In 2020, before the first lockdown, director Vipin Das decided to quit films and look for another job. This was when his series Antakshari, which was set to go on floors, got stalled. Fast forward to 2022, he has released two of his films to critical acclaim — Antakshari, a slow-burn thriller and Jaya Jaya Jaya Jaya Hey, a smart comedy.
Back in 2020, Vipin decided to take a step back from films when he was asked to make major changes to the script of Antakshari. But the first lockdown changed his decision. He recalls, “It was when everyone was at home and not working, so we became equals. The producer was my friend and the situation gave us the confidence to go ahead and do what we wanted to. When everyone relaxed, I got back to writing and reworked the script of the series into a film. And we started shooting right after the lockdown.”
But the shoot wasn’t a smooth ride. Since he had decided it was his last film, he would wake up depressed every day. “During dark emotional scenes, I felt sad. During the rape scene, I got very disturbed.” But when he shifted gears to write Jaya Jaya Jaya Jaya Hey, things changed for the better. “I am not sure if it was because of the movie or my own life situation, but it was very different. During Anthakshari, I just wanted to somehow get done (with production). But with Jaya Jaya Jaya Jaya Hey, I didn’t want the shoot to end. It was so much fun. We were playing cricket throughout and even actors who were there for a week returned to the set to just be with all of us,” Vipin recalls, laughing.
On the surface, Jaya Jaya Jaya Jaya Hey is a woman’s retaliation to domestic violence. But the actions are staged in a way that it evokes comedy. What adds to this is the commentary track that plays in the background as the action unfolds. Sound design can make or break the film, he says. “I initially finished the fight scene without the background score. The commentary was added in the last stage. We called commentator Shaiju Damodaran to dub for that portion. But Basil (director-actor Basil Joseph) and the producer found it just okay. Only when we went on to mix sound effects did the team like it. I just kept trying and we kept reworking the mix. None of us liked a pre-mix version of the films. So, I sat in on the sound mix right from the start. That’s when I realised that sound design alone can destroy the film. In a hospital scene, we tried to use acapella. It was a risk to try that out. All I did then was keep trying,” says the director.
From thinking of quitting cinema to making creative films back-to-back, Vipin calls 2022 his most precious year. “It was the year that gave me a new life. I do not know how to describe it. It’s like I can separate my life as before and after Antakshari.”