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New frontiers

Filmmaker Anurag Kashyap on foreign markets as the new frontiers for Indian cinema,his dream projects and why geography will never be history in his films.

Written by Priyanka Sinha Jha |
June 15, 2012 2:19:02 pm

Back from Cannes where his film Gangs of Wasseypur was screened in the Directors’ Fortnight,filmmaker Anurag Kashyap on foreign markets as the new frontiers for Indian cinema,his dream projects and why geography will never be history in his films

The market has really opened up for the Indian production houses. It empowers us to continue what we are doing without being controlled by the Indian market set up…It buys us freedom from a system that is built on insecurity

I think the audience has had an overdose of slick films. With every successful film,we have lost a good director because he found a formula. And once they have a formula,they keep remaking it over and over again which is why people started looking at newer styles

Gangs of Wasseypur was among the few Indian films at Cannes this year,so did the attention help in terms of business? Has anything changed?

For the first time,we will be distributing our films to various parts of the world for an audience outside the diaspora. Because my films never had stars,distributors never thought they would work overseas.

None of my films ever got the price—they were always small releases and distributors didn’t know how to try the non-diaspora. We have been trying to get it across and finally we have quotes that are 10 times the highest price anyone could have offered us. By the end of it,it will cover more than 20-25 per cent of our budget.

Go on…

The thing is that now we will be getting mainstream release outside India—our films will not be restricted to Indian diaspora theatres. Wasseypur is releasing in France on July 25 and with more number of prints than any mainstream film. We have not yet locked the numbers because discussions are still on but yes,the film is being sold across Europe. I am talking of three-four territories that have been locked but that is the prerogative of Viacom to announce in the market.

How did you reach the tipping point?

The fact that Viacom and other studios in India actually went out and collaborated with other companies. Most independent films that we are doing have fetched unprecedented prices,like for Monsoon Shootout,we got upfront an amount of 200,000 Euros for Germany and France for a film under production. The market has really opened up for the Indian production houses. It empowers us to continue what we are doing without being controlled by the Indian market set up…It buys us freedom from a system that is built on insecurity. A system that is non-progressive because it is built on one simple belief that if star is there,a film will recover cost. So nobody is really making a film—they are recovering costs. Unless you recover cost,it becomes detrimental to the health of the film putting a lot of pressure on filmmakers. The markets opening up will allow me to work on my dream projects.

Which are your dream projects?

Bombay Velvet and Doga—are my two massive projects. For me,Doga has to be done like a Dark Knight in a city like Mumbai. It has to be shot on real locations,it has to be true to the spirit of Doga. If I make Doga now,within the budget given to me,it will be a very sloppy film. I have been holding on to it. Even Bombay Velvet… I have been pushing and pushing it so that we get the right amount of money. For Bombay Velvet,we have to create the city of Bombay of 60s—the entire city. It can’t be a set. It has to be the real Bombay with the real texture of the city,only then a film becomes an international film. I need to create Colaba to a Mahim—SV Road as they were in the 60s and the amount of special effects the film needs is humongous. The work has started now for a film that has to be shot in April next year.

What is Bombay Velvet about and would Danny Boyle be co-producing it?

It’s a love story set in the times of Jazz and the changing landscape of Bombay—how from a city it became a metropolis. When the whole concept of Bombay as it was,was revised and when the new plan was executed,how the dreams began to change,how the city changed and in that backdrop,a love story.

The film will be co-produced by Viacom and Phantom. Danny is supporting me with scripting and his role in the films—producer,co-producer is yet to be decided.

You are among the few directors whose stories are dictated by geography?

For me,a geographical location plays a very important role because it roots my films. I identify my location even before I have written the script. I know what I am trying to create or recreate even before I start. It’s already in my head.

So is Gangs Of Wasseypur about the mafia in Bihar-Jharkhand’s coal belt?

Wasseypur is a whole history of mafia away from Bombay—the whole emergence of mafia –how natural resources became the reason for the mafia to become what it did in North India. Similarly,the natural resources again were the reasons for the Naxals to exist. How natural resources and policies play an important role. The whole curiosity of why a certain thing happens the way it happens.

