Pahlaj Nihalani Has United the Film Industry: Anurag Kashyap
Anurag Kashyap vents his angst against the CBFC, but also talks about why he’s full of hope for the future of cinema
Anurag Kashyap is popularly referred to as the Censor Board’s step child, and in this candid interview, he voices his angst against those who judge cinema senselessly, his upcoming flicks Raman Raghav 2.0 and Haraamkhor, and why he gives Pahlaj Nihalani all the credit for having united the film industry.
Q: Haraamkhor has been in the news for not getting the CBFC’s approval. Is that justified or do you feel it’s because your name is attached to the film?
I don’t think it has anything to do with me, because I don’t think they even knew that I am associated with Haraamkhor. There isn’t so much of a problem because the CBFC has given us a letter, so we are going ahead with the issue to FCAT (Film Certification Appellate Tribunal). Now I understand, and pretty much expect it too.
I am telling you, you must interact with the people at CBFC. You will realise that the spokesperson of the CBFC, both Mr Nilhani and Rahul Vaid, and everyone else who speaks to you, don’t have the intellectual capacity to hold the chair that they are sitting on.Anurag Kashyap, Filmmaker
Talking from experience, I’ll tell you one instance. When Raman Raghav 2.0 went to the examining committee, they only asked for 6-7 cuts, and I was ready to argue as some things are very essential to me. But when they started talking to me about the love-making scene in the film and told me, “Reduce the length of the love making scene to 50%”, that was a very random thing to say. I told them how important that scene is to the film, that’s an interpretation of the relationship those two people share. They told me, “No no, we are intellectuals too. We understand. We know he is not making love, but he is giving a lot of jerks to the girl. 3 jerks are enough. We shouldn’t show so many jerks in the scene.” This is exactly the way they speak.
The way the CBFC sees things, their mindset and their mentality is much worse, narrow minded, uglier and perverted than the intention of the filmmaker, and what is happening in the scene. They take on a higher moral ground, looking down on things and that’s why there is no point sitting and arguing with such people. If I go to the revising committee, I would be dealing with the same mindset. It will be the same set of people, that they chose, that they can control.Anurag Kashyap
There are a lot of independent minds who are a part of the revising committee, who will take their own stand, and won’t let Pahlaj ji act god. But they are never called for screenings. This is going to keep happening till he’s there, along with the set of people that he has chosen. This is not just about Haraamkhor or Udta Punjab, but it will happen with a lot of films.
The way the whole industry came together during Udta Punjab is not because I put up a fight, but because everyone has gone through it, especially in the last 2 years. It is Pahlaj Nilhani who has united the industry, not me. He did it by being the most unreasonable, eccentric, mad man who should actually be in a mad house rather than the CBFC. For me, their mentality is so narrow that they are scarier than the film and other people.Anurag Kashyap
Q: The dichotomy is that on the one hand CBFC is adamant about the theme of Haraamkhor, and on the other hand, it wins a Best Actor awards at festivals. Isn’t it?
Anurag Kashyap: Exactly. One needs to watch the film to first of all see what it’s about. The film is about a person who is abusing his position as a teacher. How do you show that? I am saying, let them tell us how to write a script. I honestly don’t know what they are up to, which is harrowing.
Now Udta Punjab is out. Pahlaj ji said that I am doing all of it for publicity, it’s an insult to Punjab and various other things. Has anyone said any such thing after watching the film? Now imagine, what he was thinking to take out from the film. So once you’ve watched the film and when you see his interviews before the release of the film- it is very clear. I don’t have to say anything .Anurag Kashyap
They don’t understand the situation. In trying to sanitise it, they actually are creating a bigger problem than solving it.
Q: Moving on to Raman Raghav 2.0, which happens to be a real life story, did you come across information that was classified, and did you have a hard time figuring out how to show it?
Anurag Kashyap: No, I didn’t have a conflict like that. I wanted to make a biopic and I couldn’t, as I was not able to get the funds and other things for it. I’ve been obsessing about this story and there’s a reason for it. I was like, I can use the same reason and tell another story which is more fictional, and have a take on it. Since I was borrowing a lot from Raman Raghav, I decided to call it Raman Raghav 2.0. Within the world of evil, there are two different moral circles and the film is about that. When you look at that, the whole perspective, your perception of things changes. I was trying to explore that and do it like a thriller. I wanted to make a film which is scary, without being gory. I wanted to scare people but not show blood and gore. It has been designed in that way…people feel afraid, but can watch it with some music that I really wanted to play with.
Q: You have worked with Nawazuddin Siddique several times over the years. Do you still discover new things about him every time you collaborate?
Anurag Kashyap: You watch the film and see how he surprises you. For me, he’s like clay. You can mould him any way and he allows you to do that, which is what works for me as a director. I want to work with actors who have this immense trust and faith, and they come along for the ride. There’s nothing similar between Nawaz and the character he portrays in the film. But because he’s impressionable, he absorbs a lot. So I give him a lot to absorb and steer him in that direction.
Q: You have been often called the poster boy of Indie Cinema. But if you come to think of it, it doesn’t stand true.
Anurag Kashyap: Exactly. I hate it. See, my films are supported by studios. The money is not raised by the public so I don’t see how I qualify as an Indie Filmmaker. I have only fought for what I believe in, and not for anything else. I don’t know how they’ve made me a poster boy. Also, I hate the term ‘poster boy’. It is created by the people and the media, and they will take it off when they want it. I hope they take it off soon.
Q: Talking of crime, you have time and again said how you enjoy making it. Is it because the of thrill it gives you till the last shot?
Anurag Kashyap: I love this genre because it’s very cinematic. I love the story telling in it. You are holding your audience hostage to the suspense and I get to play with it. For me, story telling, cinema and literature are always very important. The activist and the NGO in me is always suppressed and trapped when I’m making a film. I don’t think that the purpose of every film is to put out a message. I like to engage the audience. If the audience is not engaged then I don’t know if one should make a film at all. Also, I like watching and reading about crime as much. My world is noir and I like it very much. Also, while shooting things happen organically but I keep prodding and pushing. The location plays a very important part. I explore the geography of the place and try to create the drama within that.
Q: But don’t you think art is subjective and we should leave it to that?
Anurag Kashyap: Ya, but it’s changing for good. You look at the whole new generation, which is far more cinema literate, far more grown up and that makes me very happy. That’s a benefit I am going to reap. I am very happy with where we are going. I would rather be the future than the present.
Q: What’s your opinion about superstars stepping out of their comfort zones to make good cinema?
Anurag Kashyap: For a big star it’s a big risk. What makes a star is his fans and fans like certain traits. They want a constant affirmation that you are the same, which forces a star to continue with what they have been doing for years. He is deprived of experimenting many times.
It’s a choice. If you want to keep your stardom, then it will be very hard for you to go out of your safety net. If you trust yourself enough to be able to step outside and keep experimenting till eventually that becomes their stardom, that’s rare.Anurag Kashyap
Only Aamir Khan has been able to do this. It will be difficult and you would be rejected many times, but you need to go on.
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