Bengali actor Vikram Chatterjee is on a roll. His Saheb Bibi Golaam was critically acclaimed and his Khoj, which is all set to hit the streaming platforms has already won adulation. Not just that, his next film, Meghnad Badh Rahasya, has won him accolades. As Khoj hits the streaming screens, we grab a quick telephonic conversation with Vikram Chatterjee.
Here’s the transcript.
How was your shooting experience for Khoj?
We shot the whole film in a place called near Dow Hills in a place in the North East. Very few films have been shot there. It is known to be one of the most haunted places in Asia. The place sees a lot of rains. Rains play a very important character in the films. So, we were dependent on the rain to shoot the film.
We didn’t want artificial rain, because it has a very different look when compared to real rain. So, we have had instances where we used to wait for a couple of hours only to get the right rain. You will see that the film’s shot in a very interesting way. The locations and the camera angles form an important part of the script. It’s different from regional films or even Bollywood films are shot.
How has the reaction to Khoj been?
Khoj has gone to 18 international film festivals and won awards in 9 of them. If the film goes to the film festivals, there’s a perception that it won’t work with the masses. However, Khoj not only won at the film festivals but ran for 50 days at the box office. There’s been a great word-of-mouth too. The film has been accepted by the critics as well as the masses.
What made you decide on a thriller, a rare genre for India?
There are thrillers that have done well. Initially, Khoj was a television film. That’s how we conceived it. When the product came out, we thought that we had made something that should be shown on the big screen. Khoj is very different from the Bengali culture. We have made a film that we believed in wanted to be a part of.
More actors are taking up web series. Why do you think that’s happening?
I would be glad to do a good project on the web, myself. Web is the next big thing. In the next four to five years, it will be big. Look at television today and compare it to when it was new. There’s been a great increase in the value of television. Web comes at the right time – we want things to be extremely convenient.
And why do you think the audience is going towards web series?
In the cinema model, I am time bound. I need to be somewhere at some time to watch the film. Unless I want to watch something on the big screen, I will be okay watching something on my phone. With web, the advantage is that I can watch something as and when I have time. The web is giving the advantage of convenience to people.
Do you think thrillers/mysteries will always be a mainstay for streaming content?
The audience for web content is increasing. Today, the people who are watching might like thrillers and stuff. But there’s a chance in the future, the audience coming to web content might be wanting something else. Elsewhere, the film-makers don’t necessarily think about the genre or the platform. If they believe in something, they will go ahead and make it.
What’s the one memory you take away from the shooting?
As I said, the Dow Hills are said to be one of the most haunted places in Asia. Most of the footage was supposed to be shot in the night. So, when we went there, the locals didn’t agree to come there to work and all that stuff. So, we had no other option but to work on a skeleton strength. We decided to write the cues ourselves, we decided to carry our own lights and cameras. We did that for four days. When we finally started shooting and did it, only then did the locals start coming to the sets. When they did, there was a whole session of people scaring us during lunch.
How did you prepare for your role in Khoj?
I live in a city. The cultural difference is huge between Calcutta and the place in Dow Hills. Our director, Arko had a reference point to the character that I play. He knew a person who was with the police force and that is exactly how I had to portray my character. I didn’t get much time with him. I only interacted with him at lunch that extended towards early evening. That was it. After that, Arko and I had a conversation and we decided which parts of the character we should take. This guy is no Chulbul Pandey. He has a different image. He might have tried for ten different government jobs, but he somehow got into the police force.
What thrillers do you like in Hollywood and Bollywood?
I like Gone Girl. I also like Baazigar and Johnny Gaddar. I really liked the way the characters have shaped up in these films.
Do you think streaming will be a boon for regional directors?
You see, there are great Bengali directors who have been making films. Bengal has always been rich in content and films. We have directors like Satyajit Ray, Ritwik Ghatak, Mrinal Sen, Rituparna Ghosh. I don’t think the Bengali directors are looking at streaming with that kind of thought. We have Anurag Basu now, we have a Shoojit Sircar now.
If Khoj was to be made in Bollywood, who’d be your dream cast?
Well, I’d like to play the character in a Bollywood film too. The rest, I leave up to the producers and the directors.