The new Netflix series ‘Ghost Stories’ is helmed by four directors — Karan Johar, Zoya Akhtar, Anurag Kashyap, and Dibakar Banerjee. The series, comprising four different stories, is set to release on Netflix on January 1, 2020.
Described as an edge-of-the-seat psychological drama dealing with loss and fear, it features Janhvi Kapoor, Vijay Verma, Mrunal Thakur, Sobhita Dhulipala, Gulshan Devaiah, Kusha Kapila, Surekha Sikri, Sukant Goel and Avinash Tewari in pivotal roles. Showtime spoke with Dibakar Banerjee and Anurag Kashyap about their individual stories.
‘This was the most satisfying experience’: Anurag Kashyap
Director, writer, producer, editor and actor Anurag Kashyap is the winner of four National Awards. But he wears his popularity quite lightly on his sleeve. He is now active on OTT platforms in a big way. He co-directed India’s first Netflix Original series, the crime thriller ‘Sacred Games’, based on Vikram Chandra’s novel of the same name. He took up a couple of projects after that and has now returned with ‘Ghost Stories’.
In an interview with Showtime, Anurag said the experience was “most satisfying”. He confesses he has been trying to make horror films for at least six years. “If this experiment works with people, then I will make a horror film,” he says.
The film, in this series, is an intimate horror story about a woman stuck in her own world. “She (played by Sobhita Dhulipala) just had a miscarriage. Anticipating the arrival of the child, she creates a room for it. But it never arrives. She is pregnant again, and this time, she is so paranoid that she does a pregnancy test every day to make sure the baby is all right. This paranoia reaches spine-chilling levels,” explains Anurag. He also says the actor has brilliantly portrayed the emotions of a mother who has lost a baby and yearns for another.
Sharing her experience, Sobhita Dhulipala, the actor of ‘Made in Heaven’, says that she experienced fear at a different level. “I was so into the character that I felt that I could understand loss, pain and how it felt to lose a child. This is such a sensitive issue, yet so universal in nature. I was really drawn to the character and I connected with her at a different level,” Sobhita says.
‘We are a nation of scared people’: Dibakar Banerjee
Dibakar Banerjee’s segment features Gulshan Devaiah and Sukant Goel. When director Dibakar set out to shoot for ‘Ghost Stories’, he was certain he didn’t want anything subtle. “I want my work to scare a populace that is already scared. If your day begins with being scared to walk, speak and think, then we are a nation of scaredy-cats. The funny thing is that nobody really needs to scare us, we decide to get scared in advance,” says Dibakar. His challenge, therefore, was to figure out how to scare a society that is “comfortable with being scared all the time.”
The director has a great deal of appreciation for actors like Gulshan and Sukant. “The scariest thing for anybody is not to know the script of their life. But an actor knows the script. Gulshan and Sukant did well to erase everything else outside of the moment and concentrate on what’s going on. They developed a certain skill in doing so. They always kept wondering what next.”
‘Concept of ghosts has evolved over the years’: Sukant Goel
Sukant Goel, who plays an important role with Gulshan, feels the concept of a ghost has changed and evolved over the years. “Like in Gulshan’s case, my grandmother too told me stories of ghosts I was supposed to be afraid of. Stories like ‘open the window and when you hear the sound of an anklet, you know the ghost is there’ were aplenty. Let me tell you that there are ghosts everywhere, in all of us,” he says. Ghosts can be complex and positive, he says, laughing. Has he been able to overcome fear after working on this series? “You can never conquer fear. Because if you do, then there’s no life. It is such a primal instinct that it drives evolution,” he says.
‘There’s a scary ghost inside you’: Gulshan Devaiah
Gulshan Devaiah, who plays the protagonist in the film, grew up with conventional ideas about ghosts. “It was mainly based on my grandmother’s tales,” he says, laughing. He believes the person living within you is scarier than your surroundings.
His says playing his role was mentally and physically exhausting. “I lost three kilos after the shoot,” he says. The weather and the atmosphere they shot in were in sync with almost all the scenes in the series, he says.
Shooting for ‘Ghost Stories’ taught him a great deal and one of them is to be patient, especially with children. “It is a challenge working with children. I don’t enjoy working with them. But what made my job easier was that Sukant Goel was well-prepared. It wasn’t as stressful as I thought it would be because everybody remained calm,” says Gulshan.