Anurag Kashyap
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Anurag Kashyap: Films I direct are more important to me..

By HT

Anurag Kashyap is a polarising figure. With a filmogrpahy filled with depraved psychopaths, crazed lovers, trigger-happy gangsters and femme fatales, he has carved out a dark, shadowy corner for himself in Indian cinema.

But it is becoming uncomfortably clear that he has yet to strike a chord with the mainstream moviegoing public. It is ironic for a director whose films are populated with such colourful, and typically cinematic characters that his work has been largely ignored by a country obsessed with them.

But as the global landscape changes, and films travel across the world not in cans but through satellites, Kashyap has found a new audience.

As his last thriller, Raman Raghav 2.0 makes the rounds in festivals, its most recent pit stop being at the 27th Singapore International Film Festival, we spoke to him about his career and his one true love: The movies.

You’ve reportedly made a deal with American producer Jason Blum, who is known for low budget genre movies. Do you think his style suits yours? How would you expect this collaboration to aid your work, and Indian cinema? Also, could you give us some details about what you’re working on with Blumhouse?

I have always loved horror movies and we like the way Jason Blum makes horror films without big star casts. There’s a method in the way that he makes successful films without having to spend a lot of money. I want to get the experience to learn as well, and to do things in an effective way.

Also in India, we do not really make horror movies, we make musical horrors. Since the deal with Jason Blum is fully funded, we do not have to depend on the Indian market – that means we do not have to put in songs, we do not have the restrictions to cast big names. The idea is just to focus on content. Through this deal, we get to learn a lot from them, and would be best if we get an Indian distribution for it as well.

I personally loved Bombay Velvet. But why do you think the audiences were so alienated, despite the romantic themes and larger than life characters and sets - all Bollywood favourites?

We’re still trying to find an answer to that question. I think the film moved too fast and it did not give the audience time for things to register. It’s a better film on a repeat viewing, because then you’re not expecting too much. The music also didn’t work for people, instead it worked for a lot of connoisseurs and the older people.

A lot of them also felt that the film is not about Bombay, it’s about some other place, but it is not true. It’s the lack of understanding, and knowledge of history. It is kind of pointless because we know one takes liberty with history when it’s in the times of the Kings and the Queens, and nobody questions that because nobody really has information on that. But in recent history, they always tend to question it. The film was written by a historian, but nobody really paid attention to that.

Both Ugly and Raman Raghav seem like they’re destined to become cult classics and find an audience online. But why do you think so many of your films can’t overcome this niche?

It is not really the problem of the audience. The biggest problem is the distributors and exhibitors because the films are not given space. Ugly did not release because nobody believed in it, and when it got pirated, there was a desperate attempt to release the film and it came out big. It lasted four weeks and did business that nobody expected to do. That was when they thought that this film could have worked. It’s all in retrospect that people think the film could have worked. Ultimately, it needs a lot of faith and belief.

Also, as a filmmaker you create a mood in your film, but I don’t know how to make films with intervals. You create the mood and that mood gets broken with an interval. After 25 minutes, people carry popcorn and head back and they feel like “oh the film is still at the same point.” The whole point of creating something is gone. The same film becomes very different when you take away the interval. Genre films are not meant to be seen with intervals, because it drops down. But it’s okay, that’s the struggle we have to deal with. There are no intervals to deal with outside India, and everything is in the right proportion and it works in those places – like how Raman Raghav has played very well worldwide in festivals and everywhere else.

At this point, which is more important to you: Your productions (which are usually more mainstream, with bigger stars), or the films you direct?

Films I direct are more important to me.

Would you say that after Bombay Velvet, people are hesitant to offer you larger films? Could you, if you still wanted, get one off the ground? Any chance for a ‘Bombay Quartet’?

People want to but I’m hesitant to do them. I don’t think I am going to do very large films anymore, and I don’t think I am going to make the ‘Bombay Quartet’.

I’ve seen pictures of your amazing film library, so I’m interested in who you think some of the most exciting filmmakers working today are. You don’t have to limit yourself with this question. Korean, American, Indian - everything goes.

There are lots of them – there is Paul Thomas Anderson, Bong Joon Ho, Park Shin Woo from Korea, and the filmmaker who made The Wailing, Na Hong-Jin, Denis Villeneuve. There’s a lot and those are good filmmakers.

Finally, what do you think is the current state of film criticism in India? Do you think for an audience to become more informed about cinema, there needs to be good writing about films?

The problem we have is most of our film critics are wannabe filmmakers and 25-30% of them have attempted making films which turned out to be terrible movies. They are highly opinionated, and they do not review films, they review their own expectations. We don’t see champions of cinema any more. Instead, they look at it from what they think cinema should be. Yes, a good content and storyline is important for the audience to be more informed about cinema, as compared to having big names for the cast.