Director Sayantan Ghosal on ‘Mouchaak’
In the Hoichoi web series Mouchaak, Monami Ghosh plays Mou Boudi, who is the centre of attention. But everything changes one night as accidental deaths take place and bodies start piling up in her home. As Mou Boudi hatches a plan to get rid of the bodies, a lottery ticket heightens the level of intrigue in director Sayantan Ghosal’s dark comedy. A candid chat with Sayantan....
How is the feedback till now?
Mouchaak has become very popular and the talk of the town ever since the poster was released. Feedback has started to come in from the audience and the majority are loving the crazy, light watch! We believe it will definitely be among the most watched series of this year.
You are well-known for making family-centric, tech-friendly, large-scale, popular adventure films. Why did you decide to direct an adult comedy/thriller like Mouchaak?
Yes true, and I will continue making them too... I love those films. Tenida and Swastik Sanket are ready for the big screen, and they are the kind of films I am known for. But once in a while everyone needs a break. I cannot see myself being a safe director. There has to be experiments, there has to be risks. Otherwise, it becomes a routine, and I hate that. Some experiments will work, some will not — that’s how it is, and it’s completely fine. But I need to continue challenging myself with different genres.
Did you think twice about directing Mouchaak? Did you ever think how your fans of adventure films will react to this change?
I was instantly hooked after listening to the concept of Mouchaak. It was a very welcome change. And it’s great fun to shoot comedies. So no second thoughts. Yes, people were shocked to see my name in an adult comedy, and that’s quite natural.
A series like Mouchaak will polarise the audience. What did you think of that aspect?
Nothing wrong in it — not everything is meant for everyone. We decide on a target audience before making any film/ series, and as long as it works with them, there is no problem. There is no point in the attempt to please everyone.
How did you process some of the negative feedback on social media once the trailer and song dropped?
Have you seen the views and post engagements? Those gave us a lot of promotions. Now when they see the actual show and realise that it’s not what they were expecting, the negativity is going down.
Do you feel a Bengali adult comedy inadvertently exposes the hypocrisy of a certain section of society? It gets huge views but people won’t acknowledge watching it in public. They are almost apologetic about it. What is your take on it?
This sort of hypocrisy is nothing new. A section of the viewers will enjoy your film and then will be scared of being judged by others. This behaviour comes from years of social conditioning. As if one fine morning they were born as they suddenly dropped from the sky.
How was it like directing Monami?
It was very new for both of us. And we had this conversation on Day 2 of our shoot. She is very easy to work with, and I think we as a team also made a conscious effort to make her comfortable on set. She is a very experienced actor, and the nitty gritties of Mou’s characteristics were well thought out tactfully by her in advance. Also, Mou is completely different from the image she has. This, along with the fact that she was working for a new format, brought in a rawness to her performance.
How was the process of collaboration with Sahana, who has written the script?
She is the real star of the show! She is also my producer, and she is one of those people who have really, really supported me from the very beginning of my career. I met her while she was with SVF, and she was the one who wanted me to make Byomkesh for Hoichoi. She has a wicked sense of humour, and is a very gifted writer. People will push you into a ‘slot’, and assume that certain directors can only pull off certain genres. But she has a rare progressive mind who thought otherwise and offered me Mouchaak.
What was your takeaway from the whole Mouchaak experience, which is a wacky fun ride?
We had a blast shooting for the series. As a very young, energetic team, it was like a 12-day-long picnic. I have grown up on a healthy dose of comedy films where you do not have to think too much about logic — you just enjoy the fun. The intention behind Mouchaak was the same — entertaining people, and I think we achieved what we set out to make. There is no pretence. I am very proud of the final series. It was like discovering a new side of myself.
Is the camera mostly handheld inside Mou Boudi’s home? Why take that decision?
Going handheld was an intentional aesthetic choice. There are actually no locked-off shots in this series. We dispensed off the stable shots to create a continuous sense of immediacy and create a sense of realism even inside this
make-believe world of Mou.
What were your acting directions to Sourav who plays Bimal, and has to act dead almost throughout the show?
It was really funny! After a point of time he was really, really frustrated, and the whole team kept on pulling his leg. But Sourav is a very good actor, and we had collaborated earlier for Byomkesh Season 1.
Tell us about the opening sequence, which is blast!
Shooting it was hectic, but we had a lot of fun! All the actors brought in their own improvisations, which added to the overall energy.
The neighbour can hear almost everything that goes on inside Mou’s house. But then why couldn’t she hear anything when the first body was being taken out? It made a lot of noise.
Definitely she might have heard! Maybe we did not cut back to her reactions this time. But it is clear from her reactions before and after this scene that she is certain about fishy activities going on inside Mou’s house. But it is the streetsmart Mou who is always a step ahead and manages to fool her every time.
What do you have to say about the infamous ‘biryani scene’?
We designed the character of Bimal to be weird. He looks quite a decent guy on the outside, but his secret kinks come out while he spends time with Mou. The biryani scene reflects that, in a bizarre and funny way.
Though the final moments are really funny, towards the end Mouchaak runs out of fun, innovative ideas. It goes on a loop. Maybe the thief with an outside perspective could have added value with a detailed character background. Do you feel Mouchaak could have benefited with a change of genre, where you address larger domestic issues or the inner turmoil of Mou through a thriller? Or you could have made it tighter maybe? It seems a bit stretched towards the end.
We made Mouchaak for the large section of viewers who want a light, fun watch. So we designed it to be like that — something that is not heavy on the brain. But yes, no film/series is perfect. Mouchaak is just out of our system, and we will be in a position to judge the positives and negatives only after a few days.