Sujoy Ghosh, who has shocked audiences with his stark brutal believable and sensitive depiction of child abuse in Kahaani 2, has seen victims of child abuse from very close quarters. “My mother is a psychiatrist. My wife is a counsellor. At my mother’s clinic in Kolkata I’d see so many different kinds of psychological problems. They stayed with me. It took me years to sort out the one incident that has gone into Kahaani 2. I was plagued tormented and traumatized by it. But I didn’t know how to put it into cinema,” confesses Sujoy.
He was sure he didn’t want to preach down on audiences about child abuse or wag a disapproving finger at them. “My job as a filmmaker is to tell a story which is engrossing. I didn’t want to lose my audience in pursuit of the terrible burden that I carried on my conscience. I had to tell the abused child Mini’s story. But how? I did not want to make a documentary out of my film. I had to keep the audience involved till the end, without for a minute sensationalizing the subject. God forbid!”
Sujoy says he had to wait for a long time to get the right tone for the narrative. “It took me 2 ½ years to write Kahaani 2. I finally got it out of my system. The most scary thing about victims of child abuse is that they don’t know they’re being abused. They feel what is happening to them is normal, because they don’t know any better. By the time they realize the horrific wrong done to them it’s too late. Vidya herself plays a victim of abuse. Her character keeps herself from looking attractive. She is deliberately dowdy because she is afraid of the male gaze, the sexual touch.”
Sujoy is thankful to his actors for making the very difficult and sensitive subject relatively less complicated to put across. “This film couldn’t be made without Vidya and the child actor Naisha Khanna. Jugal Hansraj (who plays the child abuser) was someone I’ve known for years. He was supposed to do my directorial debut Jhankar Beats…the role that Shayan Munshi eventually played. I’d see him jogging in Pali Hill. He was my first and only choice for the part. Thankfully he rose to the occasion. Someone had to do the dirty job. Or this film could not have been made.”
Sujoy remains undaunted by the relatively tame opening of Kahaani 2. “Considering the circumstances, demonetization, we are not doing badly at all. The important this is, those who are seeing the film appreciate what we’ve tried to say. No one recoils with horror at the theme of child abuse in my film. That to me is a big relief. I was really scared about how audiences would react. I didn’t want them to ask, ‘Why is he showing this? We don’t want to see this.’ Luckily audiences have understood how important it is to address the issue of our children’s safety. We live in an environment of absolute distrust because we can’t bring ourselves to trust our children with even our closest friends.”