light of day
KASHYAP, whose much awaited films Black Friday and Paanch are due
for release, talks to CHITRA PADMANABHAN about seeing the
world through a frame .
For some time now, Anurag
Kashyap has been described as a promising young filmmaker with the dubious
distinction of being credited with the most widely watched unreleased films
in Bollywood. Films inspired by the dark brooding shadows of film noir and
moods of alienation to penetrate the underbelly of society with a hammering
urgency. Gut wrenching films, which challenge habitual ways of seeing and
perceptions of violence. Films that have encountered traffic-snarls at the
& GOOD LUCK: John Kerry
Finally, the passionate 32-year-old dialogue writer turned filmmaker has
seen the light at the end of the tunnel. His first feature-length screenplay
and directorial venture, Paanch, will finally be released in December, and
his latest film, Black Friday, in January 2005. In Paanch, a searing look
at youth culture on the margins, possessed by drugs and rock music, you
see characters that mock the candy-floss college youth image seen with deadening
regularity on screen. Five friends of a music band called Parasites hatch
a plot to make money and music and then starts their descent into betrayal
Black Friday – a Mid Day production – based on the investigations
following the Mumbai blasts in 1993, turns the notion of a ‘political’
film inside out. Showing up so called ‘balanced’ films like
Mani Ratnam’s insidious Bombay on the communal violence in Mumbai
in 1993, or even Govind Nihalani’s perplexing Dev, Black Friday is
an honest effort. It neither seeks to be pro-terrorist, pro-police, pro-Hindu
or pro-Muslim. What it does is to pierce the fog of unreason surrounding
the image of the human pawns in the cynical game of terrorism. Who, like
us, are unable to make choices, willing to be part of the mob. The film
was screened in the competition section at film festivals in Locarno, Hamburg
and Pusan this year.
Be it Paanch or Black Friday, what stands out is the energy exploding on
the screen and honest engagement with issues. On meeting Kashyap, it is
clear where the energy comes from, as participants of a film appreciation
course at Delhi’s Habitat Centre discovered last week, when they saw
Black Friday and interacted with him.Unassuming demeanour, a direct gaze,
a sudden flash of a smile and undeniable confidence, there are no half measures
with him, he is devoured by cinema, and he devours cinema. In the last decade
or so, he has found his oeuvre. The frame is his way of seeing the world.
Everything has a filmic reference, and every film is a reference for some
event. And though Kashyap seems to have come a long way from small town
beginnings, the cadences of a rough and tumble life find their way into
some script or the other.
Kashyap was born in Gorakhpur, in Uttar Pradesh. His father works as a Deputy
General Manager at a thermal power project in Anpara, near Varanasi. As
a child, he lived in Obra and Faizabad among others. “I lived five
kilometres from the Babri Masjid but I didn’t know anything,”
he says. What he remembers is his fascination for collecting any scrap of
information about Gumnami Baba (“You know Gumnami Baba and the speculation
about him being Netaji?) when he was in Class IV. His memories of Ayodhya
could well constitute a project to resurrect the town from its burden of
piety. “In 1982-83, I used to go with friends to Ayodhya to get into
the Sarayu River to catch small tortoises. We would play with them. Once
someone said if you put salt before them they change their course, and we
did it,” Kashyap says with a deprecating smile.
His education record
reads like a tourist guide: Faizabad, Dehradun, Gwalior and Delhi. “In
school I was the class idiot, and got beaten up. When I joined Hans Raj
College in Delhi, I joined a gym so nobody could mess with me,” Kashyap
recalls. Those were days of hockey stick fights in U-specials and no money,
as well as the idea that one could not have a girlfriend without money.
19 or 20, you hate the world. I used to smoke ganja and charas and
get violent if I did not have the money to buy them. Some of these
experiences found their way into my film Paanch
In 1992, Kashyap joined the Dehi theatre group, Jana Natya Manch, because
“I got dumped.” On a visit to Mumbai for the Prithvi Festival
he liked the city’s feel. Back in Delhi, seeing a retrospective of
Italian neo-realist filmmaker Vittorio de Sica in Delhi blew his mind. Kashyap
moved to Mumbai to do theatre, “earn money and “do something”
Thus began a time of living on the streets and off people. “At 19
or 20 you hate the world. I used to smoke ganja and charas and get violent
if I did not have the money to buy them.” Some experiences found their
way into Paanch.
Kashyap also spent time absorbing every book at hand. “When I came
to Mumbai I had read 20 books but I discovered that I was one of the best
read individuals there,” he says. He spent a great deal of time in
bookshops, even telling customers which books to buy. Another silver lining
was a friend in hard times who is who is now his wife and editor. The best
editor, he says with a smile. Today he is much calmer person, after the
glitches in the release of Paanch, and “because of my daughter.”
His most proud possession: a house that is more a library of dvds and books.
A small film called Auto Narayan (based on the psychopath Auto Shankar)
was shown at the Mumbai International Film Festival in the mid- ‘90s.
Actor Manoj Bajpai saw it, made Ramgopal Varma see it. That is how Kashyap
wrote the dialogues of the much-acclaimed Satya and later Kaun for Varma.
Dialogues for films like Deepa Mehta’s Water jostled with dialogues
for potboilers like Nayak. He got clarity with Satya, says Kashyap.If Paanch
and Black Friday are examples of this clarity, there is a great deal to
look forward to from this filmmaker.
What next? A film project called Grand Hotel, about middle-class midlife
crisis. I want Mr Naseeruddin Shah to act in it, says the director. From
making a cinema that seeks to preserve contemporary history in the domain
of cinema to a nuanced look at individual and social realities is the script
that Kashyap aims to follow. It is a script that does not shy away from
looking at life in all its rawness and with all its grey tones.