Actor Anshuman Jha, who was last seen in Hum Bhi Akele Tum Bhi Akele, is all set to make his directorial debut in the Hindi film industry with Lord Curzon Ki Haveli. The film, starring Arjun Mathur, Rasika Dugal, and Paresh Pahuja, which had been on hold since 2020 due to Covid, was recently wrapped up.
“Every film has its destiny,” says Jha. “We were about to depart (to London) in March 2020 to roll but Covid happened, and we kind of went into limbo. I was very sure that I wanted to make the film and I wanted to make it with this cast so I decided to pause it for a bit. This year too another wave (of the pandemic) hit in January and the production could not start. But at one point, after I recovered from Covid, I realised we have to put our head down and go in. We steamrolled into pre-production and somehow got the visas done and left. We even wrapped up the film within three weeks as planned.”
Lord Curzon Ki Haveli, he says, is his tribute to the iconic filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock. “I just feel so connected to his cinema. This film is a black comedy thriller and is sort of a tribute to him. It is about four people getting together for an evening of drinks and how things take a spin to reveal their lives and characters. The film is essentially about South Asians in the UK. So it has a very strong undercurrent about the diaspora.”
The actor-filmmaker draws a distinction between the mystery and thriller genres, and says that while India has seen a lot of the former, thrillers are what intrigue him more. “There is a difference between mystery and thriller. Mysteries are information-based that press your intellectual buttons. Thrillers, on the other hand, are more emotions based. You get the emotions of the audience involved in your story. Lord Curzon Ki Haveli is a black comedy thriller, something that has not been experimented with much in India.”
Jha and writer Bikash Mishra worked on the script for almost 10 months to get to the final draft. “Bikash took 18 months to get this story together. After that, for 10 months, we kept working and re-working on it. I feel emotional hooks are important in a script and so I wanted to make sure we had strong emotional elements. Thrillers are very treatment-based wherein the film is heavily dependent on the script rather than the actors. So in these last two years, I paid a lot of attention to the screenplay. I focused on the human emotion of the story and kept asking myself, ‘Can I connect to this?'”
Lord Curzon Ki Haveli is not only directed by Jha but also produced by his company First Ray Films, in association with Golden Ratio Films. The actor says he enjoys the freedom that comes from producing his own films. “The whole idea behind starting a production company was to back important films,” he adds, explaining that Mona Darling, their first production, talked about issues of social media, while Hum Bhi Akele Tum Bhi Akele, also produced by First Ray Films, discussed LGBTQIA+ rights.
“Mona Darling was offered to me as an actor several years back, but it kept getting delayed and went from one production house to another. It came to a point where Hollywood came out with a film based on a similar subject. So, I told the director that if we didn’t make it soon, somebody else might take up the concept and make a film on it. He asked me if I had the money to produce it and I said, ‘Give me six months.’ We actually cracked it by getting the perfect cast and allotting the right budget,” says Jha, recalling how he got into producing films.
Aside from backing films with important themes, what sets his banner apart is their quick production time. All of the films backed by them have had crisp shoot schedules, he says, attributing this to good planning. “When we produce, we pay a lot of attention to how well-planned the whole filming process is. Thus, all our films have been shot in less than four weeks. This does not mean we rush through the production; we actually give a film exactly as much time as the script needs.”
First Ray Films has several upcoming projects, including a love story called Seven, a film on animal poaching titled Lakkad Bagga, and a road-trip film. There’s also a web series, featuring Jha, set to release soon.
Aside from this, the actor informs us that he has a film titled Hari Om, which is due to go on floors in April.
Jha adds that while he has a lot of scripts on his table to read, he likes to “take things slow and do one thing at a time in the best way.”