Netflix’s new film Ghost Stories is an anthology of four films in the thriller/horror space. These short films have been directed by Zoya Akhtar, Anurag Kashyap, Dibakar Banerjee and Karan Johar. Ahead of its release, The Quint caught up with Dibakar Banerjee and the cast of his short- Gulshan Devaiah and Sukant Goel - on their foray into the genre of horror, the rise of OTT platforms and more. Here are excerpts:
My first question to you that when you know intention of the film is to scare people, are there any influences or films that you look for, specific things that you do when you are writing?
Dibakar Banerjee: We don’t need to look for them, because you are your influences, whether it’s film, whether it is some person, whether it’s some visual or a city. So what I personally do is actually try and not think too much about what I’m being influenced by, and just go within the core impulse. He said something in another interview that you need to know, you need to figure it out. And before you figure out what scares other people, you need to figure out what scares you. I was thinking, and I think what scares me most is not being there. And there are other fears also. Imagine if there was a society where I could sell you or buy you, make you into a nice ham sandwich.
For the two of you Gulshan and Sukant, can you gauge if it’s scaring people, can you do that?
Gulshan Devaiah:I wasn’t thinking about scaring anybody when I was doing this, and I had almost forgotten that we’re doing something which is meant to scare people. I think I was just focusing on what I had to get done. It was raining, the weather was not conducive. We were losing time. I was profusely sweating and so was he but then I was sweating a few litres more than him. So there was no time to think. And I wouldn’t say that I enjoyed it very much. Yeah, I didn’t because your brain stops working after a while. It becomes less creative and more technical. But then when I look back and see all the things that I have done, there is a sense of achievement definitely, from a personal point of view that I could do this.
Dibakar Banerjee: Probably the biggest curse that an actor can have is the script. Because most of us who are, in reality, don’t know what’s going to happen the next moment you know, we don’t know the script of our life. An actor does the better actors and actors like Gulshan and Sukant, they probably are in the moment and they have figured out a skill, a very necessary skill of erasing everything else outside of the moment because as characters in that story they are not supposed to know what has happened.
But do you keep information away from actors?
Dibakar Banerjee: It’s not possible because unfortunately filmmaking is a logistical exercise based over money, some amount of future planning has to be there and they have to know what’s happening. But beyond the point, they don’t know. After the third day, they stopped wondering what was going to happen. Like, what’s next? That’s the first question and the next question is when do we wrap?
Dibakar, you’ve also said this before that so much of filmmaking is actually so hard and you’re in like difficult conditions pretty much all the time. And you have to perform your best.
Dibakar Banerjee: I have a short aphorism for this: bad breath in the mouth, and old potty in your stomach. So it’s not even just ‘potty’, it’s old, stale potty from yesterday which you haven’t had time to negotiate. So that’s sort of the experience of all the people who actually work on making the film, who are part of the crew.
Is this medium freeing for you, I mean, the OTT space?
Dibakar Banerjee: The OTT space yes, definitely to some extent in the Indian context. Marginal filmmakers like us have a better chance of showing what they have to show. But like everything else, the OTT platform is too much of a good thing and therefore there is much more of a crowd.
And therefore you have to fight out of that crowd and therefore you come back to the same thing: how can you shout out and cut through?
The OTT platform which takes away the load of immediate box office returns and transfers the onus of the filmmakers to making the platform more attractive to the audience to some extent releases the filmmaker into channeling himself more into the film, rather than thinking about what the people would like to see. So that’s a good plus.
Video Editor: Veeru Krishan Mohan