After Gully Boy and Made in Heaven in 2019, Zoya Akhtar kickstarted 2020 with Ghost Stories. The Netflix horror anthology features short films by Akhtar, Anurag Kashyap, Dibaker Banerjee and Karan Johar.
Stating that it was Karan Johar who floated the idea of Ghost Stories, Zoya, in a chat with indianexpress.com, shared, “After Lust Stories, he suggested we do this next. Since none of us had done horror before, it was an exciting idea. I love horror movies, especially ones that are really scary and makes it hard to sleep after you have watched it. I share a weird dynamic with the genre.”
Talking about the making of Ghost Stories, the director said, “I was looking for a script, when I was introduced to Ensia Mirza. She is a horror movie geek and I really found her very interesting. She asked me some pertinent questions and got along with me. She came back with this unique idea of a temporary nurse, who comes to aid the bedridden patient, and then what happens is the film. I loved the idea and we started working on it together.”
Also read: Ghost Stories release LIVE UPDATES
Zoya Akhtar’s segment features Janhvi Kapoor, Vijay Verma and Surekha Sikri. The filmmaker shared that she was very clear about the actors she wanted to cast, “I wanted a girl who is not known much but popular enough to create an interest. I had watched Janhvi in Dhadak and there was a scene where she has no dialogues but you can still make sense of what she is thinking then. That scene stayed with me. When I met her, I was sure she was the one who could play this character. She has this particular mix of internalised energy. As for Vijay, I had worked with him in Gully Boy, and even when we were writing it, I knew I wanted him for the role. He fits the tone correctly.”
She went on to further laud senior actor Surekha Sikri who plays the elderly patient in her short film, “She is an incredible actor, and so very brave. She had an accident and is in a wheelchair but that hasn’t bound her. She was at the reading, rehearsals, costume trial, and with as much energy as anyone of us. And once you watch the film, you realise no one else could have done it.”
Zoya Akhtar also spoke about the challenges of making a horror film, without a ghost. She said, “There are still a lot of prosthetics used to create the scary image, but it all depends on the story. Within the genre, many sub-genres have been created, be it psychological thriller or zombie films. I didn’t really use the makeup because it wasn’t the demand. So it’s not really a challenge as it all depends on the story.”
Growing up, we all have various ideas of a ghost, be it the backward turned feet or lights flickering before its arrival. When we asked Akhtar about her imagination of a ghost, she laughed to share, “For me, it’s a lady in a white saree. I still remember the opening scene of Woh Kaun Thi, where Manoj Kumar stops his car and sees Sadhana. And as soon as she gets in the car, the wiper stops working. That was quite a classic horror scene.”