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Producer Anurag Kashyap is a relieved man these days after his much-controversial film Udta Punjab managed to do good business at the box office. The filmmaker, however, believes his battle with the Central Board for Films Certification (CBFC) is not yet over. In a conversation with IndianExpress.com before the release of his latest directorial venture Raman Raghav, a psychological thriller, Kashyap shared his opinion on the CBFC, his obsession for making crime-based films and his annoyance over capping of freedom of expression.
Udta Punjab opened to a good response and has done a decent business at the box office. Was this expected after the controversy?
I think we got more business than we expected. And it will be not wrong to say it’s because of the controversy. Everybody became curious about the film. At the same time, it has also lost business because of the piracy. But, nevertheless, it has done well. I am very happy about the fact that it came intact and I think that’s where my role gets over. Now, I am completely focusing on Raman Raghav because it’s my film.
In an interview to a TV channel, Pahlaj Nihlani asked why is it that only films by Anurag Kashyap get stuck in CBFC. Why does CBFC have problems with only your films?
I don’t think CBFC ever had a problem with my films. I think our guidelines were built around certain kind of cinemas. He is the one who needs to change because people (like him) always have issues with anything that is discomforting and is real. Be it Gangs of Wasseypur, Dev D or Gulaal, they never got into any kind of trouble with the CBFC because they all were very intact. It’s a myth that my films get stuck in CBFC.
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But, what about Paanch?
Paanch was cleared by the censor board within eight-nine months. It was cleared by the revising committee. It came out intact and it could not release because the producer didn’t have the money to release it. Similarly, Black Friday was absolutely cleared by the censor board with zero cuts. But the court put a stay on it because the case was subjudice. There is no truth to the myth that my films have problem with the censor board. It’s mostly propagated.
What about your fascination with the subject of crime? Is that the only thing that fascinated you?
I want to say why is the rest of the country fascinated with the cheesy love stories, set in a wonderland. I want to ask why does this country want to watch everything that is not real. Why is it that only when I go out of the country, I find people saying my cinema is cinema. And I think the question needs to be asked to other filmmakers — how do they keep making the same films every time.
But personally why are you so fascinated with only crime. There are other aspects of life.
I am fascinated with anything that is real. Black Friday was not a crime film. Gulaal was a very political film. There is need to look at things. Why is Indian Express only obsessed with truth? Why doesn’t it write any random stories? Why your paper is not like other bullshit paper?
It’s a point. But the thing is, Raman Raghav is based on the life of a serial killer. There are other filmmakers who chose subject like Paan Singh Tomar, MS Dhoni or Milkha Singh whose stories are more inspiring. Why is it that their stories don’t inspire Anurag Kashyap, but the life of a criminal does?
Why do we have to make biopic and alter it to turn them into heroes. We falsify biopics. We have not made a biopic which is not falsified. There is always an emotional manipulation in them. They are not real. A person’s journey is always full of rise and fall. But we don’t make it like that. We also condition it to Hindi cinema. There is a massive difference between biopics made here and outside. Why I am fascinated (with the subject of crime) and unapologetic because that is something which nobody will do. There are 10 filmmakers to make a film on Dhoni. But no one will do a film on Raman Raghav. Why don’t people want to engage with other thing. Why do they not want to engage with any thing that is discomforting. Humey bas achha achha dikhao taaki hum believe karey ki hum achhey world me jee rahe hain. Kya hum aise world me nahi hain jahan sab darey huey hain. Are you not living in a world of fear? Why don’t you have the courage to stand up for yourself? (That’s) because we are all being conditioned with everything around us to not stand up and speak what is there. It is an uncomfortable film to watch and it must be because only the discomfort is going to make the change.
Coming back to Pahlaj Nihlani. He says Anurag is a very egoistic man. And I want to point out because the way you yourself delayed the release of your film Ugly because you were not ready to accept the no-smoking warning as suggested by the board. You, after all, lost the battle in court.
Absolutely not. Why should I not fight for what is my right? Which country in this world puts so many disclaimers on a movie? Why is it that my film is responsible for the incompetency of the health ministry? Why can’t they ban ITC from making cigarettes? Why can’t they just ban cigarettes? Because of the revenue. Why is my film carrying that message that they are incapable!
But, see, there is an opening note in Udta Punjab that we all should unite in fight against the drug menace. If you can write that, what is your problem putting a disclaimer?
The opening note or the end note is the disclaimer suggested by Constitution and the censor board. That is what I am saying a film should be without it. Who asks us to put disclaimers? It’s the government. Why are those disclaimers not in many things? Is my film more dangerous? I think every politician must come with a disclaimer that all my promises in elections might not be fulfilled. Will they come with the disclaimer?
Are you also against the pictorial warning on the cigarette packs?
I am against any kind of incompetency. I am saying if tobacco is a menace, ban it, eradicate it. Do they have the courage? They won’t do that because of the revenue. How is my film responsible? Nowhere in the world there is disclaimer, except in India. They want me to carry disclaimer against alcohol, speed driving, no animals were harmed. Have you seen the number of disclaimer they want me to add? Have you seen them anywhere in the world? Do you think we have been able to solve those issues as compared to the rest of the world? I simply do not agree with the cinematography act. It’s archaic, it’s ancient. I do not agree with ten-thousand things forced to do in the Constitution. I end up doing them because I am told to do that. I will still fight against them. I am not an idiot who will sit and take what others decide for me. So, I fight for my right. It’s not ego.
Whenever Nihlani is being questioned for his decisions, he just attributes it to the guidelines. Are the guidelines or is it Nihlani that is the problem?
The same guidelines passed Gangs of Wasseypur, that passed Ugly, Dev D and Gulaal without cuts. Guidelines have not changed. It’s the interpretation that has changed. Pahlaj Nihlani, according to me, is intellectually incapable of the position he holds. He is not a person who understands the guidelines or knows how to interpret them. There is more perverseness in him and his mind than there in the movies he examine. And it is his ego. In last four days, he has refused certificates to four films. It’s because of his ego that the High Court gave the judgment that you cannot cut films. So, he has started randomly refusing certificates. He did it with Haramkhor, Mohalla Assi…
So, what is the status of Haramkhor?
He has given us the letter which we will take to the Tribunal (Film Certification Appellate Tribunal). But the man just abuses his power. He can say anything in his justification. Why is that the whole industry united against him? Because Nihlani is the man who has done that to every filmmaker. I spoke up. His problem is, why did I speak up. Anyone who speaks can’t become egoistic.