Bhanu Pratap Singh tells us how he conceived the story for Bhoot: The Haunted Ship
Perhaps unwittingly, Bhanu Pratap Singh has helmed the most-awaited film of the year; not only is Bhoot:The Haunted Ship Vicky Kaushal’s first film after the major blockbuster Uri, but it’s also a horror feature, a genre which has been Bollywood’s biggest challenge. Plus, it’s Singh’s debut feature, so he has enough reasons to be nervous. But we found the newbie director in great spirits when he was in town recently and chatted up a storm with Indulge. Excerpts:
Why’d you zero in on a horror film for your debut?
It wasn’t a conscious decision, I just felt the story had great potential. But then again we don’t make enough horror films so we used to consume whatever international outings we’d find. So, there’s obviously a market for it. I just had a story to tell, which just happened to be a scary one.
How was the story conceived for Bhoot?
It is inspired by a true incident actually; a huge merchant vessel washed ashore in Juhu Beach in June, 2011. I saw the ship, and I was like, ‘whoa.’ It was all over the news as well; I added a paranormal aspect to it. I pitched it to my friend Shashank Khaitan who’s also a producer in the film, he gave me confidence to start writing.
I was very aware that Dharma Productions may not say yes to this; after Kaal I remember Karan (Johar) had said everywhere, ‘this is it, I’m never going to make a horror film.’ But then he loved the script, he said, ‘let’s shock people.’
How did you get your directorial start?
I was studying animation in Subhash Ghai’s film school, there I met Shashank and I deviated towards the live action format. I started at the bottom, as an intern for Ram Madhvani, I got back in touch with Shashank and Dharma during Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania where I was an assistant director. I was also writing in between, I wrote for films like ABCD; I became a writer out of necessity when I realised I need to learn how to write.
On working with Vicky Kaushal...
It was so easy, he was the only one I never had to worry about. I shot with him before Uri and after Uri, and I did not see an iota of change. Only the cakes got bigger, from a 100 crore cake to a 200 crore cake. I was very pleasantly surprised, that this guy has no airs about him; he’ll come start eating out of your plate. It was a very cool environment, which made the hectic shoot easier.
What are the horror movies you grew up on?
Oh, all kinds! You know how The Shining is atmospheric horror, it’s character-based, it plays with your mind. Then there are films like Conjuring which are a little different; The Exorcist, I think is the only film which bridges the gap between horror, logic and supernatural. Ramu Sir’s Raat and Vikram Bhatt’s Raaz are also films I grew up on.