Anubhav Sinha’s Article 15 is one of the best reviewed films of the year so far. If the critics are loving it, the audience is lining up for it outside theatres too. After Mulk, which powerfully took up the issues of communalism and Islamophobia, Sinha prompts us to have a conversation around caste discrimination and violence with his latest film. Having collected over Rs 30 crore in 6 days, the director of Article 15 is on a high, so it’s only apt that I begin by asking him what he’s smoking... in a totally different context.Hi Anubhav and welcome to The Quint.First of all congratulations, Article 15 is doing very well. Now before going to talk about the film, I want to ask you something which everybody has been asking, what is Anubhav Sinha smoking these days and where can we get what he’s smoking. Of course, they’re referring to the kind of films you used to make, whether it was Ra.One or Cash and then suddenly something snapped and Mulk happened, and a lot of people thought that Mulk might be a fluke but you’ve given Article 15 now.Anubhav Sinha: I’m smoking the same, Benson & Hedges, which I shouldn’t be smoking but yeah. No, something has happened, I can’t put my finger on it but the stories I am getting attracted to are very very different from what attracted me say 5 years back. I’m being asked this question by people, including friends, but I am not being able to put my finger on it. I think it has got a lot to do with anger, my anger with what’s going on in the world, not only in India, more so in India. So, it’s got a lot to do with anger. Do you also think that somewhere along you were earlier making films thinking or second guessing what the audience wants to see and then you made a decision to ask yourself what do I want to tell or what’s the stories that I want to tell?Anubhav Sinha: In hindsight maybe that can be an answer but in the process I have not known this, maybe that’s the answer. So with Mulk what turned out to be liberating and a wonderful, peaceful Zen like experience is when you are saying through your films exactly what you feel and exactly what you want to say. So, it’s like having a conversation with your audience, which is a very liberating feeling, which is a very peaceful feeling. But one did not think about it like that, one did not design it like that.Now how did the idea of Article 15 come about, Ayushmann told me that you offered him a romcom and eventually it became Article 15, so how did that change come about?Anubhav Sinha: So, he had recently seen Mulk and this is a few weeks after Mulk released that we met. I think we met in October. I offered him a film which was not a romcom really, but yeah it was a film from his world, so he said he will read it. He was a big Mulk fan and before he left he ended up saying, what if we did something that is socially relevant and intense and I had this script which I did not know which actor to go to with and I was reasonably certain that it wasn’t Ayushmann, but I ended up telling him that story and he really loved that story and he asked me if he could read it and he got very excited by the story and I said sure read it. But I told him that I don’t see you in this part, so he read it and he pursued and to be honest after he left I looked up some of his images on Google and most of them were like this happy-go-lucky boy-next-door until I stumbled upon one image of his which was intense and I found that very interesting and I told one of my assistants to photoshop it and just give him a moustache and when I saw that I got convinced even physically. So I bought into his keenness to tell this story, I bought into his conviction into this subject matter and then this photoshopped image helped.There is this contrarian view that you’ve chosen a Brahmin top cop to come in and help the victims, so the whole Brahmin as the saviour narrative, what’s your reaction to that?Anubhav Sinha: The whole idea of making this film was to have a conversation, so if some people think that that was probably not the best thing to do then maybe it was not maybe it was but it’s good to talk about it. Having said that, those people should also see that Ayushmann is not the only heroic character in the film, there is Nishad as well. And he is so heroic that Ayan Ranjan feels inferior to Nishad. In one scene with his girlfriend he says you never look at me like that, the way Gaura looks at him, so he has this complex. There is another hero in this film, which is very inspiring and very nice.I also read a couple of opinion pieces which said that the whole film had an upper caste gaze, and that you did not question the fundamentals of the caste system which is the shastras and the vedas. Do you sometimes feel that people expect a lot from a film, they want you to provoke, they want you to create awareness, they want you to offer solutions.Anubhav Sinha: Yeah, sometimes that happens. You know, it is easier to make that film and show it then it will be seen by the converted already, I was trying to make a mainstream film that’ll reach out to the youth of this country who are very blissfully unaware of the goings on. So the purpose of the film was probably slightly different from what those people are