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A film that bagged an award at Cannes this year tells of a love story aided unwittingly by the noted 'dabbawallas' of Mumbai.
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'I want to go out and push more boundaries'
Few directors can strike a balance between commerce and the art of filmmaking. Anurag Kashyap is one of them. In his transition from an outspoken cinephile to a resolute filmmaker, one thing has not changed: his intellectual restlessness. Kashyap talks to TOI-CREST about his plans
Of late, we have seen quite a few films from your production company. Will we see more of you as producer now?
I never wanted to be a producer. While making Dev D I realised that it would be difficult to get the film funded. So, to get backend for the film I had to form a production company. That's how AKFPL came into existence. Since we had a production company, it was easy for us to borrow money from the market. When films like Udaan or The Girl with Yellow Boots were struggling for funds, I took a personal loan. I did one year of advertising and made substantial money. I also borrowed a lot of money and made these two films. This gave us reputation and recognition in the market. I will be more of a director now. I don't have the bent of mind for a producer. But in the four years since Dev D, I have made The Girl with Yellow Boots and Gangs of Wasseypur. I want to stick to the creative side of the business. I am going to make two films a year. I want to go out and push more boundaries.
You are also a part of the production company Phantom Films. What is the difference between AKFPL and Phantom Films?
Phantom Films is the insurance for AKFPL. It takes care of lot of things like finances. AKFPL is an independent company, which intends to find new voices, to make edgier cinema and to be cost-effective. On the other hand, Phantom Films will have films that follow the studio model. It would have larger money and bigger stars. This is the vision I, Vikramaditya Motwane, Madhu Mantena and Vikas Behl share.
Which are the films up for release? Is there a common theme in these films?
We don't have a binding theme for the films in the coming months. We would like them to be as diverse as possible. We have films such as Michael, Shahid, Peddlers, Haramkhor, and Lunchbox. There is a Marathi film called Vakratund Mahakay, a Bengali film called Tasher Desh, and an international co-production, Monsoon Shootout. I support a lot of independent cinema, indie films that nobody picks up. I use the offices of my distributor friend Sunil Bohra to get them released. I present it and he distributes it.
It is said that most of your films recover money through overseas releases and distribution. What is the arithmetic when you launch a film?
I understand economics in a distant way. I believe everything has a cost price, a selling price and cost recovery. When we are excited about a project, we work out how much money it would make on a bad day. And then we work backwards from that amount and decide if it can be made within that budget without making compromises. I strongly feel this is the only way to sustain yourself in the business without letting go of your creative freedom. Take our film Peddlers - it goes to Cannes and just through its overseas sales, it becomes a risk-free film for us.
When you decide on the theme of the film and its presentation, is there a natural tendency to cater to mutliplex viewers?
No film has the responsibility of appealing to both the audiences. I invest in directors. For me, films are made by directors. If I see a director, who is interesting, who has a unique vision, a new way of looking at things, it is his choice to appeal to both audiences. Take for instance, Sachin Kundalkar (Aiyyaa's director). He wanted Rani Mukerji. I said with Mukerji, the budget of would go up but it was his choice. My job was to back him since I believed in his vision. He delivered what he promised - the film didn't work, that is an altogether different matter. Likewise, for Luv Shuv tey Chicken Khurana, we knew the audience and kept the costs low. We invested not more than Rs 3 crore. There is a slim possibility that a film like that can go wrong.
The women in your films are bold and inyour-face. Is that deliberate?
I like people who are very in-your-face and straight. You will find such characters in all my films. I don't ask my directors to include such characters.
Your narratives also use lot of sexual and invective humour. Does this distract from what you are trying to convey?
I think what I intend to convey reaches out to the people who intend to understand it. There are people who would not get the message or a point in the film even if they are put straight. I think subconsciously I take it as an act of subversion.
How do you start your films? Does it start with a thought or character in mind?
Often it is both. Sometimes it is just a thought, while a character might be an extension of the thought. For instance, I am doing a film with Amitabh Bachchan. In this film, the character is important. I would focus on an aspect of his persona others haven't attempted to delve into.
Directors such as Vishal Bharadwaj, Dibakar Banerjee, Imtiaz Ali and you have formed a communion of new wave directors. How does it prosper?
We are commercial new wave directors. The best thing is we hang out together. We exchange ideas. We read each other's scripts. We see each other's films at various stages. Sharing happens quite frequently. Take for instance, the film Talaash. Zoya Akhtar is the screenplay writer, Farhan Akhtar and I are the dialogue writers. I have nine scripts on my iPad currently. Imtiaz Ali is reading Bombay Velvet right now. I had a big problem cutting Gangs of Wasseypur, it was a seven-hour long film. But I was very attached to it so I called Vikramaditya Motwane to cut it. In twenty days he cut the film into three hours - that is why you see his name in the credits.
You recently attended Dharamsala film festival. What do you think of small town festivals?
Film festivals in small-town are better than the ones in big cities. These are organised by passionate film-lovers and not big corporations. A lot of old films, released long time ago, are screened at metro films festival in the contemporary section. Big cities film festivals actually don't have much respectability internationally.
Who do you admire the most among regional films directors?
In Marathi films, I like Umesh Kulkarni. And Girish Kulkarni's first Hindi film is my new film Ugly. Then there is Sachin Kundalkar. I have very good friends in Tamil films industry. I like Vetrimaaran, Vasant Balan, Sashi Kumar, and Amir Sultan. We are working together with Vetrimaaran. In Kolkata, we have supported Qaushiq Mukherjee's Gandu. The idea is to come together and to have the power and the freedom to make good films.
In 'Gangs of Wasseypur', we saw a lot of 'Godfather'.
The idea was to bring out the irony in the lives of these people. The petrol pump shoot-out is based on a true incident. The whole idea of the film was: what does the character Faisal Khan want to do in Wasseypur ? What is Wasseypur? It is just two streets. Three generations died just to rule these two streets. That is the irony of it. Take for instance, the singing at funeral of Sardar Khan. For them it is a day of mourning, for the audience, it is like which 'world they are living in?'
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