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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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'Stars are beginning to trust me'
You are very prolific. You directed That Girl in Yellow Boots, produced 11 features and short films, co-wrote two full-length films and even acted in Onir's I Am - all in the span of a year. How do you do it?
The secret is the number of people who work with me. Collaboration. I read a lot and I watch a lot of films. But I do nothing else. A lot of credit is given individually, but it is not individual, it's the company. The company that we started, Anurag Kashyap Films (AKF) was simply to have control over what we are doing, but now it is its own entity. Now AKF and I are two different people. AKF is a company and that company has some 200 people and some 180 of them are volunteers. They are young students who just walk in and say, 'I want to work here, I won't leave'. You try and kick them out but they don't go. So they end up working there and any little money comes in, they go make short films. In the last one or two years, a lot of the short films that were entered in various festivals were from our offices.
Have you become a kind of magnet for alternative talent across the country?
It has become like that, yes. But it is a very organic process. When my films were banned here, the only place they were shown was the world over, at festivals. So I travelled a lot. And because my films were shown there, people knew me there. A lot of people are coming back to India and wanting to make a film. They think: 'This film the mainstream won't understand but this guy will understand. ' So I have a lot of people walking in with ideas, and more often than not they are very good.
Why then do you think that so many independent projects in the country are still in cans? Q's Gandu, for example.
It's everything. First, there is morality. Second, everybody thinks that there is no business in it. Right now we are in a transition phase. Most of the business is handled by people who already were in the film business. Those who are a part of the new school believe in new cinema and new distribution models. But they are still at the middle or the bottom of the ladder and not in a position to take decisions. I think within a year or two, it will all change. I feel a change in the way industry interacts with me now.
What is that change?
I am getting funding for projects. Difficult films are getting good releases. We made 11 films last year and not a single one has a known name - except Aiyya which has Rani Mukherjee.
Are you against the idea of casting stars?
I am not anti-star. I am talking to them every day. Stars are largely about the image. I am interested in the actor. If a star trusts me enough to say, 'Ok fine. I will leave my image at the door. I have a status, I have an audience but I am willing to walk two steps away from it, provided you also don't tread on too dark a space', then I have no problem.
Is it hard for popular stars to do that?
It's not hard;it depends on their confidence in you. Slowly they are gaining confidence in me. I have always believed in them because stars actually take your films to a wider audience. I believe that my films would have got a wider reception if they had bigger stars. But I have a problem compromising.
There is so much technology available to budding filmmakers now. Anyone with a digital camera can shoot a film and put it up on Youtube. If you had started your career now would you have taken that route?
I don't know. I still believe that if Paanch had been released when it was made, I would be a different person today. I also probably might have disappeared by now. The praise for Paanch was heady, but it wasn't released. By then I was already talking to big stars, being offered a penthouse for a script. I am talking about 2003. The films that I was dealing with are too embarrassing to be discussed now. But clearly I was interested in success. What happened then was that Paach was not released and I could not find a window here, I got my passport made in 2004 so I could get out of here. That changed my life. I travelled the world and discovered another world of audience. This gave me confidence and strength, and I became a different person. Everything, I think, happened for the best.
A couple of years back, in an interview, you had quoted Javed Akhtar and said that "Anger turns to cynicism and cynicism turns to humour". And you said then that you were in the second stage of cynicism.
Do you think you have arrived at the third stage?
It's like the third stage is going to come in but I want to go back to the first stage because during the first stage I used to write a lot.
Were you more creative then?
Much more creative. When there is a lot of suppression and a lot of boundaries, you get more creative. With more freedom, you tend to get a little lax. I would rather have boundaries.
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