Anurag Kashyap has directed 14 feature-length films over a 12-year-long career. We got his friends and collaborators to ask him questions about his working style, the films he likes to watch and even the number of shoes he’s known to own:
Amit Trivedi: Will we ever get to see you direct an out an out commercial masala film or an epic large scale film like Baahubali?
Anurag: I’ve tried epic scale with Bombay Velvet. It was quite an epic. It had a large-scale impact on my life. I think every film I make is a kind of a commercial masala film. I never saw myself as any other filmmaker but a masala film maker. But I think the definition of masala is very different in our country. So, we call chatpata films masala films. So I hopefully in the box office, I will have a commercial masala film kind of a success one day.
Kanika Dhillon: How many pairs of shoes do you own? You’re a compulsive shoe shopper and buy the most jazzy looking shoes! Do you go for the comfort of sole or the jazzy look?
Anurag: I don’t know how many pairs of shoes I have. I think more than 200. I go for the comfort and the look. Yes I am a compulsive shopper. And I am doing nothing. Everybody says that I should become busy, otherwise I’d buy shoes. So if I am not writing or not working, I buy shoes. Shoes are good therapy for the soul. I am very proud of my shoes and every day, I choose what shoe I’m gonna wear today. You have to cross shoes to get to my bed. There’s no space for shoes. So, half the reason to move to the new house is so that we can organise it in a way. There’s a whole room that will have a walk-in wardrobe of shoes.
Milap Zaveri: Will you ever write and direct a film that will get a ‘U’ certificate? If I’m not wrong, every single one of your films has got an ‘A’ or ‘UA’ certificate. I ask because I’m trying but even with Satyameva Jayate I couldn’t manage it. I got an ‘A’ for it! Can you achieve it and then give me tips?
Anurag: I don’t think so. I’ve made one anime children’s film called Hanuman Returns also got ‘UA’. So, I don’t think I can help get a ‘U’ certificate. But I want to learn the trick. I think one film, no every film was ‘UA’ (certified). I don’t think I can get a ‘U’ certificate. It’s an art that I don’t think I have mastered.
Baradwaj Rangan: Your films have such distinctive soundtracks. Even the love songs sound so different. Is that just Amit Trivedi or do you give very specific pointers (apart from explaining the situation)?
Anurag: I actually give (it) a lot of time. So, I work with Amit Trivedi every 3 years, 4 years because that’s how long it takes for me to wok on music for a film. So when we finished Dev D, I told him to start listening to Jazz because one day we’d do Bombay Velvet. And Amit started working on Bombay Velvet 5 years before it actually came out. Sneha (Khanwalkar) worked on Wasseypur for 3 years. And I generally find people who are new and available and can give all their time to me because that’s how long I take to work on music. Well me and Amit have already been working on the music of another film for one-and-a-half years now. Three different sets of music directors (are) at any given time working on three different films. So Sneha is already one-and-a-half year into one film; Amit is already working on another film; Rachita (Arora) and Karsh Kale are working on a third. And once the music is done, I’ll write the script
Radhika Apte: While on set you seem to engage in a number of stimuli at a time. Whether it’s playing a game/puzzles on your phone/iPad or doing multiple projects while directing one. You seem to be multitasking and in some way I see it as part of your work as well. Not a lot of your work seems calm or simple. How does the the choice of being occupied with multiple things simultaneously contribute to your work process?
Anurag: I know I thrive in chaos. I’ve always thrived in chaos. I remember shooting for Bombay Velvet and everything was so organised. And I was so lost. It was a set and I did not know how to function. I remember the very first day, my AD, everybody, the call sheets, everything was in place and I did not know how to shoot. So I just got up and I went and gave different instructions to every single junior artist…and I went to Rajeev Ravi and I said, “Let’s shoot now or there’ll be chaos.” And there was total chaos and we started shooting. So I don’t know, I think I can only work like that. Like I said to Kanika (Dhillon), “If I’m not busy working I’ll buy shoes.” So it’s always good to keep reminding (myself). And it works for me because that’s how I was trained with Ram (Gopal Varma), with the lack of budgets over the years. We had to somehow go out and get shots and get the film – which no one wanted to make – made. So, over the years that has become my process of working. I cannot function any other way. The only thing that I don’t know or don’t understand, like music, I depend on people and I give them a lot of time. When we finished shooting Sacred Games, I went to shoot Manmarziyaan and two days before the shoot I called Taapsee (Pannu) and I said, “Listen, can you get your hair red?” She said, “Abhi yaad aa raha hai?”. Maine kaha: abhi tu ghusaao film mein. And I called Vicky (Kaushal) and I said, “Listen, I am sending you a reference hairstyle and this is the hairstyle we need to get.” Vicky figures because he’s worked with me as an assistant. So he doesn’t get surprised. Then I called Kanika and Taapsee, who never worked with me, and Taapsee said, “Listen, I know you’re going to improvise. But can I get a rough idea of what the script is gonna look like?” I said, “Ok, we’ll postpone the shoot by a day. And Kanika and I sat down two days and two nights in the room and finished the script and I said, “This is the script and we start shooting tomorrow. Now please…” So that’s the only way I’ve worked. I don’t know any other way.
