Updated: September 22, 2021 8:35:46 am
Filmmaker Anurag Basu says he doesn’t see anyone or anything as white or black. “Everyone is grey and that’s the area from where human stories come from.” Basu, whose Ludo emerged as one of the most loved films on the digital space in last one year, won him the Best Director award at Indian Film Festival of Melbourne 2021 recently. The ceremony happened virtually this year, though Basu wishes to attend it in person the next time. “Now I’ll need to make a better film to get recognition there and fulfill my dream.”
In an exclusive chat with indianexpress.com, Basu revealed his ultimate objective of making Ludo. “I specially wanted to highlight that good or bad is very subjective. All this is perception. We are storytellers. We take highest ground and start judging people and relationships. In Ludo, I didn’t want to do that.”
Ludo is an anthology dark comedy starring Abhishek Bachchan, Pankaj Tripathi, Rajkummar Rao, Fatima Sana Shaikh, Aditya Roy Kapur, Sanya Malhotra, Pearle Maaney and Rohit Saraf. Basu agreed that a film like Ludo getting the audience love proves that their understanding and acceptance of unique subjects has changed.
“We always underestimated our audience. When I made Life in a Metro (2007), people loved it. But that was more complicated as I shot it 15 years back. The audience has definitely grown in a decade. I never thought with Ludo, I was making something risky. Yes, you need a little concentrated viewing. You can’t see it while you’re texting or chatting,” Basu shared.
In fact he turned Pankaj Tripathi a singer in Ludo bringing yesteryear song “O Beta Ji, Qismat Ki Hawa” back to our playlists. Sharing how the song from 1951 film Albela found a place in Ludo’s script, Basu revealed, “Some things are buried in your mind’s hardware. It just needs to come out at the right time. During its scripting, I had written in bracket for reference ‘a song similar to Qismat Ki Hawa.’ We thought we’ll have a song similar to that, but when the script was ready, we tried for the rights of this song which we got. That’s how we ended up using the original. Pankaj Tripathi did a playback for the first time in his life.”
This brings us to point out how music plays a crucial element in his films. Known for delivering musical hits, the director said the clarity on tune comes to him at the scripting stage itself. According to him, “Even for writing one line, I need to have the right music for it. So I know how the background score will be. I cannot make films without music playing in my head. It becomes very organic.” He added that his frequent collaborator and music director Pritam understands this and hence working with him becomes effortless.
Basu’s films, be it Ludo, Life in a Metro, Gangster or Barfi, also stand out for its colour pallette and city landscape playing an integral part of the story. For the ace filmmaker, such elements eventually find their place in the screenplay. “We have stories and to communicate these stories together, a lot of things come into play. If there weren’t the colour palettes, the film would look more complicated. I don’t think I have any style,” Basu said.
But despite being brilliantly rich on the canvas, his Jagga Jasoos starring Ranbir Kapoor and Katrina Kaif failed to strike a chord with the audience, when it released in 2017. Does Basu feel that if it had released today, it would’ve performed better?
He agreed that the film was received well when it had its OTT debut in 2019. He thinks the audience understood it better there. “I won’t say I made it flawless but Jagga is not everybody’s cup of tea, and the audience it was made for, maybe didn’t come to the theatre. Through OTT it reached the right audience and got appreciated. Suddenly one day, I saw my Twitter full of fan reactions. Though I don’t know if it had released today, it would’ve worked better or not. If I had made an exceptionally universal film, then it would’ve worked at any given time.”
The advent of web and films opting for a direct digital release started off as a desperate option given the Covid-19 situation last year, but over the last almost two years, it’s surely changed the dynamics of the business module. Today, filmmakers are deliberately going for an OTT release. Basu, who claims that Ludo was meant for a theatrical experience but went on the web due to the pandemic, opined that the latest medium however doesn’t require a certain category of cinema.
“I don’t think you make a different kind of cinema for OTT. You should make what you believe in. A lot of new talent got opportunity, who would’ve otherwise taken 5-6 years to get known. Also with OTT, people are becoming cinema literate. They are exposed to more films from around the world. This will help even our cinema and audience to grow.”
So what’s changed for him with the Friday box office getting suspended due to shutting down of cinema halls? “Now when I’m writing stories, I feel fearless. Earlier we were worried whether a story will work pan India or not. OTT has given me wings and I’m taking a flight fearlessly. Better stories will come out in the times ahead. In hindsight, it is the beginning of a new world,” Basu believes.
But having said that, he also disagreed that the charm of theatres and superstars will ever fade. According to him we’ll always look out for a star to worship. “The concept won’t go anywhere. We are on the verge of seeing another superstar. I don’t know when, but it’ll happen in the next 2-3 years. But it won’t go away from our cinema,” he said, adding that big stars like the Khans and Kapoors taking the OTT route is less out of desperation and more about viewership. “There’s always a greed of getting more audience, be it on any medium. When theatres will reopen those stars will return. You just need to take your film to a larger audience.”
Now do we expect a sequel to Ludo? Basu cheekily said that he’d prefer to come up with new ideas for a fresh film rather than a sequel. “My ideas will get exhausted if I start making sequels. I need new ideas,” he concluded.
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