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Consciously changed the style of editing, says Jojo director Argha Deep Chatterjee

While speaking to Cinestaan.com, Chatterjee shares his journey of making Jojo and also talks about the philosophies and inspiration behind his work.

Argha Deep Chatterjee

Roushni Sarkar

Director Argha Deep Chatterjee began his film career as an actor with Manihara in 2015. A multifaceted artiste, Chatterjee gradually became more enamoured with working behind the camera and eventually made his first film Jojo, psychological thriller.

Chatterjee reportedly finished making the film in 8 days. According to Saayoni Ghosh, who plays one of the most important characters of the film, Chatterjee’s passion was the primary driving force that helped the entire team to work tirelessly. Jojo released on 9 March.

While speaking to Cinestaan.com, Chatterjee shares his journey of making the film and also talks about the philosophies and inspiration behind his work.

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Is Jojo faring well?

I have received good responses so far. I tried to shift from the conventional space with a different kind of content, which is quite independent and urbane in its approach and the visual treatments in the film were also unusual.

Argha Deep Chatterjee and Saayoni Ghosh

I am glad that people are appreciating the effort. They are enjoying a horror story with shifting genres and multiple layers. Also, the audience is praising the performances by Anirban [Bhattacharya], Darshana [Banik], Saayoni [Ghosh] and Satyam.

Did you specifically choose this genre for your first film?

Oh yes! Genres of horror and mystery — a bit dark and edgy — are my favourites. I have watched several films and have read numerous works of fiction, belonging to these genres.

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In fact, while watching foreign films or reading Bengali stories, I often focused on these kinds of themes and have collected countless reference points in my head. So when I first thought of making a film I reflected that it is always better to begin from a point where one is comfortable.

Also, Bengalis have a romantic interest in ghosts, mysteries and they are always curious to know what is coming next. So I thought that if I could bring out the chemistry well on screen, the Bengali audience would definitely appreciate it.

Did any particular incident or work of fiction inspire you to write the story of Jojo?

No there was no single incident or any inspiration. When I started writing the story I knew that it would be dark. But the process was very spontaneous.

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In the beginning, I had no idea of the ending of the story. I still have five different endings in my draft. Anyway, I chose to make the ending a little over-dramatic in order to maintain an aesthetic balance in the film.

In the West, innumerable films have been made on these themes. I can name so many! From Hitchcock, Scorsese’s works to many modern television series. My growing sense of filmmaking and fascination for these themes has been very closely connected. Though in Bengal, these kinds of stories have been treated in a different way, I chose a sleek style, largely inspired by the foreign films.

Do you think that Bengali film industry has adequately explored this genre?

See, there have been many films on ghost stories. I can remember Hanabari (1952), Kuheli (1971), Shob Bhooturey (2017) – a very recent one. I can also recall a few sequences from Bikele Bhorer Phool (1974). These films had very original stories and were made with individualistic perspectives. They also retained a certain kind of emotional journey and philosophy.

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But I wanted to do a bit of experiment in the technical aspects and in storytelling. I consciously changed the style of editing, cut short the length and avoided too many sub plots and kept a single journey. Not many Bengali films have been made with this kind of treatment, especially not in paranormal or psychological thriller.

When did you decide to make films?

Actually, I was into music and also used to write a lot. I was always seeking platforms for creative expressions and was fascinated with the entertainment industry as well. As I started studying and gathering experiences on films, I got cast in the lead role in Subhabrata Chatterjee’s Manihara (2015) and also lent my voice for a song in the film. So you can say that I made my debut in the industry with that film.

While acting, my interest for the works behind the camera began to develop. I began to find the use of lights, concepts of framing and constructions of scenes much more intriguing than the acting part. I realised that rather than acting a single character, creating various characters of different shades interests me more. Hence, my journey behind the camera began and gradually I wrote the story of Jojo.

Producer Harit Da (Harit Ratna) liked the story and then the shooting for the film commenced. I wouldn’t say that I had to struggle a lot, my journey was rather smooth. I can definitely say that I met the right people at the right time.

How was the journey of learning the technicalities of film making?

I sincerely feel that when one keeps listening to all kinds of music all day instead of going to a music institution and practising regularly, one develops a musical ear and a knack for improvisation. I feel if one always keeps oneself associated to the form of interest, one can learn a lot despite not knowing the theories. Similarly, since Manihara I started making acquaintances with the members of the film fraternity, I had discussions with them, I spent time on the sets of many films and thus, I introduced myself to the technicalities.

Also, I watch films of different genres from all over the world. I would watch Hate Story 4 with the similar eagerness of watching a documentary made by Woody Allen. Not only that, I also go through the making of those films and read about the directors. I have groomed myself that way and have learnt a lot.

I wholeheartedly follow Quentin Tarantino’s saying, “When people ask me if I went to film school I tell them, 'no, I went to films’.”

Did you decide on the cast while writing the story?

Since the beginning of writing the story [sic], I wanted the female protagonist of the film to have a fresh face so that the audience would not have any preconceived notion about the character’s expressions in different situations. My goal was to deliver a new experience while telling the story from Mrittika’s (the female protagonist) perspective.

Darshana Banik was already a known face as a model. So I reckoned that the audience might be interested to see her acting for a change. I am glad that I could cast her first as she has already been offered many films.

I have been a big fan of Anirban and he has been my friend for long. His character, Anirban, has many shades and the part of his growing up which has not been shown in the film is an important element of it. So I needed a powerful actor to bring out those layers and no one could do it better that him.

(Clockwise) Argha Deep Chatterjee, Saayoni Ghosh, Darshana Banik and Anirban Bhattacharya

When I first approached him with the script I was quite confident that he would like the story; however, I had told him that if he refused to act then I would not do the film. Thankfully, Anirban liked the script and approved as he had not played such a character before. I named the character Anirban to stay true to my concept.

For the character of Polo, I needed someone to have a contrasting nature to that of Mrittika. While Mrittika is elegant, coy and a bit shaky, Polo is like a strong shield and she can manage things on her own. I chose Saayoni for the particular role because I find her body language to be extremely smart and she has got the 'oomph' in her attitude.

Satyam is like my younger brother and I think he too has done a brilliant job.

So what is your next project? You are very much into music, are you planning to do something musical?

Yes, I have a dream project related to music. I have already written a script of a musical drama on a musical journey. As I want to make it on a large scale, first I want to prepare myself for it. But it is definitely not my next project.

I have written a few more scripts for thrillers which are entirely different from Jojo in both content and look. I think I should not stick to a single signature style. I have come here to tell stories and I want to tell different kinds of stories. Now we are too busy with analysing the responses we are getting for Jojo.

After a certain amount of time, I think I will be able to judge where I am standing and to which direction I will work next.