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Sujoy Ghosh on creating the world of Jaane Jaan and why the thriller is essentially a love story for him

t2 chatted with Ghosh on the film that marks Kareena Kapoor Khan’s digital debut and also stars Jaideep Ahlawat and Vijay Varma

Priyanka Roy  Published 20.09.23, 06:17 AM
Kareena Kapoor Khan in Jaane Jaan, streaming on Netflix from September 21

Kareena Kapoor Khan in Jaane Jaan, streaming on Netflix from September 21

The first thing that struck me was Sujoy Ghosh’s red kurta. What happened to his trademark white kurta, I ask. “My wife has bought me this and she insisted I wear it today,” smiles the man whose strong thriller filmography includes the now iconic Kahaani. The film-maker is now ready with Jaane Jaan, his latest thriller set in Kalimpong, which is an official adaptation of the Keigo Higashino bestseller The Devotion of Suspect X and will premiere on Netflix on September 21. t2 chatted with Ghosh on the film that marks Kareena Kapoor Khan’s digital debut and also stars Jaideep Ahlawat and Vijay Varma.

First things first. How has a bona fide R.D. Burman fan named his film after a Laxmikant-Pyarelal song?


Ei re! (Laughs) I am an R.D. Burman fan, but I am also a Satyajit Ray fan, an Amitabh Bachchan fan, an Anand Bakshi fan, and a Kishore Kumar fan... I also respect others. That song (Aa jaane jaan from Intaqam) is crucial to my film. There is no thought behind it, there is no defecting as such (smiles). I still remain an R.D. Burman loyalist. But this song fits the film more than any R.D. Burman song.

The book (The Devotion of Suspect X) is very mystery-oriented and is classified as one of the greatest murder mysteries/ thrillers. But I always read that book as a love story, one of the most beautiful love stories that I have ever read. Jaane Jaan has all the elements that people have come to expect out of a thriller made by me, but it also has something else... and that is the love story element. I wanted the title of the film to define this love story, a name which would be a term of endearment. That’s how Jaane Jaan came into existence.

You have been wanting to adapt The Devotion of Suspect X for many years now. What took so long?

A lot of things. To get the book rights was a bit of a struggle. They had to assess me and see Kahaani in order to give me the rights (smiles). We put a cast together but then the budget didn’t work out, so it went on the back burner. But it never went out of my heart... I always wanted to make this film.

We regrouped. We got Kareena (Kapoor Khan), Jaideep (Ahlawat) and Vijay (Varma) on board. It was a new kind of excitement because I had never worked with these actors before. They are so exciting, spontaneous and organic. I guess every film has a time when it comes together.

Was the idea to always make a film as opposed to a series?

I am sure the book will lend itself easily to a series, but I always wanted to make a film. I really wanted to concentrate on the impact of the love story and I felt that if I kept going into other people’s lives, the main story may get diluted. I didn’t want to risk that. I wanted to make a nice, tight film.

And you always wanted to shoot in Kalimpong?

Yes. I know this terrain. This is home. Calcutta is home, Kalimpong is a place I know well and as much as possible, I will make all my films in this terrain. And that’s what I have done — from Kahaani to Kahaani 2, Ahalya, Anukul, TE3n, Bob Biswas... I know my city and I know its girgiti (chameleonic) quality. I see different Calcuttas in different films... it’s never the same. I see one Kalimpong in Durga (Kahaani 2: Durga Rani Singh) and another Kalimpong in Jaane Jaan. As much as I am allowed to, I will make all my films in that region. The Tollygunge crew treats me like family. When I am away from my family, they are my family.

And it had nothing to do with the fact that you could eat a lot of really great food?

Oh ya! (Laughs) Sheta toh achhei. That goes without saying. Honestly, filmmaking is very hard work. But you need to look forward to it. I need to say: ‘Aami ekhon kaaje jabo, kaaj korbo, khabo-dabo....’

Also when a story is being set, its world has to be a character. That bit I would never compromise on. As long as I can make Calcutta and Kalimpong part of my characters, I will. If I can’t, then I will go somewhere else.

What went into contextualising this story?

I didn’t have to do much. I just had to adapt it to the Indian sensibility. My audience is predominantly a Hindi-speaking audience. So basically their thinking, the environment they are in, the culture had to be changed a bit. The story will essentially remain the same because the emotions are the same for any human being in any part of the world. I just had to change a little bit to make it palatable for Indian audiences. Like I did for Badla.

Palatable in what sense?

In terms of the identification of the characters. Like Naren (Jaideep) is very Japanese in his honourable way of thinking, but he had to be Indian in the film. With Maya (Kareena), I wrote her in terms of how a single mother would behave in Kalimpong versus one in London, Japan or America. Maya has such a busy routine in making a life for herself and her daughter that she has no time for herself....

Which is what I was coming to. That Kareena barely sports any make-up in the film. Even the dark circles are not covered up. This is a part completely devoid of vanity....

That’s because she had to be a single mother whose life only revolves around her shop and her daughter. All three principal actors remained very true to their characters. What really excited me about these three actors was that they always saw Maya, Naren and Karan... they never saw themselves. Not once did I see Kareena Kapoor... she was always Maya. Jaideep has undergone a complete physical transformation for the film.

Adapting a thriller is different from any other genre because those who have watched the original will be familiar with the twists and turns and the ending. How does one work around that?

While growing up, we read Sharadindu Bandyopadhyay, Nihar Ranjan Gupta, Hemendra Kumar Roy and these were all detective stories. In any detective story, there will be a few suspects of which one will be the murderer. That’s a given. But it’s the journey which is exciting. That’s what I have learnt. The viewer stays with the film as long as the journey is engrossing. And at the end, the revelation or the twist becomes the icing on the cake.

You keep saying how the release of every film unnerves you. Doesn’t that get easier with time and experience?

Every film is new for me. Every film demands its own canvas. Just because I made Kahaani doesn’t mean I will make another Kahaani. I know how to make a film... I don’t know how to make a good film or a bad film. That adjective to a film is given by the audience. Hence, that shit scared thing happens before every film.

A few months ago, did the negative reactions to your segment in Lust Stories 2 surprise you?

Yes and no. Somewhere, we failed in creating the world. It should have been shot in Calcutta but I didn’t have the budget. Akhon bhebe laabh nei... dukkho. I know I went wrong. The worst thing you can do is lie to yourself. You can’t say that you made something amazing but the audience didn’t understand it. That’s all bullshit! If you have made potty, accept that you have made potty (laughs).

And no more acting for you?

Akdom na! Maybe if Rituda (film-maker Rituparno Ghosh) was alive, I would have. Maybe.
Which is your favourite book to film thriller adaptation? Tell

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