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Saturday, April 1, 2023

LIFF 2019: Screen Talk with Anurag Kashyap

Anurag Kashyap was joined by filmmaker Peter Webber for a screen talk at BFI Southbank as part of the London Indian Film Festival.

Kashyap is a unique talent and is India’s best-known filmmaker on the global festival circuit.

His Netflix series Sacred Games was a global smash hit and is set for season 2.

He flits across genres, ranging from edgy, provocative fare like Dev D, Ugly, Raman Raghav 2.0 to the two-part Godfather-like rural gangland epic Gangs Of Wasseypur, the political punch of Gulaal and Black Friday.

Not forgetting to mention the unusual love stories Manmarziyaan and Mukkabaaz.

Known for his outspoken nature, Kashyap pulls no punches on stage and his deep insights on cinema are valued around the world.

The Beginning

The talk began about Kashyap’s journey and how he got into filmmaking despite his family background being unrelated to the entertainment industry.

He even described how reading and books became his escapism because he used to get bullied.

The conversation slowly and steadily spoke about how he broke into the industry.

“I never really realised the struggle at that point. I loved writing so much.

India was discovering soap operas and because I could write quickly and effectively I got paid and food.”

He mentioned how writing became his passion and escapism:

“I was always a closet writer. I wrote notebooks after notebooks. In January 1993, I got a eureka moment at a film festival in Delhi.

I watched some movies that resonated with my writing. At that point, I was so sure of becoming a director.”

He would look for the texts first before actually watching international art cinema and slowly educated himself.

Apparently, Kashyap never really felt he had that skill to create a mainstream piece of cinema:

“I just took on anything that came my way. I wrote a lot of soap operas and became a go-to Guy when last minute things were required.

After a few films got shelved, Ram Gopal Varma called me to become a second unit director.”

How his Craft Formed

His first film Paanch where he united raw actors, at authentic locations and at all costs, even if it meant escaping the cops. The restrictions became his stylistic craft.

As such, he believes a lot in giving his actors artistic freedom:

“I take a lot to them about the moment or a scene. It is my job to know your craft. Your job is to focus on that moment.”

He further spoke about how the shift was in working with a bigger team: “I empower them.

I don’t do preparation because when we make something that people don’t want you to make.

I have a very strong visual memory of things. I will late my team never make it their own film.”

It was interesting how his casting is impromptu. In fact, it was just pure instincts and that slowly contributed towards his different filmmaking style… Which is how Dev D was created.

Bombay Velvet was a mainstream film which doomed at the box office:

“It became larger than life from the casting to the crew before it was made. I felt so lost.

I was holding onto the film and didn’t let it happen. Before I could even make the film, it had a price.”

He caused chaos in a structured environment, which is what worked the most for him.

“What is dark to you, might be natural to me”

The discussion then showcased a few clips from Gangs of Wasseypur, Raman Raghav 2.0, Sacred Games and Manmarziyaan.

There are a lot of autobiographical elements within his films: There is a lot of myself in them. I use my movies to purge. It’s almost like my therapy.”

The conversation took quite a sentimental turn as he spoke about dealing with depression:

“When I started isolating myself and wrote, I went through a sexual abuse I didn’t know how to speak about it… Which is why my writing became dark and disturbing.

I understood that it was depression in 2007 when I went into a spiral of drugs and alcohol. I came out of that post-Dev D. I suddenly had to deal with issues in phases.”

He added: “In one phase, I would go out and buy jackets. The second phase was tracksuits and the third phase was shoes.

Finance works for me, but emotional relationships don’t. I swim every morning and that’s my therapy.

I need to keep working because that’s one place where I’m my best. It helps me from sinking.”

The discussion ended with a Q&A by the audience in which several enthusiasts asked for tips and guidance to pursue their passion in film.

Anuj Radia
Journalist and film enthusiast.

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