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A tete-a-tete on Sacred Evil

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Courtesy: IndiaFM
Monday, May 08, 2006
He may be new but his film is as fresh as his enthusiasm. After having worked with Ismail Merchant for a brief period, director Abhigyan Jha is all set with his debut film Sacred Evil co-directed by his brother Abiyaan. His film has a complete English setting from characterizations to language but still the song that he has used in it is the S.D. Burman classic composition O Re Majhi.

There are more interesting aspects to Abhigyan who has written his next film with Amitabh Bachchan in mind. Read more about the filmmaker and his film in his exclusive conversation to IndiaFM.

A self-contradicting title! What is Sacred Evil about?
The story is about a nun, a wiccan and a girl who is in search of her mother. There is a 20 year old secret in between them. I don't like to talk about the plot of the movie.

Is Sacred Evil inspired from a real life story?
Is it a true story written by Ipsita Roy Chakraverti in a book called Sacred Evil published by Harper Collins. Sahara bought the rights of the movie and we have made it.

How was it like working with Sarika?
It was great working with her. She is a talented actor.

There are quite a few foreign actors in the film as well. So how did you zero in on them?
We auditioned them via international video conferencing.

Tell us something about their performances.
Lynsey Pow is a Shakespeare theatre actor from England. Federic Andrau is a renowned French actor from Paris. If you do any research on him, you'll find out how big he is. Other than Sarika, all the others are theatre actors. If all the actors are from theatre, then the graph of the performance is better. Sarika plays the role of Ipsita. The true story is about Ipsita. We have taken a lot of care in portraying her character, since she is a real life person. She is also the author of the story. We have stuck to the story, the way she has written it. The credit of the original story goes to her. It's a true encounter with the dark.

Did it bother you that none of these actors are well known in India?
It does not matter. I don't believe in having a big star cast. The star of the film is always the story. There are hardly any original stories in Bollywood. It's the same story over and over again. This is an absolutely original story.

Who is your target audience?
My target audience is every English speaking person in India. I want them to experience a global film made by an Indian. It's not like my film is apologetic or wants to spread a social message. It's not an art film, but an entertaining film. This film will give us the confidence that even we can make films, the way they are made abroad.

What kind of response are you expecting your film to elicit?
I want all the English speaking people to watch it and love it. Everyone will be proud of the fact that this film is made in India.

The nun plays a central role in the film. Tell us something about her character. Does she play a stereotypical nun, who is seen in Hindi movies?
Well, she will be seen in a habit. Her behavior is different because it is based on a real life story. It has actually happened to a real life nun. We have shot in the same city and churches where it happened. We have modeled the character on the basis of the real life person. So there is no question of her being similar to any other character that you have seen.

Does this film have music?
Yes, it does. There is a song called O Re Majhi which is a classic by S.D. Burman, and written by Gulzar. We have taken that and redone it with Kailash Kher as the singer. After S.D.Burman he is the only singer, who can do justice to a song like that. Kailash and his band Kailasa have re-composed this song. This is the first song that the band has composed. That is one of the highlights of the soundtrack. It also shows how old songs can be used properly without making a mess of them. We are proud of the re-composed song. In terms of lip sync, there are two songs in the film. Both are done in such a way, that you won't even notice when the songs come in. We could have made the film without songs, but there were two situations where they were required. There are a lot of boat sequences in the film for which we have used O Re Majhi. The song is all about boats and Calcutta. As for the lip sync songs, one is a choir song which is also a re composition of an old song called Tu Pyar Ka Sagar Hai. It was re composed by Debajyoti Mishra (of Chokher Bali fame) and sung by a newcomer called Ashmita Sen. The reason we chose the song is that we added English lyrics to it. The original song had a Christian basis. There are also two English ballads in the soundtrack.

You were talking about the choir song. Don't you think it would have been simpler to include a Church hymn?
It is supposed to be a modern choir wherein youngsters are singing.

Where has this film been shot?
We shot in Calcutta, since the actual story is based there. Actually, shooting there was quite tough because there are a lot of labor laws, which are not conducive to working. Parts of our films are based in the 1980s. Calcutta is such a place where you will even find the 1850s, today. It has an old world charm which was very important to our film.

You have directed the film along with your younger brother, Abiyaan Rajhans. Were there any creative differences?
Of course, creative differences will always be there when there are two people. Somebody recently even asked Abbas Mustan. And they too said of course!

Tell us the USP of this film.
It's the story, which is the most original that you will come across in a long time. I can say that a film like this has not been made in India in the last 25 years. This is a strong story which no one has done in the world. If you want to see a great story, go see Sacred Evil.

Tell us something about the camerawork of this film.
The cinematographer is Ivan Kozelka from Paris. The way he has shot Calcutta is absolutely amazing. A lot of directors have worked in Calcutta but no one has ever shot it like him. He is a veteran in the field, who kindly agreed to work for me. He was earlier shooting for Ismail Merchant.

Finally, what next after Sacred Evil?
I have written a film with Mr. Bachchan in mind. It's a film which only he can do. Let's see if he has the time! There is also a series of two films. I am in discussions with my producers. One of my films will start by about July.

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