Anurag Kashyap’s ambitious film Bombay Velvet, which was to release in December 2014, has now been pushed to May 2015. But given the response to Ugly, which finally released last week after a long-drawn battle with the Censor Board over an anti-smoking disclaimer, Kashyap is content with the film’s opening day collections.
Ugly is a thriller but it goes beyond that. What led to the film?
It was inspired by the thought of losing my daughter during my divorce with Aarti (Bajaj, his former wife). It became a thriller over the course of writing but this remained the core. It is not a whodunit but rather a ‘why-dunit’.
The film shows a gritty Mumbai rarely seen in Hindi movies. What experiences did you rely upon for this film?
I used to live in PMGP colony in Andheri East, Mumbai. I have seen this world very closely. People such as Imtiaz Ali, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Ashutosh Rana and Kumud Mishra have all lived there once. I have a lot of friends who are still struggling, they come to Mumbai to make it big in the film industry and when they don’t, they refuse to let go.
Rahul Bhat, who had led that life, was my muse for Ugly. I found a lot of parallels between his life and his character in the film. I’d thought this guy is not going to do anything in his life. He was a naive and innocent guy from Kashmir. His rise was too fast. But he got swept away by the industry. It sucked him in and spat him out. Despite his failure as an actor, he turned TV producer and figured a way out
Everyone seems to be enjoying the long interrogation scene at the police station in Ugly. How did it pan out?
The scene has become popular since we first showed it at the Cannes Film Festival in 2013. It was completely improvised on the first day of shoot. It was like an exercise to get all the three actors in the scene — Rahul, Vineet Kumar and Girish Kulkarni — accustomed to my style of working. Vineet has worked with me before. While Girish, being a theatre actor, knew exactly what I wanted, Rahul had no idea of improvisation. That funny smartphone bit was improvised by Girish. Through the scene, I wanted to show police apathy and the power trip.
Actor Girish Kulkarni is the find of the movie. How did you find him?
I have been a fan of his work ever since I saw him in Umesh Kulkarni’s movies such as Vihir and Deool. When I met Umesh in Denmark, he told me Girish would love to work with me. I came back and called him for Ugly. I started improvising with him a lot during the shoot.
What went wrong with Yudh? People were expecting it to be a game-changer for Indian TV.
I don’t know. When we watched it with the ad-breaks it was somehow not as effective as it felt in the edit room. Here, we are made to believe we are trying to achieve something new but we still don’t have the means. But I am very proud of Yudh. One of the biggest things that went against Yudh was that Mr Bachchan’s fanbase didn’t want to see him as a weak and frail man.
You recently posted on Facebook that you are bored with your own writing and that you want to direct films written by others. Why is that?
I am bored with my own ideas. I have been at it for 22 years and it’s exhausting. I want to pick up a story from outside and see it from a fresh perspective. I have not been writing for a long time and I don’t want to do anything for at least another year. I want to read a lot and watch more movies. I also saw films such as Nightcrawler (Dan Gilroy) or Titli (Kanu Behl), and even my own production Haramkhor, which were so phenomenal; I wanted to turn back. It is partly creative jealousy.
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