Bob Biswas director Diya Annapurna Ghosh: Had I known it was an OTT release, I'd have made it darker

'Saswata Chatterjee is a fantastic actor, but I don’t know whether we'd have him as Bob Biswas instead if we knew it would be an OTT release,' says Diya Annapurna Ghosh.

Tatsam Mukherjee December 13, 2021 08:07:42 IST
Bob Biswas director Diya Annapurna Ghosh: Had I known it was an OTT release, I'd have made it darker

Abhishek Bachchan in and as Bob Biswas

It sounds like Diya Annapurna Ghosh is going through the first-ever series of press interviews of her life. It is the right moment surely, considering her directorial debut Bob Biswas released only a few days ago. Starring Abhishek Bachchan, the film opened to a mixed reception, thus making the process of a series of interviews more excruciating for a first-time director like Diya.

Her father, filmmaker Sujoy Ghosh is credited with the screenplay and the story of the film, considering how the protagonist is borrowed from the biggest hit of his career: Kahaani (2012). Press junkets can be an intimidating place for a debutante director. Ghosh sounds a bit tentative with her answers, almost as if she is weighing each and every word.

Talking about her experience of coming on board, what intrigued her about Bob Biswas, her inspirations, and what she learned from her first outing, Diya's answers are raw, safe, and sometimes riddled with cliches, possibly indicating why Bob Biswas is the way it is.

Edited excerpts below:

Did the germ of the idea exist for Sujoy, or was it after he saw how popular the character got? What were your initial thoughts on the Bob Biswas played by Saswata Chatterjee? 

This was after the popularity of the film. No one knew it would become that big. I really liked it, I didn’t know much about it. I was only 18 when I watched Kahaani. I really enjoyed Saswata Chatterjee’s performance, it’s so fun to see him shoot people. Especially someone like him, something you don’t expect at all.

What were the kind of movies you grew up watching?

Most of my inspirations were international. Edgar Wright, Martin Scorsese. I really like Hot Fuzz, and The Departed is a great movie. I like when the directors have their own signature style.

What has your filmmaking journey been like?

I did my Masters in Film (in Directing). I studied in London. I did a Bachelor's in Science.

While I was in film school, I didn’t take up acting because it’s really not my forte. I think I could be the worst actor in the world. Even Cinematography, I wasn’t the best at it. So, I took up Directing. I worked on Badla (2019) with my father, I was his assistant. You need that technical exposure because you’re supposed to know everything, whether it’s editing or lighting. 

What year was this when you graduated from film school? 

I graduated in 2017, and we were working through Badla in 2018. And then Bob Biswas began in 2019. He (Sujoy) got the idea around when we were working on Badla. I was on board to do this from the very beginning, which is from the end of 2018.

Bob Biswas director Diya Annapurna Ghosh Had I known it was an OTT release Id have made it darker

Team Bob Biswas

What excited you about the project?

I loved how it was a grey character, something we have so little of in this industry. I liked how Bob Biswas was in Kahaani. I think I could relate to him. And I was really intrigued by how he went about his daily life, while killing people in his spare time. How he lies about it. Everyone has a good and bad side, right? And that’s what really interested me about the character.

Many observed what the character Bob Biswas had going for him was his mystery. Were you ever daunted by the challenge of doing a film that would 'figure him out?'

I don’t think it was so much of a challenge. I think in my film, we’ve given him a bit of reasoning about why he kills. Everyone has a reason to do something. You can’t go about showing a character without their reason otherwise you wouldn’t know what to show in the film. He’ll be killing for no reason, and then you wouldn’t know where the story would go. I think it’s necessary to give a bit of a reason as to why he kills someone. See, even John Wick is killing for a reason. Everyone has a reason to kill, whether or not you agree with me is a different thing altogether.

Some could also argue that some people just like to kill, for the pleasure of it.

Of course! But Bob Biswas is a contract killer. And he was doing it for the money. He could have been a serial killer, but I never saw him like that. Even in Kahaani, he would kill only when he would get a photo on his phone. He was an assassin, and he did the job.

Is it soon for you to objectively reflect on the film. Is there anything you would have done differently?

A few technical decisions maybe, story-wise not so much. When I was given the story, I wasn’t upset about it. When we were making the film, we were going for a more comic-book world. A lot of people saw it as a thriller, which I never really did. I didn’t go down that route at all. I tried to keep the film as intact as possible, as long as you weren’t bored and the acting didn’t seem excruciating, I think that was my main objective.

I always looked at it more as a crime drama, I think there was a lot of love in the film. I wanted to keep that intact. I added a bit of dark humour in places, like he is an unfit guy for sure. The fact that he is killing people is so unexpected. The song (by Clinton Cerejo) that plays is addressing Bob rather than the ones being killed. 

Would you have done something differently had you known this was an OTT release?

Maybe make it a bit darker?

I don’t think we went as dark as we could have because obviously this was initially meant to be a theatrical release. 

Would Chatterjee be in the conversation then? To play Bob?

I genuinely can’t answer. When the writer (Sujoy) had initially written Bob Biswas, he had seen Abhishek Bachchan in the role. Saswata is a fantastic actor, but I don’t know how we would’ve gone about it if it was an OTT release.

What is a lesson you learned on Bob Biswas that you think you will remember?

There are so many. I guess just believe in yourself. Whatever the circumstances, give it your best. 

Bob Biswas is streaming on ZEE5.

Tatsam Mukherjee has been working as a film journalist since 2016. He is based out of Delhi NCR.

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