Bollywood and culture in an emerging India
Anurag Kashyap – the industry ‘outsider’
Anurag Kashyap hasn’t slept in four days. He’s been writing his next film and doesn’t want to stop till it is done. When I walk into his suburban terrace apartment, Kashyap is beaming because he’s just finished writing the climax and he is very happy with it.
He offers you some tea, shows you clips from his new film “That Girl in Yellow Boots” which premiered at the Venice Film Festival, all the while chatting animatedly with his assistants about shooting schedules and movies.
In an industry where it’s all about being politically correct, Kashyap is delightfully candid, speaking about himself and the world he inhabits with an honesty that is difficult not to appreciate. Not that it should come as a surprise — he is after all the “rebel” film maker of Bollywood, the one who is out to change the way the game is played.
“Dev D“, his modern-day adaptation of Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay’s classic “Devdas” was what many critics termed a turning point for Bollywood and the way it makes films.
Anyone else who hadn’t slept for four days would barely be able to stay coherent, but Kashyap is buoyant, alive and itching to move on to the next task. Can you really write a film in four days, I ask him?
“Of course you can,” he tells me gleefully. “I think about my films for a long time, maybe years, but I write them in days.”
He shoots them in days too, apparently. “That Girl in Yellow Boots” was shot in less than thirteen days, in an industry where it takes longer to shoot a song sequence.
“That’s because I am an economical film maker,” Kashyap says. “I shoot one scene in one way and don’t make any changes. That way there is less wastage.”
That is evident from the minimalist feel that most of his films exude. There are no extravagant dance sequences, or magnificent sets, long monologues where the protagonists rue their lot in life. Instead, the milieu is everyday, as is the language.
“I think it comes from the fact that I am from a small town and everything there is so normal. I think the perspective that small-town directors bring to films is very different,” he says.
That perspective is now going into other films. Kashyap turned producer this year with “Udaan“, a coming-of-age tale set in small-town India, which was an official entry at the Cannes film festival this year and opened to rave reviews in India.
“It is an entirely selfish decision to turn producer because I want my kind of cinema to last and flourish and helping young filmmakers make those kind of films is the best way to do it,” he says.
Born in a small town in eastern Uttar Pradesh, Kashyap first came to Mumbai to write scripts for serials and then turned to making films. The place took its toll, his marriage crumbled and he was left with no place to stay.
“As long as I was writing serials, I was the king of this place. Making films, ‘Paanch‘ not being released and having to sleep on people’s couches really straightened me out,” says Kashyap.
Perhaps that is why one of the first things he does when starting out on a film is ensure that everyone involved has a place to stay and the promise of a meal.
“I have booked a guesthouse with a kitchen for all of you,” Kashyap tells an assistant and turns around to tell you “once their food and boarding is taken care of, they can concentrate on the film.”
Not a lot of producers in Mumbai would do that and I tell him so.
“I am not from this city,” he says, flipping through a book. I crane to see which one it is.
‘The Outsider’ by Albert Camus, which he says is his “favourite book”. It seems entirely appropriate.