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Exclusive! Ishaan Ghose on Jhilli: Capturing the strange economic dichotomy of Kolkata was important for me

 In an exclusive chat with OTTplay, the young director talks about his journey of making Jhilli. 

Exclusive! Ishaan Ghose on Jhilli: Capturing the strange economic dichotomy of Kolkata was important for me
Ishaan Ghose
  • Shamayita Chakraborty

Last Updated: 12.29 PM, Nov 13, 2022


The tears came streaming down Ishaan Ghose’s face when his name was announced as his film Jhilli won the Best Film Award in the International Competition on Innovation in Moving Images section at the 27th Kolkata International Film Festival in May. A film that he completed with heart and soul was finally released in theatres on November 11. The film that has created a buzz after its first screening at the film festival is a debut project of Ishaan, who started working on the film in 2017. Filmmaker Goutam Ghose, Ishaan’s father, produced the independent venture. In an exclusive chat with OTTplay, the young director talks about his journey of making Jhilli. Read on…

Now that your film is released, are you nervous?

Not really. Actually, when we were making the film we had no expectations at all. We did not think of release, festival, or awards. However, my other teammates are very excited about the release though.

And you?

Jhilli has been an obsession for me for a long time and now finally, it is reaching out to people. I am feeling a bit relaxed I would say. It is a huge relief. How people are going to react to the film is not something I am worried about right now.

How did it all begin?

I used to visit Dhapa frequently. I was working on a documentary on ragpickers of Tiljala. I watched the processes of waste management etc. Anyway, the project did not shape up but I realised that it is a world that we have little idea about. I was drawn to the contrast and the strange economic dichotomy of the world. That is practically the gutter of the gloss of the city. The worst possible discard of the city gets accumulated there and that world hangs in a limbo state. Capturing that reality became important for me.

By focusing on ‘have-nots’, Jhilli often seems critical about the existing urbanisation, etc. Is that a deliberate effort?

There is no blatant socio-political statement in Jhilli. Everything that we experienced – the vulgarity in the aesthetics of the city – is visually captured in the film. Everything gets reflected through the POV of the characters. I realised that the people like Bokul, Shombhu, and their friends don’t even learn how to dream. Aspiration is a luxury word for them and they often cannot afford that. Every hour of their life is a battle and they are constantly working. The visuals in Jhilli are a collage of how they see their surroundings. Not that everything is shot according to any plan. I shot something and on the edit table, I realised that some of the shots are making sense. For example, while shooting, I got several shots of planes. Later, I realised that those shots have created a narrative. Such visual metaphors are aplenty in the film.

While making the film, did you think of releasing it?

Absolutely no. The release is a huge thing for me. During release-related meetings, I realised that there is a preconceived division between commercial and arthouse cinema and both the camps stay away from each other. There was a time when the footfall at arthouse films also used to be huge. There can be creative and aesthetic differences but finally, we all want to reach out to our audience and that’s why we become more responsible as filmmakers. Jhilli is made literally on zero budget and since I had no responsibility of recovering the cost, I was self-indulgent. A little bit of responsibility is good I think.

Dostojee is released during the same time. Did you get to watch it?

Not yet but Dostojee and Jhilli are strangely connected. Prasun (Chatterjee, director of Dostojee) and I went to the same post-production studio, Cherrypix. That was 2020 – right in the middle of the pandemic and lockdown. It was a very strange experience. Apart from us, no one else was working. We did not know each other and then we started meeting regularly.

Jhilli and Dostojee are released together. Do you think this can negatively impact the two films?

I don't think it is detrimental for any film to have another being released at the same time. More films will mean more people going to the cinemas and that is good. Jhilli has a very limited release – in five halls. I don’t think that release will create any problem for any other film.