In Frame: Aditya Sarpotdar
In Frame: Aditya Sarpotdar

Aditya Sarpotdar opens up about directing 'Munjya'

The movie is running in the theatres now

With fresh faces and the first CGI protagonist, Aditya Sarpotdar's Munjya is winning hearts of the people in the theatres. Horror -comedy is a genre that has its own audience and people crave to see more of it on screen. Starring Abhay Verma, Sharvari, S Sathyaraj, Ajay Pukar and others, Aditya has finally ended the 'taras' for another horror movie for the audience. We speak to the director about the making of the movie and his thought process behind it.

Excerpts:

Q

Why the thought of directing a horror comedy?

A

Directing a horror comedy is always an enticing prospect because it allows for a unique blend of tension and relief, engaging the audience in an emotional rollercoaster. The genre offers the creative freedom to explore various themes through the juxtaposition of fear and humor. It challenges a filmmaker to balance scares with laughs, pushing the boundaries of traditional storytelling. This blend can also make the characters and situations more relatable, as humour often stems from the absurdity of fear. Ultimately, horror comedies provide an opportunity to entertain while provoking thought and eliciting a wide range of reactions from the audience. Having directed the first Marathi zombie horror comedy, Zombivli, which did very well both critically and commercially, I was encouraged to further explore the genre, aiming to create another film that captivates and entertains in a similar way.

In Frame: Aditya Sarpotdar
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Q

What's the genesis of Munjya?  

A

The genesis of Munjya is a folklore that is deeply rooted in myths and cultural narratives that have been passed down through generations. Originating in the rural areas of Konkan, Maharashtra, the legend of Munjya is said to have been inspired by the ancient Brahmin custom of Munja, also known as the thread ceremony. According to the folklore, Munjya is a mischievous yet malevolent spirit of a young Brahmin boy who has died an unnatural death within a few days after his thread ceremony. 

As my family hails from the Konkan region and I used to visit my ancestral town during my childhood, I learned about Munjya through local stories and family anecdotes. As a filmmaker I have always wanted to bring these stories to a wider audience, showcasing our Indian folklore through the powerful medium of cinema. So when Maddock films approached me to direct this fascinating story of Munjya written by Yogesh Chandekar, I saw this as a unique opportunity to combine my personal connection to the subject, to honour my roots and to share the captivating myth of Munjya with the world. 

Q

How did introducing the first CGI actor come about?

A

Munjya introduces India's first CGI protagonist who can emote and perform dialogues. The genesis of this idea stemmed from the desire to push technological boundaries and offer a unique visual experience to the audience. To bring this character to life we approached the world's leading visual effects studio, DNEG as they used advanced motion capture technology under the guidance of our VFX supervisor, Brad Minnich, who has worked on big budget Hollywood movies like Justice League, Aquaman, etc. Brad and the team at DNEG helped me through the entire process of creating the world and the character of Munjya which involved steps like conceptualisation, motion capture, rigging, animation, texture, lighting and composting. As the film is heavily dependent on the visual effects to tell the story, we are glad to have found a very competent team that has worked on some of the biggest visual effects films in the world.

Still from Munjya
Still from Munjya
Q

 How was the rest of the cast locked? 

A

As Munjya is about the character of Munjya and the title role is Munjya's, we wanted to cast characters around him, who line themselves more truthfully to the world of the film, who seemed from the world of the film and who were really good actors. So we felt that casting actors from the Marathi industry like Suhas Joshi, who's a veteran actor, Ajay Purkar, who's a very famous actor and an actor like S Sathyaraj, who is from the Tamil and Telugu industry and is famously known as Katappa and fresh actors like Abhay Verma and Sharvari will give us a very interesting mix of talent and it will also put the film into a space where Munjya becomes the central focus and all these actors will help him mount the film.

Q

Do you think Horror is a genre less explored in India?

A

I think horror as a genre is extremely underexplored in India. Moreover, the audience for this genre is extremely limited to true horror fans. Our Indian audience is more family-centric. When people go to watch a film in theatres in big numbers, it's more for family-friendly or entertaining content. Horror sometimes becomes very specific to the genre where families stay away from such films, so that's why maybe filmmakers in the commercial space haven't explored horror as a specific, committed genre. On OTT, these films will find their audience because OTT gives you a personalized viewing experience and gives horror the perfect space to be viewed in a one-to-one screen-to-viewer ratio. I think now horror will be explored a lot more, and I'm seeing a lot more horror content from the Indian market, but because the market is very limited, we haven't seen much horror come from India.

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Q

Have you ever felt the chills in real life? 

A

In real life, I do have my personal beliefs. I do believe there are positive and negative energies around us. I do believe that when you venture out into a space where you're going for the first time, you do feel a vibe, and the vibe is the energy of the space. So, I do feel that we as people have these centers of gravity and centers of energy that give us a sense of what is right and wrong. We can call it instinct or whatever, but eventually, it is that energy feeding from us and feeding into us.

If I have to give you an example of having felt a chill, I have gone around Konkan a lot, and coming from a place that is a heavily forested area, sometimes at night you do feel that someone is watching you. When you're venturing out in the woods, you do feel that something might turn up, so the eeriness is always there, but I have never had a paranormal experience.

Q

Any horror movies/directors you follow?

A

In the horror genre, I feel my favourite film has been The Shining by Stanley Kubrick. I think he's the best filmmaker who's made the best horror film. There are a lot of Korean and Japanese filmmakers who have done some great work in this genre, but if I had to select one, it would be The Shining.

Q

The last horror / horror-comedy movie you watched?

A

The last horror comedy film I watched is a Malayalam film called Romancham, which is an amazing film. It has the perfect blend of horror and comedy, and it's a must-watch, so I would highly recommend it.

Q

Are you currently working on anything?

A

I am currently working on a film which I shot last year . It's produced by Ronnie Screwvala. It stars Riteish Deshmukh and Sonakshi Sinha. It's a film straight to OTT and will release soon. I'll be able to divulge more about it as soon as I get details on it, but yes, that's my next film.  

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