Playing by the rules, chasing a genre, sticking to a formula, counting crores — filmmaker Anurag Basu chooses to defy every norm the Hindi film industry thrives by. Instead, the child in him keeps him restless and charged and his passion for cinema leads him in search of a new story. Every time. From Gangster, Life in a Metro, and Barfi! to his forthcoming Jagga Jasoos, Basu has always chased “the element of surprise”. “I am hungry for reinvention, for experimentation. I believe that repetition breeds boredom, and I consciously keep every film different. They are not genre or style specific and this is a risk, but I like to keep the element of surprise alive. Having said that, I am still struggling for a genre, but I want to make films that scare me the most,” says the filmmaker, who is now focused on Jagga Jasoos starring Ranbir Kapoor and Katrina Kaif.
Before he could enter the space of the detective caper, he had to shake off all lingering effects of his last hit. “I had to clear my head of Barfi!. In this industry, you are known by your last film and the pressure to deliver that Barfi! has created for me is huge. I had to get rid of that and then get on board with Jagga Jasoos,” he says. Basu rubbishes the reshoot rumours that hit Mumbai tabloids recently. Contrary to speculations, he wasn’t unhappy with any footage. In fact, he says he has just started shooting. “We are barely 15 days into the shoot and there has been no need to reshoot anything,” he says.
With Ranbir Kapoor wrapping the Sri Lanka schedule of Anurag Kashyap’s Bombay Velvet and Kaif’s Bang Bang getting postponed, it’s only now that Basu has got the mindspace and date diaries of his leading pair. The fact that the two are rumoured to be real-life couple did bother Basu. “I have never in the past worked with actors who are romancing in real life and I feel that, if they are, there is a probability that you will not get that raw energy on sets. I was nervous knowing that Ranbir and Katrina were (allegedly) together, but they are fabulous and thoroughly professional,” he says. Though he’s reluctant to divulge much about the film’s plot, he confesses that he took his time to get the film’s title right. “I consciously chose an odd title, one that stands in contrast to the film for it piques curiosity and creates an instant image in the head. People are already talking about it and such a buzz is good for the film,” he says.
With Jagga Jasoos, Basu hopes to strike the right balance between a family entertainer and a thriller space. According to him, in India, family films are not really family films. “I am scared to take my kids for a ‘family film’. With Jagga, I am trying to find a balance and it’s very tricky,” he says. He is secure that he has got the best leading man to make it happen. Terming Kapoor as his “favourite guy and actor”, Basu adds, “Ranbir is a kind of actor who fits in every character he is presented with. His easygoing nature and versatility is what makes me sign him. I enjoy working with him immensely.”
It’s not just Jagga Jasoos that is keeping him busy. He continues his television hook-ups on the side. Currently, he is attached to MTV Films, an initiative which will showcase six made-for-television films by six Bollywood directors — Basu, Kashyap, Rohan Sippy, Nikhil Advani, Abhinay Deo and Shoojit Sircar. The films will present the youth’s take on love, family, friendship, relationships and ambitions. While Basu sniffs a whiff of change in the air, he rues how television is still as regressive as it was when he first came on board with Tara on Zee. “Tara was targeted for the urban India. Now, television has gone rural, and turned into a TRP generating money-spinning machine. There is no pan-India vision, and I feel that this country needs genre-specific channels. Right now, everyone is targeting a mass of an audience, eating into each other’s revenue and TRPs, and making no sense.”
While he has been producing a lot of work on the telly, Basu will be directing classic short stories from pre independence Bengal—mostly works of Rabindranath Tagore and Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay — for upcoming channel Epic, and he’ll also present the Jaipur Literary Festival on Zee. Quiz him about regional cinema, and he confesses he hasn’t tried making any Bengali film because, “I’m greedy as an entertainer, and I like to stick to Hindi films that command a massive market share.”
Although budgets are not an issue anymore, Basu laughs how producers are still a little sceptical, as most don’t know what he will attempt next. For a long time, Basu was a confused Bengali boy but he’s made the confusion work. “I feel I am a jack of all trades and master of none and it’s one of the best qualities a filmmaker can have,” he signs off.