Anurag Kashyap is a maverick. But he is also a pioneer and a trailblazer who has single-handedly changed the face of Indian cinema as a writer, director, and producer. Kashyap, who first came to limelight as the writer of Satya, has made some of the most important, exciting, and hard-hitting Indian films of this new millennium such as Black Friday (2004), Dev D (2009), Gulaal (2009), Gangs of Wasseypur (2012), No Smoking (2007), Raman Raghav 2.0 (2016), Mukkabaaz (2017), among others.
A lot of these films have been well received internationally as well. Back in the year 1993, during his student days at the Delhi University’s Hansraj College, Kashyap watched the legendary Italian filmmaker Vittorio De Sica’s neorealistic masterpiece Bicycle Thieves (1948) at a film festival in Delhi. The film is said to have such a profound influence on him that he immediately decided to go to Mumbai and become a filmmaker. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Anurag Kashyap was recently in Delhi to promote his new film Almost Pyaar with DJ Mohabbat, starring Karan Mehta, Alaya F, and Vicky Kaushal. Patriot caught up with him for an interview.
In the interview, Kashyap talks about his new movie and what he is trying to say through it, the role he has played over the years in strengthening the global footprint of Indian auteurs, and his other upcoming projects.
Q1. How did you conceive Almost Pyaar with DJ Mohabbat?
A. I have developed Almost Pyaar with DJ Mohabbat over a period of time. I had an idea to tell two stories using the same set of actors. Often a lot of things differ with regards to rural and urban settings. But I have realised whether you are living in a village or a city, the problems may come in different forms but they have the same source of origin. It took those from my generation a lot of time to get rid of the conditioning. There was a time when I wanted to put in my teenage experiences into it. But now my own daughter is 18 and I realised that the times have changed and so there is no point in telling my story. So, let’s talk about their generation and what they are facing with us.
Q. Are there any similarities to Dev D and Manmarziyaan?
A. Vicky Kaushal is playing DJ Mohabbat just like his character DJ Sandz in Manmarziyaan. But beyond that there isn’t much. Also, DJ Mohabbat is very different from DJ Sandz. DJ Mohabbat is a very mature and wise man but DJ Sandz wasn’t. Regarding the similarities with Dev D, I feel what it was doing for its generation, Almost Pyaar with DJ Mohabbat is speaking for the present generation.
Q. You are India’s answer to Quentin Tarantino, Martin Scorsese, Wes Anderson, Christopher Nolan, and Paul Thomas Anderson, all wrapped into one. Why don’t we have in India more such directors who can be described as auteurs?
A. Well, somewhere I feel we need to expand the definition of an auteur. The way I look at it, Rajamouli is an auteur, Vetrimaaran is an auteur, Lijo is another. Among the younger lot, there is Chaitanya Tamhane. Also, Vasan Bala and Sriram Raghvan very much belong there. In fact, I remember that I once wrote that David Dhawan was a true auteur of his time.
Q. But why most of them haven’t been able to project themselves as auteur and more so in a global way like you have managed to carve a niche for yourself outside of India as well?
A. Maybe they don’t want to. At one point in time, I used to wonder why cinema from South India doesn’t travel well. I talked to Vetrimaaran and another friend and they told me that their producers aren’t comfortable with it. When Vetrimaaran made Visaranai, he showed it to me. I usually show him my work and he shows me his. He is a friend and somebody I admire. The producer of Visaranai was Dhanush and he decided to hold on to the film. The usual approach is to release the film as soon as it is completed as the producers greatly fear piracy. Only because they held on to it, we were able to show it to festival people and as a result it got picked by Venice.
Q. But surely Vetrimaaran is not the only one. Who all have you guided and advised to take their films abroad?
A. Well, you see, the Visaranai story gave confidence to Lijo. When I saw Angamaly Diaries, I told Lijo how wonderful his film was and that it could travel. Later on, we took Jallikattu to all the major festivals all across. Now, I think they have gotten confident. Now everybody is sending their films to the international festivals. They had to overcome their fear of piracy. Films there are funded by private people, they are scared that the film might leak on the internet and they will not be able to recover their money. Also, there are some misconceptions about things. Say, for example, nobody saw RRR as a film which could travel. When I saw Eega, I remember speaking to Rajamouli and telling him that it could travel. And we pushed Eega to travel. Then Josh, Rajamouli’s son took Eega to Cannes. That’s where we started pitching the film. After all, we have all kinds of audiences. We tend to bind films based on categories. This is our indigenous cinema.
Q. Tell us about your upcoming projects.
A. My short film Chaar Chappalein has recently premiered at the Rotterdam Film Festival. It will come out soon. Also, there is another film that’s completed but I will talk about it once everything is done and ready. I have also learnt from mistakes in the past. You see, the most important thing you hold for a film is surprise.
Murtaza Ali Khan has been a film critic since 2010. He has curated and presented retrospectives and film festivals for various embassies and high commissions in New Delhi. He has also served on the jury for a variety of film festivals. He tweets at @MurtazaCritic