I fell in love with Amrita Singh from the day I saw Betaab (1993)

Sujoy Ghosh, Interview *****In conversation with Divya Solgama

“I fell in love with Amrita Singh from the day I saw Betaab (1993)”, says SujoyGhosh.

National Award Winner Director is back with another suspense-thriller film ‘Badla’ that stars Amitabh Bachchan and TaapseePannu in lead roles. Sujoy talks here about the film, how it’s different from the Spanish movie, why thrillers are less made in India, his favorite thriller movies, childhood memories with Big B, and why he is still in love with Amrita Singh.

Firstly, how excited or nervous are you for the release of Badla?
Very scared! I am feeling like an exam is approaching nearby!

As it’s an official adaptation of the 2017 Spanish movie ContratiempoThe Invisible Guest, so how did you come up with this concept of making the same into a Hindi feature film?
TaapseePannu (actor) and SunirKheterpal (producer) were already a part of this project. Later on I was being offered and asked whether I am interested in directing the film, which I was not. Because the Spanish flick is such a beautiful film, where its screenplay is precisely written and everything in thatis just so perfect. As a result, I thought to myself that what will I do here as a director. Hence, I was little bit of scared in directing this movie, because questions like ‘how do I make it better’ or ‘do I have to make it any better in this’ were coming on my mind. More importantly, ‘how do I contribute to this film as a maker’?But then I got to know that they have swapped the genders here, where the lead role in the Spanish movie was played by a male, and in Badla they changed it to female which is played by Taapsee. Well, that’s when I started getting an interest to direct this movie. Now when I was convinced to myself that I can contribute something to this movie, it’s after that only I joined the board.

Was there any pressure on you with respect to expectations from the audience to bring something bigger than Kahaani 2?
No, not really! Because, if I start thinking in that direction then I will have to pack up!

You made your directorial debut in 2003 with the small-budget movie ‘Jhankaar Beats’that went on to become a surprise hit. So, any plans on making such kind of musical movie in future?
I don’t know yet, because with age and time, I am also changing a bit.

But wasn’t that your passion, because the movie was a tribute to R.D. Burman?
Yes, I love that!When you will closely observe Kahaani, it is filled with R. D. Burman music. Also, I still can’t live without R. D. Burman music.But now I don’t know, because I understand the life more, along with its dos and don’ts. And as a maker, I also need to take a stand, and maybe make some relevant films within limits because I am here to make commercial cinema by giving films that first and foremost provide entertainment. That’s my current state as of now!

After Jhankaar Beats, you went on to make ‘Home Delivery: Aapko…GharTak’ and ‘Aladin’. Do you feel that those films were ahead of its time?
No!A film which doesn’t work is a bad movie for me, and both the films didn’t work for the audience. I don’t know what goes wrong and what goes right in a film. And so, I don’t know why Kahaani is a hit andAladin isn’t. I make films with equal effort and time. All films are very close to my heart. I love Aladin more than Kahaani. But somehow it didn’t work and so you have live with it.

Do you feel that failures make you stronger, and so you come out with some great films for the audience?
No, it’s nothing like that. It’s a product of time and age.I don’t have time to think on this.

Did you face any punctuality problem with Amitabh Bachchan, as he is known to be very punctual?
No, I didn’t! His enthusiasm is something another level. And that’s good because everybody looks up to him on thefilm sets. So when they see him being so energetic and punctual, by default everybody becomes energetic and punctual. In fact,everyone was reaching before him. And so that is something good that he inculcates on the sets.

Why are fewer thrillers made in India? Is it because of the people leaking the suspense these days on social-media or we lack the writing skills in India?
The true side of filmmaking is that somebody needs to put money. And if someone is putting that money, then in return they also want that assurance to get their money back. As a result, people want to play safe but nobody knows what ‘safe’ is. Basically, there are three things from where you can recover your money back from- music, satellite and box office. However, in a thriller you hardly get a chance to put a song in it.Further, because of its edgy content ina thriller movie, satellite rights also goes down.Now you are left with onlyBox-Office, which in a way is a risk. So people generally put their money in such movies where they get revenue from at leastmusic and satellite, and then box-office.I guess, such kind of thinking was back then but now slowly things are getting changed.

Web-series like ‘Black Mirror’makes sure to change their storyline due to which guesswork is happening in every episode; as a result no leak on social-media. Do you think that’s the future of thriller across the world? What’s your take on this?
I don’t think leak is the problem. If it was then why do people still watch ‘Kahaani’ or ‘The Sixth Sense’? I don’t think the climax matters; I think its journey that matters. The journey of the story should be good, because if it’s not then nobody will care about the climax. We underestimate our audience and this is where we completely go wrong. Till date nobody has given out the climax of Kahaani. No one respects a film more than the audience. If it’s a good film they always respect it, and it’s we who gets scared each and every time. For me, whatever film that has worked, it’s the audience who has made it worked.

So you agree that Bollywood is lacking in horror or thriller genre?
We are definitely lacking, because these genres are not as big as they are in foreign countries. But I think time shall change things.

Lead pair of ‘Mard’ – Amitabh Bachchan and Amrita Singh – will be seen again in ‘Badla’. Both were last seen together in Akayla (1991), so how does this reunion happen? Was that your conscious decision to cast them both?
Not as such, because these were mere casting coincidences. Even forTaapsee and Amitabh Bachchan, you cast them first and then you realize it they were together in Pink. Same goes for Bachchan sir and Amrita. But they were needed for the film. On the other hand, I fell in love with AmritaSingh from the day I saw Betaab (1993). I think I am still in love with her because she is just amazing.

Any anecdote you would like share while shooting with her for Badla?
Once she had a very long dialogue and when I gave it to her she thought I was joking. But for a week, she learned everything and then gave a shot in just one take.She is amazing!

Amitabh Bachchan has completed his 50-years of working in Bollywood, and Badla is his first movie after that. So any childhood memories with Mr. Bachchanthat you would like to share?
My father used to be huge fan of his, where in facthe is the one who introduced me to Amitabh Bachchan. Once I saw a huge and massive bunch of people as if there was kind of morcha going on. I didn’t understood what was going on over there but soon realized somebody had come and the crowd just gathered to see that person. It was none other than Mr. Bachchan. I was amazed and standing there in the crowd to see his glimpse.Soon he came and waved his hand, and I was awestruck.That’s my earliest memory of actually seeing him in real-life.

Which one is your personal favorite thriller film?
There are many, because for me, thriller films are fun.Khamosh, Parinda, Andhadhun, The Sixth Sense, Jewel Thief, and several others are my favorite ones.

Lastly, what’s next after Badla?
I don’t know yet. Waiting to pass this exam first!