Sujoy Ghosh on teaming up with Shah Rukh Khan for Badla: His marketing tactics are incredibly sharp

Seema Sinha

Mar 08, 2019 09:01:54 IST

After helming comedies such as Jhankaar Beats (a 2003 tribute to R D Burman) and Home Delivery (2005) and the fantasy adventure, Aladin (2009), Sujoy Ghosh switched to thrillers with Kahaani (2012), in which Vidya Balan played a pregnant woman looking for her missing husband in Kolkata. And even as Kahaani, which was a smashing hit, remains a turning point in his career, Ghosh doesn’t want to be labelled as a director of thrillers.

Hence, when asked if he was in his comfort zone with Badla, his upcoming feature, the Red Chillies-Azure Entertainment production which is an official remake of the Spanish whodunit The Invisible Guest (2016), Ghosh says: “Actually, it is the other way round. Unless I am in a comfort zone with any story, I will not direct the film. First of all it is very important for me to know that I can tell the story that the audience wants. I will not tackle a story just because it is a thriller or something I like. For example, I like all Satyajit Ray films but that doesn’t mean I can tell them as effectively,” says Ghosh.

Sujoy Ghosh on teaming up with Shah Rukh Khan for Badla: His marketing tactics are incredibly sharp

Sujoy Ghosh, Amitabh Bachchan and Taapsee Pannu shooting for Badla. Image via Twitter/@nitinrao382

“But yes, Kahaani changed a lot for my career. The film will be my life and in a way, that is good because it keeps challenging you, but the trick is not to keep Kahaani in mind every time you make a film. I just want to make a film which I believe in. Whether it is better than Kahaani doesn’t make a difference to me. I just want to make a good film,” he adds. Starring Amitabh Bachchan as a lawyer and Taapsee Pannu as an accused, Badla hits theatres today (8 March). The cast also includes Amrita Singh, Tony Luke, Manav Kaul and Denzil Smith.

The Invisible Guest is already available on Netflix which made Ghosh a little apprehensive and hence, he didn’t say ‘yes’ to the film immediately even as Taapsee, who was already on board, kept persuading him to helm it. “As a director, my job is to tell a story, but this was a story that was already been told. So I started thinking if I was capable enough to better it. Behind every film, there is a reason. Just because I had the opportunity, I didn’t want to boast about having the ability to make a better film. I am sure there are people who do that but I needed some time to understand what I could contribute, or if I could have a voice of my own as a director,” says Ghosh.

“Adapting a movie is more difficult than adapting a book because being a director, I need to see what my role will be in the project. And till the time I understood what should be done, four months had passed. After that Mr Bachchan came on board and he only suggested I direct the film because I knew the story,” he adds. Besides bringing his personal touch, he says he hasn’t meddled with the story. "If something is already good, why try to fix it?"

However, among the key differences between The Invisible Guest and Badla, as the trailer reveals, is that the genders of the murder accused and the lawyer have been flipped. But Ghosh is tight-lipped on that. “All answers are in the film”. His reply mirrors reports and rumours suggesting that Shah Rukh Khan will be seen in a cameo in the film. But Ghosh is extremely happy about the actor donning the producer’s hat. “Shah Rukh is totally involved in that role. Once you have given him the film, it is his responsibility to get the film to the audience which he does beautifully. The kind of marketing he does is excellent, he is incredibly sharp. He is wearing the producer’s hat very capably and beautifully,” said Ghosh.

Just over two years back, Bachchan and Taapsee were seen in the role of lawyer and client respectively in the National Award-winning film Pink. Did it ever bother Ghosh that things might seem repetitive considering that both the actors would be seen in the same relationship again? “For me, the past doesn't matter. This film also demands Mr Bachchan to be a lawyer and Taapsee, an accused who has to be defended. So what? It is just a coincidence. We have seen the film and the characters before. The challenge is in presenting a new form of the same story. She is vulnerable, she is being somewhat pushed into a corner with the accusation of being a murderer. It is just that how you present it,” says Ghosh.

While Ghosh has directed Bachchan before, what he loves about Taapsee is her spontaneity. “She keeps me on my toes and she is different each time, so for me it became difficult to decide which shot to retain. There is a lot of unpredictability attached to her performance which is very interesting,” he adds.

And someone who is known to be an expert at weaving his locations into his plots, Ghosh chose Glasgow, Scotland for Badla. “I wanted a world in which all these characters could be set. I tried to create an environment of an isolated society where people are more individual than together, for which we went and shot in Scotland in the cold weather. You have to create that ambiance, otherwise a thriller doesn’t come through. And since I know that area very well, I went there,” he said.

After Badla, Ghosh will make his debut in the digital space with Netflix's horror-comedy Typewriter, a five episode series that follows a group of wannabe ghost hunters, who want to capture an evil spirit in a villa in their neighbourhood. “It’s a story of four kids who hunt ghosts with their dog,” says Ghosh, furthering, "The writing process is completely different in digital which is a great learning. It is a new school and thought of story-telling which, when you make a film you are not used to it in terms of how you develop a character, a role. For example, if a hero is talking to a character actor in a film, the camera will go back to the hero to his house, but in a series, the camera will also go with the character to that person’s house. There are a lot of layers, sub-plots, and character development in a series which is interesting."

Quite recently, there were reports that filmmakers like Sanjay Leela Bhansali, Abhishek Kapoor, and T-Series head honcho Bhushan Kumar were likely to recreate the Balakot air strikes on the big screen. When asked if any such thought had come to him, he says, "If I am tackling an issue which is as serious, let’s say, the relations between two countries, or a film on terrorism, then I will make a Kahaani. That is my way of looking at issues. If I am looking at the issue of child abuse, I will make a Kahaani 2: Durga Rani Singh. If I have to make a film on a serious topic like child abuse, I have to make it palatable for my audience so that they can sit and watch it for two hours, otherwise I will make a documentary which you can watch in your own time. But since I am making a feature film and expecting people to come to theatres, I will have to have some amount of entertainment value. So, it is a mix of entertainment along with the issue that I will put out there."

Updated Date: Mar 08, 2019 09:06:42 IST

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