An Insider Exposes the ‘Real’ Anurag Kashyap on his Birthday
As Bollywood’s enfant terrible Anurag Kashyap turns a year older, we caught up with his protégé, Neeraj Ghaywan, director of the critically adored Masaan, and got him to reveal the lesser known sides to his mentor’s personality and their journey so far as collaborators.
“What I Cherish Most is His Team Spirit”
Neeraj Ghaywan: Apart from assisting Anurag Kashyap on Gangs of Wasseypur, I have also been the second unit director on Ugly, and an associate director for several ad films. Working with him, you learn how to build a team, the science of every aspect of filmmaking and so on. What I cherish most is his team spirit. He takes time to choose his team and would pick a newcomer, who is full of passion, as opposed to someone who’s experienced and technically adept, but may not devote time. This is one of my major lessons, which is why when I was making Masaan, I picked up mostly an entire team of debutantes, cast and crew.
“Anurag Believes in Zero Hierarchy”
Neeraj Ghaywan: Secondly, on a Kashyap film, there is no hierarchy. Anybody can walk up to him, and tell him anything. On my very first day during Masaan, I adopted the same policy of zero hierarchy.
“He’s a Major Foodie”
Neeraj Ghaywan: One lesser known side to him is that he is a major foodie. There would be days when everybody was on set except Anurag. He would be found in a samosa or a gulab jamun shop. And when we would drag back him to the set, we would realise he had left his bag behind. But what really makes him stand apart is that he is a man child. More a child, than a man. Once he was extremely ill, and his doctor made colour coded instructions. He complained later that we consider him a child, and all of us bore the expression in affirmation. And he burst out laughing.
Anurag, the Prankster
Neeraj Ghaywan: Once he sent one of his assistants to a chemist with a chit, citing back pain. But instead of a medicine’s name, on the chit he wrote, Martin Scorsese. The poor assistant went hunting for Scorsese all over Varanasi. One chemist even told him that it would be available in a day or two!
Another time, during the shooting of a key Ramadhir and Faisal scene in GOW, he insisted that no one make noise, since it was on sync sound. But throughout the scene, he held my hand and kept tickling me. I was the continuity guy, which meant I had to keep a hawk’s eye on everything, and by the time the scene was done, I had to scream. That’s how he plays pranks.
“His Kindness is His Strongest Character Trait”
Neeraj Ghaywan: I count his instinctive kindness as his strongest character trait. Once a few kids running a venture on independent cinema came to him for help, and he wrote them a cheque of Rs 3-4 Lacs, only to be told later by his accountant that he had a few thousand rupees left in his account. But he didn’t dishonour his commitment. He asked around, and did help them with the money.
During GOW, I have noticed so many film aspirants parking themselves outside his office for days, displaying their strong urge to work with him. Anurag would speak to them, and send them to a few places too. Sometimes, I have also hosted a few of them.
Once we shot in Dhanbad with real mine workers in biting cold weather. One of the scenes required rain, and after every cut, Anurag ran with a hot kettle to the actors, poured them piping hot tea, helped them dry up with towels. This is what he did despite having assistants.
As I entered films leaving my cushy corporate job, I soon found myself adapting to a frugal life and tweeted once about how I didn’t own an air-conditioner or an iPhone. The next day, I found an iPhone and an AC in my room. Anurag had seen my tweet, spoken to my roommate, and had planned a surprise for me. When I refused to take it, he told me how my contribution to his film was so valuable. That’s how Anurag touches people, with his acts of kindness.
Anurag is Frugal and Humble
Neeraj Ghaywan: I must point out though that contrary to popular belief, he never holds your hand nor does he spoon-feed. I remember when I wrote the script of my short film, Shor, he ridiculed me in front of everyone, which made me go deep into my research. Even during Masaan, he told me I would have to fight my own battle. I was a spendthrift earlier. It’s Anurag who has taught us the importance of being frugal and humble.
“I Wish Anurag Would Communicate More Clearly”
Neeraj Ghaywan: An aspect that’s both bad and good in him is that a lot of the films are in his head. Even his scripts are very functionally written, as opposed to the classic Hollywood style. He doesn’t communicate precisely, and it becomes very difficult to arrange for a scene as per his vision. During Ugly, he wouldn’t brief me very elaborately, but he would tell me that I would do it fine. This trust put the onus on me, and I would get really nervous. On his birthday, my only wish is that he communicate a little more, it would make all our lives easier!
(The writer is a journalist and a screenwriter who believes in the insanity of words, in print or otherwise. Follow him on Twitter: @RanjibMazumder)
(This story is from The Quint’s archives. It is being republished to mark Anurag Kashyap’s birthday.)
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