Film-maker Indranil Banerjee has been receiving a lot of praise for his horror anthology 4 Shades of Leap, which has been touted as India’s first horror mini-series. He has also made films like The Chase (2015), The Mirage (2016), Trinayani —The 3rd Eye (2017), One Night Stand (2018), Hello (2019) and Hakchoooo (2020). The founder and CEO of production house Unity Pictures talked to t2 about his latest release and what the future holds.
Tell us a bit about yourself...
I am an independent film-maker. Started doing telefilms in Bengali TV channels and then did a few short films which got me more than 70 awards and 130+ worldwide official selections. Then I applied for scholarships and went to NYFA (New York Film Academy). After I came back, I focused on the mini-series. Now I work as a commercial ad film director.
You have directed and produced 4 Shades of Leap. How did it all begin?
My idea was to present the psychology of being scared through colours and the presence of the paranormal through emotions portrayed by the actors. I hit upon this idea at the end of 2019. My cinematographer and I were having coffee on my terrace and discussing Netflix’s Ghost Stories, which I honestly did not like. We planned to do our own research on some actual events in Calcutta and make a film.
You have called 4 Shades of Leap India’s first horror mini-series based on incredible true events. Why did you choose this genre?
My favourite genres as a film-maker are thrillers and comedies. But Bengalis love bhooter cinema — from Satyajit Ray’s Monihara (Teen Kanya) to the recent Brombhodoitya, from Hitchcock to James Wan. It’s the most difficult genre in film-making. I was doing a different project but after watching Ghost Stories, I thought of taking up horror as a challenge. I used various cinematic elements as a poignant part of each and every tale — the shadows in the first episode, the rain in the second, the match cuts in the third, and the faces of various animals in the last episode.
How has the audience feedback been for this anthology?
The feedback was beyond my expectations. I am receiving love and blessings from every corner of the world. I am extremely happy and I thank all my distributors, film critics and friends. People are asking me to make a second season.
Each of the four shorts is five-minutes long. What was more important, direction or editing? Was there any research involved?
Definitely direction. I know editing so it helped me with my compositions and visualisation. I researched a lot with my team. We talked with individuals, visited abandoned houses and began forming the script. Production design is a vital component. In horror, it’s a necessary tool in creating dread and atmosphere, as is the sound design. But we kept a normal atmosphere and let the fear get triggered suddenly by primal feelings in an intuitive way. I wanted to prove to the world that a Bengali can direct a horror anthology in 20 minutes at a nominal budget and without any good equipment or celebs.
Indranil Banerjee Sourced by Correspondent
You have composed the music too. Tell us about it.
My last short One Night Stand got me nine awards and 28 official selections worldwide. I composed the background music for it. I had a basic knowledge in FL Studio and Cubase. In 4 Shades of Leap, I wanted to do the music because it was very complicated and I wanted to experiment.
What are you working on next?
I will do some ad films. It’s creative and challenging. There will be a short film release, called Urmimala. It will be submitted at global film festivals and will be streamed on various OTT platforms. I have written three web scripts in Bengali as well.
Who all have been your inspiration growing up?
From my childhood, I remember watching Toy Story, Jurassic Park, Satyajit Ray’s Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne and James Cameron’s Titanic. It was movies that excited me at such a young age and that continued when I grew up. I started doing photography and learning about films. James Cameron, Steven Spielberg, Francis Ford Coppola and others inspired me. Quentin Tarantino inspired me to learn storytelling through camera tactics, while Satyajit Ray inspired me on how characters can come to life and music can elevate each story. My best friend and elder sister Indrani Banerjee helped me by giving me film-making books.
Did the lockdown prove to be a creative time for you?
Yes. I researched a lot, read a lot and did not miss a single series or movie. But this year I just can’t wait to say ‘Lights, camera and action’.