Varun Grover: If there’s one thing you could change about Gangs of Wasseypur, what would that be? And same for Bombay Velvet.
Anurag: One thing that I could change for Gangs of Wasseypur would be the climax, the visual effects, which still make me cringe when I watch it because when the film went to Cannes, it seemed like it was half done. And I still had hope because the film was not releasing and we could correct that. But we just got conned by this visual effects artist who delivered it two days before the release and every time I see that sequence when Ramadhir Singh gets shot and the blood flows out like somebody’s opened a tap, it’s just so badly done, and I cringe. For Bombay Velvet, what I would like to do is just go back to my original cut. I still have all the files of Bombay Velvet and I hope one day I’ll have enough money to get that out.
Manoj Bajpayee: What irks you so much about Mumbai that you choose to check into hotels abroad?Are you running away from something? You can write in a solitary environment even here.
Anurag: I like travelling. I like being up in the air. I like long-haul flights because I write a lot there. I like solitary spaces. And abroad, the advantage is that I can, while writing, just go out for a stroll without an actor walking up to you and saying, “Sir, I want a role,” or somebody trying to solicit a script. I think the picture that’s out there is that I’m the only one who works with outsiders. So all outsiders come and they just make it difficult for me. And it’s not that I don’t find good people like that. I found Rachita like that, standing in my parking lot. I found lots of people like that. But there are also too many stalkers. And ever since Nawazuddin (Siddiqui) has become famous, has become such a big star, everybody says, “I am also dark skinned like Nawaz, give me a chance.” Nobody gives him his credit of being a good actor, having been around, having trained. So it’s better to be abroad. When I am not doing anything, I would rather travel.
Thyagarajan Kumara Raja: Which is your most favourite genre in cinema and which is the genre that you hate? Why?
Anurag: I don’t know. This is a very difficult question. I don’t have a favourite. I like crime movies. But I don’t like gangster movies so much. I like comedy, social comedy, comedy with purpose. I like dark humour, I like political humour; It is the random slapstick I don’t like, unless it is Charlie Chaplin or Harold Lloyd or some black-and-white silent movies. I hate the pariwarik melodrama we’re making, the so-called family films and the movie as a family viewing experience. I have never subscribed to that. I think movie watching or anything is an individual experience. Some movies, some genres work because it’s a collective viewing experience like horror. Some films work when you watch them with people. The movie Stree works when you watch it with people. And some movies are totally individual experiences. I subscribe more to the individual experiences because they stay with me. Films that make me think about something, films that stay with me the day after, films that shape me – those are the films that I like.
Vasan Bala: Kya Alwyn Kalicharan ka time aayega? Also please retain the same tag line “This Winter Think Neon”
Anurag: I think Vasan, Neon is overdone now. It would have been fun then, to do it in 2000. But ayega, ayega. I’m rewriting the script and hopefully we’ll make it with our favourite actor, favourite star, one day
Sobhita Dhulipala: Are you a forgiving person? If yes, does it come from the past where you had hoped to be forgiven and now you want to break that cycle?
Anurag: Yeah, I do forgive and sometimes I don’t. But I like it to be natural. I like things to flow because once forgiven is totally forgiven. I never hold grudges. I don’t believe in holding grudges. And I do have issues. I get very angry about things. I have issues mostly with authority. And I feel that when authority does not handle power with responsibility, then it suddenly gets me angry. This is why I always have problem with the government, with Censor Board, with people who hold official positions, people who are supposed to do a job that they have been chosen for, like publicly elected persons. So I hope one day I become totally forgiving.
Kalki Koechlin: If you could make only one more film, what would it be about?
Anurag: I would rather make a film that is like a love film – endless. I would rather keep shooting the film for the rest of my life and enjoy the process more than the final outcome. And keep shooting and editing. If people like scenes, then I can keep releasing the scenes. I don’t want to make only one more film.