You had earlier told us that Jekhane Bhooter Bhoy was a difficult format of filmmaking which you would be trying out for the first time. How did it go?
It was a very interesting experience. Very hectic but very enjoyable.... The cast changing with every story…. Jekhane Bhooter Bhoy (produced by Shree Venkatesh Films and Surinder Films) is based on three short stories. Two of them — Anath Babur Bhoy and Brown Shaheber Bari — are Baba’s (Satyajit Ray). The third, Bhoot Bhobishyot, is Sharadindubabu’s (Bandopadhyay). It’s a very new concept of filmmaking. The three stories will flow seamlessly. You will watch it as a single film.
See, Tarini Khuro (Paran Bandopadhyay) is the sutradhar. He tells stories to a group of children and then these stories start unfolding in real life. He appears only in Bhoot Bhobishyot but is the connecting thread for all three stories. It’s a new concept in that way. It’s not like Baba’s Teen Kanya, where he had three separate stories. Jekhane Bhooter Bhoy will appear as one single incident. There will be three different ghosts, so that will be fun.... Bhoot Bhobishyot is a lovely story, almost like a comedy. We are ending the film with it.... This is the first time I was working on a Sharadindubabu story, so I really wanted to end the film with it.
You had earlier planned to work with four short stories...
Yes, I dropped Lucknow-er Duel (Satyajit Ray) because four stories were adding up to more than two-and-a-half hours and nobody has the patience to watch a three-hour film nowadays. Besides, this story needs to have a period feel. Lucknow-er Duel is also a favourite story of mine. Let’s see... if this format works, I might do another film with a few short stories, which may include Lucknow-er Duel.... Shooting for Jekhane Bhooter Bhoy reminded me of my television days. I had shot a series of short stories for TV (Satyajiter Goppo).
Why did you choose Paran Bandopadhyay as Tarini Khuro?
Oh, I had decided on Paranda long before starting the film. I knew he’s the best Khuro I could get! There has to be a fun element in Tarini Khuro and Paranda’s comic timing... well, we all know about it. And, of course, there’s a weakness for Paranda (smiles)... having worked with him for so many years.... Bombaiyer Bombete and then Royal Bengal Rahasya. We share an interesting chemistry. He is a fantastic actor, very versatile.... We have very few character artistes here.
What about choosing Saswata and Abir?
Well, Saswata was our Topshe (in the TV series Feluda 30). I wasn’t getting the right kind of role for him, to be very honest. I know his range as an actor, he is absolutely exceptional. It’s very easy to direct him because he knows the technicalities, you don’t have to put in extra effort. If I had to offer him a role, it had to be something better and interesting. He had done a small role in Hitlist. Also, Paranda and Saswata have a unique chemistry. There will be fireworks between them! Abir is very easy to work with. Very hassle-free and a very good actor.
Was it tough making a film on ghost stories?
When I did ghost stories for television, it was very effective. We had instant feedback, all positive. I have been planning a ghost film for quite sometime. Unfortunately, I didn’t find a single story that could be turned into a film. But there were lots of short stories, so we came up with this concept.
Apparently, the rundown house in Kalimpong where you shot Brown Shaheber Bari has a very haunted feel...
Oh yes, it’s a very interesting house! You see, in Baba’s story Brown Shaheb-er bari is in Bangalore. But Bangalore has changed drastically. Generally, in all of Baba’s stories, the place plays an important role but in Brown Shaheber Bari, the house is important, not the place. Bangalore would not have helped carry the story forward. So we chose Kalimpong because it would be a visual change as well. Then we started looking for a house and found this completely desolate one in Kalimpong. Rabindranath lived here at some point of time, so it has that heritage value too. But it’s very neglected, almost dilapidated now. I was very impressed.
Will Jekhane Bhooter Bhoy spook the audience?
No, but it’s got the thrills and chills in the right proportions. I have kept the Feluda kind of feel in the film. Because it’s releasing at the same time my Feluda films would release usually (around Christmas) and the target audience is also the Feluda crowd — eight to 80!
When are you planning your next Feluda film?
Until I get a new Feluda, it is difficult to do another one. It’s extremely tough to find another Feluda, specially after Sabyasachi (Chakrabarty) has taken the character to a certain level. It’s a hard act to follow. If we do find a young, dynamic Feluda, I can even go back and start from Badshahi Angti because then I wouldn’t have to worry about Lalmohanbabu as he isn’t there in either Badshahi Angti or Gangtokey Gondogol.
What about Professor Shonku?
Shonku, yes. If Shonku happens, I would be very happy. A lot of people have been telling me, Feluda toh holo, now do something on Shonku. It’s ambitious, very ambitious. We need to shoot outside Calcutta. Mainly abroad. It has to be in the English language but for a wider release, we will have to go for a double version. It has to be a big-budget film. I would need eight-nine months of pre-production.... Most probably end of next year and no, I haven’t finalised anyone as Shonku yet!