It is about how the government lost its security in Emergency and all sorts of censorship and bindings started coming into the picture. And how the mafia constantly figured out ways of making money. What is fascinating about Gangs of Wasseypur is that the mafia never moved out of Wasseypur,a place that nobody even knows about. This mafia that has been having gang wars for generations was fascinating. The pointlessness of the violence and them having normal lives despite it,is also very interesting. The film is funny without trying to be. It’s not slapstick—there is no deliberate comedy but it’s funny. Then there is the whole impact of Bollywood on these people—how people have identified anti-heroes over generations from Amitabh Bachchan to Sanjay Dutt to Salman Khan. And it’s so engrained in them that their lives revolve around them. In Gangs of Wasseypur,all those things come together.

How do you manage to take these complex subjects which could be better placed in a book and make it come together in a medium like cinema which is a lot about simplification?

It’s interesting that you say so because Wasseypur was almost written like a novel first. V Shankar wrote a novel in Hindi . So it was written like that and the idea was to create a visual book. I like to explore things. I have a curious mind and like to know everything about it and things are figured out in the process of making. I go with the camera and try to capture everything that exists. Other than shooting the main story,we shot everything that helped us capture the changing nature of society there.

I also think it’s very organic and dependent on the subject. Like Wasseypur is a love story of three generations. It’s a revenge drama. There are family feuds plus there is the changing landscape. There is no format. It does everything it has to,in order to tell a complete story. It figures out its own narrative and I have tried to bind it all together,with some great music.

All your films Dev.D,Gulaal and now Gangs of Wasseypur have music and songs that are well,eclectic. How do you choose the music in your films?

I like to find a new sound. Our idea is to create music. When people ask me,I say it’s the new Bihari cool. I have to create music that is rooted infolk tradition. In Wasseypur,it’s very rooted in the folk music of UP-Bihar.

I am a hunter is also a derivative of songs that existed in those parts many years ago. Women used to sing in closed rooms during weddings where men were not allowed –a derivative of those songs went from Bihar to West Indies. We’ve actually brought it back from there—an equivalent of Saat saheliaan khadi khadi,driver bhonpu bajaye ghadi-ghadi. There are those innuendos that women sing about. It’s an Indian tradition which is why it’s refreshing to hear it on screen. It has never been a part of films which is why we went and brought it back.

There is now a spate of successful films with a rustic setting and texture,has the audience taste changed?

I think the audience has had an overdose of slick films. With every successful film,we have lost a good director because he found a formula. And once they have a formula,they keep remaking it over and over again which is why people started looking at newer styles. Most of Bollywood has long lived in denial. When a film becomes a hit,they are so happy celebrating the first three days of collection that they never acknowledge the fact that the first three days are based on anticipation. And success on the basis of anticipation and marketing is not true success of a film. The films that do well Monday onwards,are the ones who have really gone out and achieved something.

So rustic and gritty is the new formula in Bollywood with even mainstream films like Rowdy Rathore and Dabangg flaunting it and it has been popularised by directors such as you,Tigmanshu Dhulia and Vishal Bhardwaj?

Rathore and Wanted have a rustic backdrop which is still more stylised and mainstream. Realistically,Tigmanshu,Vishal and I never really had big successes. We have slowly picked up the audience. Dabangg and Rowdy Rathore are the big successes but somewhere because of those films,the audience also started looking at our films . It’s perhaps interdependent and it has not happened overnight with one film. If you really want to give credit then perhaps Vishal is one of those people,Dibakar is another but I give larger credit to Raju Hirani. He struck a balance that none of us have managed. He draws the audience and yet says his piece. I hope I have found the balance in Wasseypur.

Anurag you have become a rallying point for independent makers,comment?

It’s been a very organic process. My company has become a rallying point for independent productions and a lot of credit for that goes to Guneet Monga who I met during the making of That Girl in Yellow Boots. It’s sort of a coming together of filmmakers who are not following traditional Bollywood yet have original stories.

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