Cannes: Indian Director Anurag Kashyap on His Five Films on the Croisette (Q&A)
As Cannes celebrates 100 years of Indian cinema, the auteur also discusses the use of Bollywood stars in Hollywood films.
Anurag Kashyap made a mark as a screenwriter with the award-winning 1998 gangland drama Satya. While his directorial debut, the controversial 2003 youth drama Paanch, still is awaiting release, Kashyap’s 2007 film Black Friday was critically acclaimed for its realistic portrayal of the 1993 Mumbai serial bomb blasts. Kashyap then challenged mainstream sensibilities with his award-winning 2009 release DevD, a quirky take on the classic novel Devdas about lovers torn apart that had seen a number of earlier film adaptations.
Since then, Kashyap has been on a roll, producing and directing a variety of films via his banner AKFPL run by producer-partner Guneet Monga, who also heads her own banner Sikhya Entertainment. In 2012 Kashyap, 40, further raised his profile when his two-part gangland epic Gangs of Wasseypur premiered at Cannes; he also co-produced another Cannes selection, Vasan Bala’s Peddlers. This year Kashyap is associated with five films at the Croisette including his latest, Ugly. Kashyap, who is married to Indian film actress Kalki Koechlin and has a daughter from a previous marriage, talked to THR about his approach to filmmaking and why he still is waiting to direct the right international project.
THR: Here in Cannes, you are associated with four Indian films and one international project, Ari Folman’s The Congress.
As far as India goes, it seems Cannes is becoming the Anurag Kashyap festival.
Kashyap: We have a presence on the Croisette even if we don’t have anything in the Un Certain Regard [section] or in the main competition. We are very fortunate and lucky to be there with these films which include international co-productions. I think it’s just the sensibilities that our films have. I mean, [out-of-competition entry] Monsoon Shootout had done the rounds of the industry for eight, nine years.
THR: What drew you to Monsoon Shootout?
Kashyap: It’s a great concept about one incident in a cop’s life and he has three choices — three values that he holds together. And what are the consequences in all three situations? The story keeps coming back to that single decisive moment. Vijay Varma plays the cop who has to decide whether he should shoot a gangster [played by Nawazuddin Siddiqui]. It happens one rainy night and is set in a noirish Mumbai world. It is like Rashomon reversed. The film’s writer-director, Amit Kumar, first came to my attention after I saw his 2003 short film (The Bypass), which I really liked. That film also showed me the potential of actor Nawazuddin Siddiqui leading a film. Monsoon Shootout came to me through my long-standing cameraman Rajiv Ravi. Nobody was touching the script and I liked it very much. I realized that the film could work as a co-production model and passed it on to my producer Guneet Monga to see that it gets made.
THR: You also have co-produced Ritesh Batra’s directorial debut The Lunchbox, which screens in the Cannes Critics’ Week sidebar.
Kashyap: For me it’s always the script and the director. Lunchbox is a very unique love story — one lunchbox gets mis-delivered and then a relationship starts between a housewife [Nimrat Kaur] and an old widower [Irrfan Khan] who is about to retire. It is a relationship of letters and they don’t meet for most of the movie. You have to wait until the end to see how the story unfolds. Lunchbox is a pet project of Guneet and Ritesh and it went to various co-production markets and script workshops. The casting choices are all done by the directors though they do bounce ideas off me.
THR: After last year’s Gangs of Wasseypur, you now return to Cannes with your latest feature, Ugly, screening in the Directors’ Fortnight. What’s the film about?
Kashyap: It is a genre film — a kidnap drama — within which we explore many more themes like domestic violence and the role of responsible parenting. It is about a child who disappears and the hunt for the child. The film stars Rahul Bhat, Ronit Roy and actress Tejaswani Kolhapure.
THR: Bombay Talkies gets a special Cannes gala screening celebrating Indian cinema’s centennial. How was it to work with the three other directors, Karan Johar, Zoya Akhtar and Dibakar Banerjee, who made short films for this project?
Kashyap: I think it is a really very good film and it has come together well. I feel it is some kind of a game-changer because you have mainstream directors like Karan Johar [known for his Bollywood blockbusters] trying something new. It is a postcard out of India celebrating a century of cinema. It is not what you would expect. While there are international projects like New York, I Love You and Paris, Je t’aime, Bombay Talkies is not strictly in that vein. This project has four short films that haven’t really been made in India before. My segment is about a small-town fan of Bollywood icon Amitabh Bachchan who comes to Mumbai to try and meet his idol. Bombay Talkies is a tribute to the Indian audience and its love for cinema. In the advance screenings we have already received a great response — it really affects people.
THR: Cannes opening-night film The Great Gatsby features Bollywood icon Amitabh Bachchan in a small part. What do you make of this?
Kashyap: It is very good to bridge the gaps between Indian and international cinema. The size of the role does not matter because it’s not always about playing the hero.