Coming up: 3D horror movie by Anurag Kashyap
This year, director, writer, producer (and sometimes actor) Anurag Kashyap had the unique experience of having his films play in three major international film festivals. In May, his home production Udaan was selected for the Un Certain Regard section of the Cannes Film Festival.
Next month, his new film That Girl in Yellow Boots will play at the Venice and Toronto film festivals.
Kashyap was also in Venice last year with his critical and box office success, Dev D.
That Girl in Yellow Boots stars Kalki Koechlin and Naseeruddin Shah. Koechlin, who is also Kashyap's real-life partner, co-wrote the film with him.
Despite all of this recognition, Kashyap continues to face issues in India -- challenges raising funds for his projects and struggling with an industry that values box office success and the star system above creativity and new ideas.
Aseem Chhabra talked to Kashyap on the phone [Kashyap was in Madrid at the time] about his career and future projects.
Anurag, what are you doing in Madrid?
I am writing my next script here. In India, something or the other keeps happening all the time. Ever since I have started producing, life has become very hectic and my creativity has gone down. I haven't done anything since I shot That Girl in Yellow Boots. I produced Udaan. But actually I feel I have not done anything since Dev D and Gulaal. This script is taking too long to finish. I came abroad so that I can be completely inaccessible. When I am in India, people keep calling and it gets complicated.
What are you writing?
My next movie. It's a film set in the coal mines of Bihar. It has lots of characters. Manoj Bajpai will be the only known face in the film. There will be a lot of newcomers. It's set over six decades and three generations. I have written the first part and now I am working on the second.
Manoj is such a good actor, but he doesn't get enough work.
Yes, he is. He finally got his due with Raajneeti.
What is the film called?
I haven't settled on a title yet.
When do you plan to shoot?
In October, after Venice and Toronto (film festivals).
Image: Anurag Kashyap (centre) and Kalki Koechlin (right) on the sets of That Girl in Yellow Boots
'It is still such a tough task to finish low budget films'
By the way, congratulations, for That Girl in Yellow Boots going to Toronto and Venice, and Udaan was at Cannes.
I am hoping something will work out because of these two films. Otherwise I will have the biggest problems. Last year, after Dev D and Gulaal, I went around everywhere from PVR to Reliance to others and asked for Rs 10 crores to make three films. Everybody would say to me after Dev D, 'you should be making bigger films.' When I insisted I wanted to make small films, they laughed. They thought I had gone nuts.
They had problems with you working on small budget films?
It wasn't just the small budget films but also the kind of subjects I was choosing. And not one film had a star. But I told them that after Dev D's success, I could recover their money. I was going by the market logic. But not one person supported me.
Let me understand -- you were pitching That Girl in Yellow Boots and Udaan?
Also a film called Tumbad and that is the most expensive of the lot. I was told, 'Now that you have found your groove, you are so good with music, why do you have to make another disturbing and dark film? And Udaan, what is the story? It's about a father and son. There is not even a girl there.'
Can you tell us about Tumbad?
Tumbad is a horror film, but not like the regular horror films. It's an atmospheric horror film based on folk tales. Nobody wanted to do these films.
It is unfortunate that you have to encounter such hindrances again and again.
Yes, but that happens all the time. People don't have problems with me making films and now I have UTV's backing (last year Kashyap signed a nine film deal with UTV). Outside UTV also people do not have a problem backing me to make films. Look at the issue of Bombay Velvet (a project that Kashyap is working on with director Danny Boyle). Aamir Khan has not even heard the script but the news in the media is that Aamir is doing it, Shah Rukh Khan is doing it, and John Abraham is doing it. You go to meet someone with the possibility of working together and that becomes news. Just based on the news that is not even verified. Bombay Velvet is one film that everyone wants to do. But Aamir and Shah Rukh are not involved.
So that's the way of the industry. If they know I have a star, they will give me any kind of money. But I will only cast a star if he fits into the story. How will I go to them otherwise?
