After his short film Ahalya went viral - three lakh views on YouTube in two days and counting - director Sujoy Ghosh says he's got short film offers to last him the next three years. He is also quick to give all the credit for the response to Valmiki, the original writer of the Ramayana, for the script.
The story of Ahalya has been one of his favourites for a long, long time. He says he always felt bad for Ahalya, the pious wife of sage Gautama, who was lured into a one-night stand by Indra, the King of the Gods disguised as her husband. Speaking from Kolkata, Sujoy says he always felt that the Ramayana and subsequent texts were unfair to her. This short film is Sujoy's feminist take on the original story.
Bengali great Soumitra Chatterjee, who plays a 70 plus artist in Ahalya, had seen and really liked Kahaani, Sujoy's last feature film starring Vidya Balan. Sujoy says he always wanted to work with Mr Chatterjee as the hero in a film. It helped that the story of Ahalya is also a favourite with him. Despite being unable to work for a long stretch due to age-related issues, the 80-year-old actor readily agreed to shoot the short over two days.
The director was very hesitant about some of the dialogues in the film, especially one with references to the character's sexual abilities, but Soumitra Chatterjee laughed it off saying, "It's not me but the character who's saying the lines."
As for the key part of Ahalya, it was a daring role which needed an actor who could talk through her body language. Sujoy says he met up with Radhika Apte somewhere in Mumbai and things just fell in place. Sujoy feels Radhika is a tremendous actress, inherently sensuous, attractively Indian - she personified Ahalya for him. They shot in Kolkata and she was a director's dream.
The music in the short film is by the Piku music director Anupam Roy and the background score by Clinton Cerejo, someone with whom Sujoy worked with in Kahaani.
If Kahaani was the story of Durga, Sujoy says between the Mahabharata and Ramayana, the two books are a mine full of stories he would like to tell. But till he gets the script right, he can't talk about his future films. All the talk around Kahaani 2 - the producers walking out, actresses not signing on the dotted line - Sujoy describes as 'tabloid stories, creations of the media and rubbish.'
The script of the film, at least the one that Sujoy would like to start shooting with, is not ready and that's what is keeping him busy. The genre and duration of the film are immaterial since he says his shorts are also as much work as the features. The story should be the one that he is convinced of telling.