[C]annes has Kashyap written all over the Croisette. His production Udaan broke the seven year jinx at the prestigious festival in 2010. In 2012 he returned to the French Riviera as producer of Vasan Bala’s Peddlers at Critics Week while his two part Gangs of Wasseypur screened at Directors’ Fortnight. This year the tally goes further up with his productions Dabba and Monsoon Shootout, while he leads from the front with his Ugly. And that’s not all- he has also directed a segment of Bombay Talkies that has a gala screening to celebrate the 100 years of Indian cinema. For Cannes it seems like Indian cinema has become synonymous with Anurag Kashyap. Bikas Mishra speaks to the director in an exclusive interview.
What is Ugly about?
I don’t want to talk about Ugly. It’s just a thriller. I never narrated the script to anybody before I set out to make the film. It’s a simple kidnap drama but it actually deals with lots of things. It deals with relationships, our patriarchal system, how men look at women, domestic violence…. It’s a very personal drama in the shape of a thriller.
It’s going to be your second consecutive year at the Directors’ Fortnight…
I make my films without listening to anybody else. Believing in I don’t know what! We are trying to make Indian indie in a more universal language. That’s the only thing that works in our favour. Our films are getting more deeply rooted and contemporary.
Every film at Cannes this year has an Anurag Kashyap connection.
I have neither made Lunchbox nor Monsoon Shootout. These are films which were waiting to be made for a long time. I see myself as an enabler. I love cinema and feel something needs to be done. I really don’t do the physical hard work. I don’t do the running around. I spot something and say it needs to be done, that’s what I do.
These are the people who have done things in the past which are very inspiring. Amit Kumar made The Bypass before making Monsoon Shootout. I found Rajeev Ravi from Bypass who is my chief collaborator. And Amit Kumar has been waiting for nine years to make this film. That’s when I felt something needs to be done. And then we put together all our resources. It’s a tough job. Guneet and her team are the ones who really do the hard job of running around and pull it off within the limited resources that we have.
Do you think it’s an extraordinary time for Indian cinema?
I think it’s just the beginning. There is a lot that is happening. Amit found his ground with Asif Kapadia. The language that he has found is somewhere in international cinema. Similarly Ritesh Batra has been nurtured at Sundance and Doha Film Institutes.
We have a whole generation of homegrown filmmakers to look forward to. We have Anand Gandhi, Ashim Ahluwalia, Vasan Bala, Shlok Sharma and the like.
We have had a great beginning. Everybody has their first films up there. Our good time has come; we’ve finally found a language.
Everyone was always excited about Indian cinema, the colour of Indian cinema, the music of Indian cinema but people could not relate to our films. Now our films have become more believable, more about ourselves. Our voices have become more universal
When do these films get released here?
Monsoon Shootout and Dabba have international co-producers. So International release dates have to be locked before we release them in India. The idea is to release them fast but the problem is when a big film releases, it occupies all the screens. And these films need little nurturing. So we need to find a little space and build it from strength to strength. I’m very confident about these films but it has to be decided between all producers involved.
When does Ugly release?
Ugly will be released towards the end of the year. We’re not in a hurry to release Ugly. I’ll start shooting Bombay Velvet immediately after I return from Cannes. Bombay Velvet has been in pre-production for one year. I made Ugly in-between. I spent so much time on the post-production of Gangs of Wasseypur that I was really dying to go out and shoot. I finished Ugly and Bombay Talkies back to back.
Tell us a bit about Bombay Velvet? Is it a three-part series?
No, it’s a single film. There was Bombay Trilogy that I had planned. The other two parts are written but their fate depends on the success of the first film. I start shooting for Bombay Velvet in June. That’s why Ugly will release only after I’m finished shooting Bombay Velvet.
Is Danny Boyle attached to the film?
He was there three years back when the film was about to happen. It didn’t happen at that time. Everything fell apart. We’ve picked it up from there. He is always there as a friend.
It’s your dream project…
I’ve spent seven years on Bombay Velvet now. Before that I’ve had this really long struggle to convince people to make commercial films in a certain way that it appeals across the sections. You’ve to do it in a certain way.
There used to be no Indian films at Cannes, sudden there seems to be a deluge.
Last time I was having a conversation with somebody from the festival, he said there is a big difference I see in Indian cinema: the way actors are directed.
Everyone was always excited about Indian cinema, the colour of Indian cinema, the music of Indian cinema but people could not relate to our films. Now our films have become more believable, more about ourselves. Our voices have become more universal largely because of what we’re exposed to now. There is a whole new generation of filmmakers who are exposed to world cinema.
There was a time when I hopped from festival to festival to just catch on films. Now those films are available everywhere. Those films have played a role somewhere in our growth. We constantly are analyzing ourselves.
One benefit that we have over others is that people for sure watch our films. Because there are so many films to watch, sometimes they watch films for half an hour. If that doesn’t hold them they will drop it.
Films produced by you make it to Cannes now almost every year.
One benefit that we have over others is that people for sure watch our films. Because there are so many films to watch, sometimes they watch films for half an hour. If that doesn’t hold them they will drop it. I discovered this long time back when people watched my films and told me why I didn’t submit it to their festivals. It was strange because they had rejected these films. Then I realized what happened. The one benefit I get now is that they watch the whole film. If a film is seen and after that it is rejected, you never feel bad about it.
Only Hindi films have been selected to Cannes. Do you think regional cinema has certain disadvantages?
I think it’s just the attitude. I have had these long discussions with people down south. For a long time there was not a single Hindi film in Cannes. The only films that went there was filmmakers from south. What is happening now is the south filmmakers suffer from the same syndrome as most Indian filmmakers. They prefer to release the film the week after the print comes out from the lab. Distribution is one very big problem. I was trying to push Bala (Paradesi) to send his film but there was a lot of distributor pressure to release the film.
And these are all independent films which just happen to be in Hindi.