expecting from this film. I was not trying to educate you on the history of this caste hierarchy, I was not trying to offer any solutions, I was trying to make the normal people talk about it. I was trying to send you home with some questions, so the film had a different reason. But having said that, what they’re saying is valid, those things need to be questioned, maybe another film by somebody else, maybe I, I don’t know but this is too much to expect from one film. Since the film is inspired by the Badaun case, can you tell me what sort of research went into creating the incidents that went into your film. Did you go to Badaun, did spend time there, did you read reports, watch documentaries?Anubhav Sinha: Badaun is one of the inspirations. So I was not documenting what happened in Badaun. I was just too disturbed by that image of two girls hanging from the tree, and when I looked up I realised that was not the only such incident. There are several - girls have been burnt alive, girls have been buried alive. So yes, inspiration does come from there, but it will be unfair to say that the film in general is inspired by Badaun. So there is also Una, there is also Rohith Vemula, there is a lot of things that you can see in the film that the film is inspired by.The cinematography of Article 15 is something that really hits you. It complements the atmospherics and adds to the gloom that’s hanging over the whole village. Did you have any visual reference for Article 15, the way you wanted it to come across visually?Anubhav Sinha: This is Ewan’s fourth film with me, he also shot Mulk, he also shot Tum Bin 2, he also shot Abhi Toh Party Shuru Hui Hai, this is his fourth film with me. Choosing the look was driven by the subject matter, the script. I remember sending him one image of a village in general. I said this is what the film looks like to me and then he created a look-book, he always creates a look-book in which he for every scene he thrown in some images from all over the internet and we agreed upon that and that’s how the look came about.Because there were also a couple of reviews which also said that it had a very True Detective kind of look.Anubhav Sinha: Yes, actually a very dear friend of mine, Naman Ramachandran, who lives in London, he was the first one to say that and unfortunately I hadn’t seen True Detective, so I quickly ran and I saw the trailer of it and yes, in terms of look and feel it can remind you of True Detective, I still haven’t seen it, I have only seen the trailer but I have been told it is fantastic so it’s on my watch list.One of the striking scenes in the film is the one in which Ayushmann is asking his subordinates about their caste and everybody is explaining the hierarchy. It’s both powerful and it’s also hilarious which is a very rare combination to have in a scene, could you tell us how that scene came about?Anubhav Sinha: It was just me and Gaurav jamming on the script and I was cracking this joke, this scene as a joke and Gaurav took it very seriously he said no no let’s have it in the movie and then we expanded the scene. So, the genesis of this scene was a small joke which then we expanded into this full fledged scene. And it was a good opportunity to actually have a bit of a laugh because it’s a grim film. What are some of the memorable reactions you’ve got for Article 15?Anubhav Sinha: Oh man! Have you ever heard a critic call the director from the interval? It is impossible, I mean they are friends, I’ve known them for long, I’ve received messages from critics after the trailer that Anubhav looking very impressive, can’t wait to watch it, which is fine but a critic would normally never message you from the interval and say something. The kind of hugs I have received after the premiere got over. There was actually this queue of big celebrities just waiting to come and give me a hug and they wouldn’t leave me. Very very overwhelming overwhelmed responses.There were some Brahmin groups who were protesting once the trailer came out and before the released. What’s the status on that, are they continuing to protest or have they seen the film and somehow reconciled that it’s not something to protest about.Anubhav Sinha: I think most of them are attention seeking, because every time I try to interact with them on Facebook or Twitter, or even on CNN one night in one of the shows there was this guy from Karni Sena, he hadn’t seen the film and he was protesting. So I said have you seen the film, he said yes, I said what is deriding about Brahmins in the film? So he said no I have seen the trailer, so then how do you talk?And I also see a very angry Anubhav Sinha on Twitter getting back at people who are asking you unnecessary questions about the film saying - who are you?Anubhav Sinha: No, I said who the fuck are you? Fuck is a UA word, my film is UA and it has fuck in it a few times and I like the word fuck in my conversations. Congratulations and all the best for your next.Anubhav Sinha: Thank you Suresh. We'll get through this! Meanwhile, here's all you need to know about the Coronavirus outbreak to keep yourself safe, informed, and updated. The Quint is now available on Telegram & WhatsApp too, Click here to join.