The Gangs of Wasseypur director talks about Tamil cinema and Quentin Tarantino while maintaining a dignified silence about mentor Ram Gopal Varma
Anurag Kashyap is a busy man, which makes it difficult to nail him down for an interview. With more than half a dozen films in the pipeline, we can imagine why. The man even had to turn down Martin Scorsese’s offer of visiting the sets of The Wolf of Wall Street so he could concentrate on making movies. He says it’s no big deal, albeit with a painful sigh, and that it will happen in the future when he will finally meet his idol to sit and talk with him, an attitude so different from the typical Bollywood filmmaker who pushes and shoves to get into the same frame with a visiting dignitary – remember the scene when Steven Spielberg paid a cursory visit to his producers in India? So it was a surprise to see Mr Kashyap suddenly start tweeting, totally out of the blue, about a movie he wanted to screen one evening. But the movie that Anurag showed that day wasn’t his own film. He has no stake in this one, in fact. This was a non-commercial Tamil film called Paradesi, made by noted director Bala, who Anurag says is the best living filmmaker in the country. Read on to find out just why Kashyap is backing a project in which he has practically no part to play…
What’s your stake in the movie?
My stake is nothing in the movie. It is just my love for films, and my love for Bala. It’s like, when Gangs of Wasseypur was dedicated to Sasikumar and Bala, people asked who he was. When I told people about Bala’s film, they didn’t know him. The only thing they knew was that Tere Naam was a remake of Bala’s first film. More than that nobody knows about him and he is the greatest living filmmaker in India. I think it is high time that we release his film. Because I don’t think anybody makes films like Bala in this country. I mean, he spent three years making one film!
So why release it in such a hush-hush manner then?
I just saw the movie last month. And for the first time Vetrimaaran told me about this film. I was trying to take this film everywhere. But the films get distributed immediately in the South. Otherwise I would have taken it to worldwide platforms. But Bala is not here tonight. He is a very reclusive man. Half the country doesn’t know what Bala looks like. But he is one of the most exciting filmmakers we have.
What do you feel about the accessibility of Tamil films for a Hindi audience?
You saw it and you liked it, didn’t you? If it’s a good film, everyone connects with it – that’s the only criteria. I have been watching films from the South since I saw Bala’s 2006 film Setu. That was the first film I saw that hooked me on to Tamil cinema. What irritates me is that we remake all sorts of Tamil films, but we never remake these.
Tell us about the letter you got from Martin Scorcese – we know you are a huge fan of his work….
It is nothing. Through a common friend, somebody who knew me, a French lady called Melita – she told me that ‘Mr Scorsese wanted to see your films and could you deliver them to him’. So Guneet Monga went all the way to deliver the film to his house. And out of the blue we got a letter one day. So I was very happy. He also invited me on the sets of The Wolf of Wall Street in New York but I was very busy and very tied up. I was shooting. But it will all happen. I think I will meet him before the year ends.
You’re a Quentin Tarantino fan too; he did a film on slavery recently. What’s your take on Django Unchained vs Paradesi?
The two films have a greatly different take on slavery. Django Unchained is an exciting, fun film, a very Tarantino film. Paradesi is an extremely real film. They both totally leave you on a different note. Django – you don’t take seriously. But this one, you can’t do anything but take it seriously. This will give you sleepless nights!
We’ve seen successful filmmakers fail repeatedly with their films, critically and at the box office. Do you ever fear that fate? What do you do to guard against it?
I think that’s all of us – I think it will happen to me also. You just have to be your best. The very first thing I believe is that you have to be alert. You have to listen to what your critics say…sometimes.
Did you watch Ram Gopal Varma’s The Attacks of 26/11?
No, I didn’t. (makes a sad face)
What do you feel about Tigmanshu Dhulia’s latest film, Saheb Biwi Aur Gangster Returns?
I love him and I love his films. He is a filmmaker who has a stamp. You know his film when you see one. I have seen Saheb Biwi Aur Gangster, but I haven’t seen the second one yet. A lot of people are saying that the second one is better than the first – I will see it.