Congratulations on the positive feedback the second season of the series is getting. How did you come up with the idea for Rahasya Romancha Series 2 and the story structure where you have the characters Jhontu (Rudranil) and Kalo Nekre (Saoli) facing off in the end?
Both seasons of Rahasya Romancha Series (streaming on Hoichoi) are a tribute to the kind of thrillers and pulp stories I have grown up reading. I wanted to create a crime world where, though the crimes are deeply rooted in reality, there is a mystical, larger-than-life element to them. This led to the idea that Jhontu Motors is an organisation that has existed through the ages and Jhontuda is not an individual. Rather, it’s a post that has been held by different master criminals in different time periods. In the current season, after showing the present Jhontuda’s origin and establishing the mythology of Jhontu Motors, we needed to introduce a character who could stand his/her ground against Jhontuda. This is where Kalo Nekre came in. The series is essentially about bad guys. And here the conflicts are between bad and worse people. The final confrontation between Jhontu and Kalo Nekre highlights the ruthlessness of Jhontu and is a next step in the character’s arc. From being an innocent child, the character has grown over the years and has been corrupted slowly by the world of crime. In the climax, we see the extent to which evil has affected him.
Kalo Nekre is an assassin who is also a mother. You give her a different dimension. How did you come up with this character? Is the character a homage to the spy series The Americans or a QT film?
Kalo Nekre is a homage to the numerous pulp stories I used to read as a child, particularly those written by legendary pulp writer, Swapankumar. Swapankumar’s Deepak Chatterjee series had a huge variety of larger-than-life, interesting characters with super cool names like Dragon, Bajpakhi. Kalo Nekre is a tribute to these colourful characters. While I am a huge fan of Tarantino and love his Kill Bill, Kalo Nekre stems more from Swapankumar than from QT. In fact, the character played by Rajdeep, is a crime writer, who is shown to use the pen name Swapankumar. Also, the character played by Krishnendu Dewanji, Inspector Priyonath, is a tribute to Priyonath Mukhopadhyay, the writer of the famous Darogar Doptor series. Saoli has a terrific screen presence and is a really good actor. Thankfully, she trusted me and took a leap of faith with Kalo Nekre.
How did you decide on the themes — like, people leading secret lives, having a front, being con artistes?
I wanted to add a sense of mystery and larger-than-life-ness to mundane, simple things that we see all around us every day. The name of the garage ‘Jhontu Motors’, is extremely common and relatable. The idea is to take something very common and relatable, and add a second layer to it. We all know a decent, calm, typical, middle-class guy like Jhontuda in our lives. But the same nice guy can be a criminal mastermind and have a secret life. You can see a grocery shop every day on your way back from work. But the same shop may be the front for a drug dealer’s operation. I wanted to establish the concepts of secret lives and duality in audiences’ minds so that they can relate to the world of Jhontu Motors, as well as see their respective environments in a different way.
The track with Jhontu accepting the cases of both the husband and wife — without their knowledge — is quite inventive…
There are countless stories involving the concept of ‘the perfect murder,’ in global pulp literature. This track is a tribute to this sub-genre. I wanted to take the tropes of a perfect-murder scenario and turn the twist on its head. The story is designed partly as a ‘how done it’ and many are likely to guess who the murderer is. However, the last twist of the story is not what they will be expecting it to be. I wanted the audiences to think confidently that the story is predicable. The goal was to surprise them with a twist they would not see coming.
Also, the bit about the perfume to throw off the sniffer dogs… and the other plot point about the killer who can’t break the award… how did you come up with these ideas?
The bit about the perfume is inspired by multiple real-life police investigations. The awards plot point stems from the emotional quotient of the story. I wanted the killer to be likable and wanted people to feel bad for him, in turn, justifying his act of violence. This led to the point that he has a deep emotional attachment to his awards, as he has earned them rightfully. Also, in real-life murder cases, as well as in fiction, no matter how perfect a murder is, the killer is bound to leave a few clues accidentally based on some mistakes he or she commits. In this story, the killer’s mistake is becoming emotional about his achievements.
When Rajdeep’s character places the handkerchief-wrapped knife on the shelf to implicate a person, he is not wearing gloves. Why?
The knife is already wrapped in a soiled handkerchief, and it is extremely difficult and next to impossible for forensics to trace fingerprints from fabric. Being a crime writer, Rajdeep’s character knows this detail and hence, did not bother to wear gloves. Also, in that scenario, he probably would not have enough time to put on gloves.
The track involving the book that is supposedly popular in Bangladesh — it’s an elaborate plan hatched in a short period of time. But it seems like a stretch...
The con artistes only used old books and gave them new bindings. All they printed was a cover and a front page highlighting the publisher’s name and phone number. Though difficult, it is not impossible to bind a few thousand copies of books within 36 hours. Also, these guys are professional criminals who perform cons regularly. They might have used an older, existing phone number, or for that matter, an STD booth’s number. I should have clarified the phone number. In retrospect, I should have shown that Michael has occupied/rented a STD booth owned by a friend or accomplice for a day and is waiting for bookstore owners to call.
At one point of time one feels people are getting away with murder. But then things turn around. What is the point you are trying to get to?
The underlying theme is the concept of Karma. What goes around comes around. The universe has a way of balancing everything out. Even each of Jhontu’s actions, in both seasons, has a motif of maintaining a certain equilibrium. While the characters are unapologetically bad, they all pay for their acts.
Take us through the underwater killing scene!
The underwater killing scene was a huge challenge as we had no experience of shooting a sequence like this. Thankfully, Roshni Ali, an expert diver, came on board and helped us design the sequence. We shot the underwater portion at a water park located at the outskirts of Calcutta and it was a highly interesting experience. We used a Go Pro camera for the sequence.
Kalo Nekre challenges patriarchy. With a past like his, the once-emotional Jhontu was turning into a different person… someone who is drunk on power, condescending. Why the change? And why is the climax like that, where the underdog gets shot at?
For me, this entire season has been a super villain origin story. Jhontu is a criminal mastermind who has got away with way too many crimes. Due to this, in the last episode, we have shown that he has developed a sense of invincibility and a ‘cleverer than thou’ attitude. Though he almost meets his match in Kalo Nekre, he successfully outwits her too, adding to his confidence and faith in his intelligence. This kind of completes his journey and we see him in his final form — a cold-blooded evil genius who is the ruthless leader of a highly connected, age-old criminal organisation. In order to complete this evolution, the underdog, the one who audiences are likely to be rooting for, had to be defeated. This is intentionally anti-climactic. We wanted people to feel sad about Nekre’s defeat. The intention was to end the series on a bleak and hopeless note where the bigger evil wins. I believe that the hero of a story can only be as strong as the villain. If the villain is weak, the hero is bound to have low impact. I wanted Jhontuda to seem almost unbeatable by the end of this season, so that, if we get to return to the world of Jhontu Motors in a potential future season, we can possibly show Jhontuda fight a battle of wits against someone, who is bigger and better than him in every way. That way the audiences will get the pay off they were denied this season and I promise it will be worth the wait and the build-up.