda! Are you into ghost stories?
Well, I have been thinking of making a bhooter film for a long time. In fact, when Shree Venkatesh Films approached me for two films (last year), I asked if we could do the ghost film first but they wanted me to start with Feluda and I did Royal Bengal Rahasya, which was a good decision because Bibhuda (Bhattacharya, who played Jatayu in the previous Feluda films) passed away all of a sudden.
Bhoot (ghosts) is a favourite subject of mine and nowadays bhoots are doing very well in the market (referring to Anik Datta’s Bhooter Bhobishyot)! Besides, our family has had a fascination for bhoots since the time of Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne (laughs)! So I started reading a lot of ghost stories, not the run-of-the-mill stuff but the slightly unusual ones.
Unfortunately, I did not come across a novel or a novelette on the subject. I watched a lot of old ghost films like The Uninvited (1944), The Haunting (1963)… but I didn’t get a springboard. Then I decided to re-read some of the Bengali short stories, which also includes some of Baba’s (Satyajit Ray) works. I had done a series on ghost stories (Satyajiter Goppo for Doordarshan and ETV Bangla), which did very well. So I kind of revisited those stories and then I read up Sharadindu Bandopadhyay and Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhyay... anek kichhu porlum (I read up a lot). I chose four stories, of which three are Baba’s and one Sharadindu’s. These four stories will be merged to form one film. There’s a light-hearted ghost story, there’s one with an eerie atmosphere…. Basically, there will be four categories of bhoot in the film! We start shooting from August 5. I haven’t decided on a title for the film, but we plan to release it in December.
Tell us about the stories you have selected...
The three stories by Baba are Anathbabur Bhoy, Brown Shaheber Bari and Lucknower Duel. Bhoot Bhobishyot is by Sharadindubabu. I don’t want to reveal much about the stories. As it is, most people have read them. Apu (Saswata Chatterjee) stars in Bhoot Bhobishyot. He plays a writer.
We will start with Anathbabur Bhoy and Bhoot Bhobishyot; we will shoot in Bolpur in August. Brown Shaheber Bari will be shot in Kalimpong and Lucknower Duel in Lucknow.
I had shot a few episodes of Anathbabur Bhoy for television long ago. Unfortunately, that series was never televised.... Bhoot Bhobishyot is a very funny story and very filmable.
I have kept the stories as they are with slight fine-tuning and embellishments. The interesting thing about a short story is that you can’t expand it. Especially Baba’s and Sharadindubabu’s short stories are so crisp and tight that if I expand even a wee bit, the suspense won’t hold up. The average length of each story would be about 20-25 minutes.
How will the four stories be connected?
I wanted a thread that would connect the stories and I thought the best way to do that would be to bring in the character of Tarini Khuro from Baba’s stories. We did introduce him on television and he became very popular (played by Saswata Chatterjee and his late father Subhendu Chatterjee). Tarini Khuro will be telling these stories to children and as one story ends, we will see him starting another and that’s how we will connect the four stories. There will be a smooth flow from one story to the other. I hope this format works.
Saswata apart, who plays what in the film?
Paran Bandopadhyay will play Tarini Khuro. Paranda has done a wide range of work, especially Royal Bengal Rahasya where he played a totally different kind of character. I like working with people I have worked with before, like I have worked with Saswata before on television and also in Hitlist. Now I see that all my Topshes (Saswata, Parambrata Chattopadhyay and Shaheb Bhattacherjee) are doing very well! Topshe-der bajaar gorom (laughs). Saswata is a fine artiste, absolutely brilliant. Abir (Chatterjee) is there in Brown Shaheber Bari; there’s Dwijen Bandopadhyay and Biswajit Chakraborty too. The rest of the cast I’m yet to finalise.
What’s the period you’ll cover?
The period of Sharadindubabu’s story is the ’50s. The film will be set between the ’50s and ’80s. Tarini Khuro has a fan club, like Galpo Dadur Aashor, and I can’t make him a contemporary character. He is someone who tell stories to kids. Today’s kids don’t listen to stories. They are hooked to their computers. My film will be set in the pre-computer and pre-mobile phone era.
Who’s the target audience of the film?
The Feluda audience. It’s not for kids. This film is for young adults.
You had also planned to do Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne...
No, not immediately because Rangan Chakravarty is doing Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne in a different way.... For me, Goopy Gyne is there in the pipeline. The main problem is the budget, the budget will naturally shoot up because you have to create a whole lot of things, plus a lot of special effects. If we are doing it in Bengali, we will have to be very careful because our market is very limited... let’s see. Next, I am planning something on Professor Shonku. But Shonku has to be done in a very big way. Let’s see....
When can we expect the next Feluda film?
Feluda, not now. I am keeping my eyes and ears open for a new Feluda. Benu (Sabyasachi Chakrabarty) is ageing and I will not make the next Feluda before two other films. So I am looking at a fresh team. Shaheb (Bhattacherjee, who plays Topshe) is good enough to play Topshe... two-three years won’t be a problem for him. I have to have a new Jatayu too. And if I cast a new Feluda, then I have to go further back in terms of stories. If I get someone interesting, I will start with Badshahi Angti. I also want to do a Bomkesh (Bakshi) someday. I have a weakness for Sharadindubabu.