Friday, Jul 01, 2022

The ‘Spirit’Of Filmmaking

A film director uses characters playing ghosts in two films to voice political issues he believes in strongly

Ghost stories A still from Bhooter Bhabishyat

I never had any special liking for ghosts or ghost stories. As a child, I was scared of both gods and ghosts. A shadow on the mosquito net would scare me just as exams would for which I would offer floral prayers to goddess Saraswati to pass them. Later, I realised that both gods and ghosts represent people’s fear of the unknown. Ghosts directly represent our fear of the unknown, while gods are supposed to protect us from the unknown. Or, perhaps, ghosts stand for the uncertainty of the unknown and gods are the sum total of the unknown.

Ghosts entered my realm of filmmaking in a strange way. I had no plans of telling a ghost story. Bhooter Bhabishyat (The Future of Ghosts, 2012) was my first feature film. While writing the script, my idea was to write a story that could be shot more or less at one location to keep the budget low—one place that could be distinctly identified as in Calcutta. With such a constraint, I needed a whole lot of characters, from varied backgrounds, to keep the viewers engaged. I did not want to tell the usual stories based on a family or on two people caught up in one place. I wanted to tell a social story, for which I needed characters from diverse socio-economic and linguistic backgrounds; even better if they belonged to different time periods. Then realisation dawned that some of them had to be ghosts. In the film now, these ghosts offer viewers a slice of Bengal’s history, along with reflections on different income groups.