At 19, an aimless Anurag Kashyap ended up seeing a film a day at the International Film Festival of India (IFFI) in Delhi. He was in “severe depression” then and those ten days changed his life. Soon, he packed his bags and came to Mumbai to try his luck in the big, bad world of the film industry. The period thereafter was marked by films that were either stalled or shelved, fallouts with colleagues and an I-don't-give-a-damn attitude that landed him in trouble more than once. However, keeping aside the masala from his life, The Mag had a conversation with Kashyap about nothing else but his real passion: cinema. Here is what he had to say about each of his films.
“Even before I started my career as a screenwriter with Satya, the script of Paanch was ready. It was 1995 and the time when Indi-rock bands were starting to make a mark. I was friends with members of the band Greek, which goes by the name of Pralay now. I hung around with them backstage and —inspired by their highs and lows and interpersonal difference — started writing a script. However, I reached a dead-end with the script and left it incomplete. Then I came upon files related to the Joshi-Abhayankar murder case in Pune. Five very ordinary college kids viciously murdered nine people. I got what I needed to finish my script then. Finally, in 2000, I started filming Paanch. It was very raw and brutal — the way it should have been. The censor board objected to the film's language, scenes showing substance abuse and the depiction of the killings.
After a year of heartbreak, the film was finally cleared in 2001, but then my producer had his own problems and could not release it. It remains unreleased today, but with the kind of films getting the censors' clearance now, Paanch should get a UA certificate.
It was initially meant to be a mini-series. I was given the manuscript of the book — Black Friday, written by journalist S Hussain Zaidi and based on the 1993 Bombay bomb blasts — even before it was launched. On October 17, 2003, I started shooting for Black Friday, the film. In May 2004, it premiered at the Locarno Film Festival to a rousing reception. With no problems from the censors this time, the film was about to release when a stay was announced on it as the blasts’ case was still in court. Finally, after the case was over, on February 9, 2007, it became my first release, six years and three films after I had become a director. The response was tremendous. After that, every producer came to me with obnoxious amounts of money and laid out the red carpet for me, something that was going to change with the debacle of my second release, eight months later.
After completing two films which were not seeing the light of day — Paanch and Black Friday — I started work on a film called Allwyn Kalicharan with Anil Kapoor. Six days before shooting, Mr Kapoor backed out of the film and it was shelved. I was at my wits' end and wondering if I would ever make a film that released, when I started work on Gulaal in 2005. The film is based on the song from Pyaasa — ‘yeh mahalon, yeh takhton, yeh taajon ki duniya’. I had finished 70-80 per cent of the film in 2006, when the producer Jhamu Sughand fell ill. He had three projects on floor at the time — Abbas Tyrewala's Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na, Sriram Raghavan's Johnny Gaddar and Gulaal. The other two were saved because one film starred Aamir Khan's nephew and the other a star son, Neil Nitin Mukesh. Gulaal had no takers. I was now officially ‘the jinxed filmmaker’, a tag I got rid of only after Black Friday and No Smoking released. But a lot of damage had been done by then.
Last year, Deepak Sharma of Zee Motion Pictures saw rushes of my film. He took over the project and I finally finished the film in 2008. It is now slated to release in March this year.
After Gulaal was stalled, my life went haywire. I started getting anxiety attacks and began to lose my mind. One night, when I couldn't take it any more, I sent an SMS to everybody in the film industry, saying that if any of them thought that I had any sort of talent, to come save me. Only one person replied — John Abraham. He asked me to meet him immediately and that's how No Smoking was born. Funnily, around the same time, Black Friday released and got rave reviews. The hype that it helped to create for No Smoking was enormous but misplaced. People started expecting a certain kind of film, which it wasn't. If I had a chance to make No Smoking again, I would not want to change a thing about it except the way it was marketed. However, problems that seemed to be vanishing with No Smoking resurfaced after its release.
In early 2007, I wrote the script for Hanuman Returns and submitted it to the producers, who felt that I was the best man to direct it. I was very excited to helm an animation film. It came a week after Taare Zameen Par and Welcome and was washed away in the craze of the other two films.
Abhay Deol narrated to me a plot about a boy who is the client of a stripper in Los Angeles. The film was basically their love story. It also had a back story about the boy's failed relationship with his childhood lover. I was hooked. Abhay then asked me if I knew which story it was inspired from and I told him I didn't know. When he told me it was Devdas, I knew I had to make the film. See, I knew Devdas, and yet when he narrated it to me differently, it looked like another story altogether. That's what we have done with Dev.D too. Both, Abhay and me, were coming back from films that hadn't done great business at the Box Office. Luckily for us, UTV started taking risks around that time.
And now everything depends on how the film performs.”