I shot That Girl With Yellow Boots in 13 days. It is a very boundary pushing film and I won't be allowed to push boundaries every time. But the post production has gone for 11 months. It is still not finished. I got money to shoot the film, but then it took a long time to raise money for post production, until NFDC came on board.
It has been tough since Dev D with Udaan and That Girl With Yellow Boots. Sanjay Singh supported me with these two films and so did Mitul Dixit. But it is still such a tough task to finish low budget films. So I have been making ad films to complete this film.
Image: A scene from That Girl With Yellow Boots
'Shah Rukh probably doesn't see himself in my films'
This is interesting, but when you go outside India...
Outside India there is interest in my work. Today I got three calls for projects. People are saying now that I have made a film that is partially in English (Yellow Boots), why don't I come here (in a western country) and make films? But my films are set in India and I live there.
But your films are going to the top film festivals. Very few Indian filmmakers get that chance.
My idea is if I find market here and recover my money, then I can release the films in India at no cost. Then people will not have problems with what I do. My thing is that I need freedom and that's something difficult to fight for. The more money involved in the film, lesser the freedom you have. It's a constant battle.
Will there be a time when you might do a film with Shah Rukh or Aamir?
I don't have a problem. For me they have to fit in the script, and for them they have to like the script. I have a done a few ads with them. It's not always about what I am doing but whether they see it in the same way. I think I must have narrated two or three ideas to Shah Rukh. But he probably doesn't see himself in those films.
Also, why wouldn't I work with him? He is my senior from college (the two were in Hans Raj College in Delhi University) and he is a wonderful man. He has always been good to me, always been very supportive. My issue is not with Shah Rukh. My issue is with the industry and the constant fight I have to be involved in. I get recognition in India only when I get recognition from outside the country.
After Paanch, you had a lot of problems. That film was banned and Black Friday was held up by the court for some time. That was tough for you. But you kept getting other work, writing scripts and dialogues for other filmmakers.
The problem is not with working. If I have to work and earn a living and run a household, then I have a lot to do. The problem is whether many people will let me do what I want to do. Until today barring UTV, I have not gotten that freedom from anyone.
But this recognition from international film festivals must make you think that you are doing something right.
Yes, absolutely. I have always believed I am doing something right. I have been in this industry for 17 years. The only reason I continue to do this is because I know I am doing something right. I work on low and tight budgets, which most often doesn't involve any fee for anyone. Like in Udaan, (director) Vikram Motwane and his whole family worked for free. His mother was the executive producer and his wife was the still photographer.
Image: A scene from That Girl With Yellow Boots
'I am planning to do Tumbad in Hindi 3D'
I was so moved by Udaan. It will take a while for that haunting sensation to go away.
I think it touched a chord in all of us.
I understand that you had no marketing budget, but the film barely got a release in New York.
There is a presumption and I have faced that with every film of mine. They presumed Dev D would not work outside India. So it was released on two to three screens and then it disappeared. Gulaal and Black Friday never opened outside India. They have always been bought for satellite TV after the festivals. So if they have any marketing outside India it is for DVDs and satellite TV. If you look at Slumdog, the distributors believed in it and turned it in a hit.
But if you look at Peepli Live -- that is also a UTV film, and Aamir is publicizing it.
Yes, but Aamir is doing everything.
What are plans with That Girl in Yellow Boots?
Nothing right now. It will be shown in Venice and Toronto and I am getting calls from various production houses. I plan to sell it worldwide and then release it in India in December or perhaps January or February.
Also, we are planning to do Tumbad in 3D. So the budgets have gone up.
In 3D and in Hindi?
Yes, but they are already planning other 3D films in Hindi. Ram Gopal Varma is remaking Bhoot in 3D. Vikram Bhatt is also doing something.
How long do you plan to stay in Madrid?
Until I finish the script, I am sitting in this (hotel) room. I just go out to eat.
Did you see the city?
No, no I didn't see anything. Kalki was shooting in Pantalona, so I came to see her (Koechlin is currently shooting for Zoya Akhtar's Zindagi Milegi Na Dobara in Spain). From there I came to Madrid and I started writing here.
Image: A scene from That Girl In Yellow Boots