With "Kahaani" and "Badla", fans have come to expect a certain kind of cinema from Sujoy Ghosh but the director says he is always looking for stories where mystery is not the primary plotline.
Through "Jaane Jaan", his latest film, the director has achieved a long-cherished dream of adapting Japanese author Keigo Higashino's novel "The Devotion of Suspect X", a story so dear to him that he held on to it for years.
"I need to find a story where mystery is secondary. For me, 'Jaane Jaan' was a love story, I did not see any mystery in it," Ghosh told PTI in an interview.
The filmmaker said he saw the Vidya Balan-led "Kahaani" as a story of a woman searching for her husband and "Badla", for him, was about the struggle of a woman trying to find what happened to her son. In "Jaane Jaan", he was intrigued by the selfless devotion of man towards the woman he loves.
"If you give me these things and if there is a mystery underneath, then it's an icing on the cake. Otherwise, it becomes very boring because we all have grown up on those detective novels where there are multiple suspects and at the end, one of them is the murderer," he added.
Asked why he was so keen to adapt this story, the filmmaker quipped, "Pyaar (love)."
"When you fall in love with something, it's very hard to get them out of your life," he said, describing how his friends presented him the book as a great murder mystery.
"But all I found was a love story. I couldn't find anything beyond the love story in the book. I thought that was amazing for a book to have such different perspectives," he added.
Originally, Ghosh had planned to make the film with Saif Ali Khan, Irrfan and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan but it fell through.
The filmmaker said he is a big believer of the fact that every movie has "its own fate and time".
"It was meant to happen with Kareena (Kapoor Khan), Jaideep (Ahlawat) and Vijay (Varma). God has been extremely kind to us even though it was a huge struggle, but at the end of the day, we really got the opportunity to make a film we believed in," he added.
The character of Karan Anand, a detective played by Varma is inspired by Manabu Yukawa, a physicist and mystery solver in Higashino's novels, which have collectively come to be known as Detective Galileo Series.
Would he like to continue the journey by adapting more books from the series?
"I would like to do one, 'A Midsummer's Equation'. If I could, I would ideally like that book," Ghosh said, adding that he wants to reunite with his "Jaane Jaan" cast.
"Because there is so much to learn, they improvise so much and bring such spontaneity to the table. Everything is written but when they finish with it, you feel like you have not written it," Ghosh said.
Praising Kareena as Maya D'Souza, the filmmaker said she embodied the character from day one and brought it alive by pouring in her experiences as a working mother.
"She starts off as a mother to a working woman, to a victim to somebody who has committed a certain crime and is repentant. She beautifully shifts through all these emotions. For me, Kareena has always been an actress first and a star later."
Ghosh said Kareena just asked him one question before the start of the shoot.
"She just asked me whether she needs to be in make-up. I told her, 'If you can, please don't' because all Maya has time for is to tie her hair back.' And that's all she needed to know to embrace Maya. If Maya has a pimple, then so be it. If Maya is tired and has dark circles so be it. She just embraced her so beautifully."
In the digital era, it is extremely challenging for a filmmaker to engage audiences, the director said.
"We are so used to getting everything instantly. In the old days, you had to go to someone's house to make a phone call, and then when we wanted to watch a film, we used to go to somebody's house who had a television. But now everything is easily accessible," he said.
But rather than resisting the change one has to embrace it, Ghosh said.
"You have to embrace it and use it to your advantage. I see my daughter, she's like from PS5, to mobile, to TV, to this, to that. I do whatever it takes to grab her attention so it makes the process, the storytelling much more fun for me," he added.
"Jaane Jaan" is currently streaming on Netflix. The film is produced by 12th Street Entertainment, Northern Lights Films in association with Kross Pictures and Balaji Motion Pictures.