He’s never lived by the script, so don’t be surprised at anything Anurag Kashyap — yes, he’s the same man who wrote Satya, Shool and Kaun — does. He’s just finished the screenplay for Guru (the Aishwarya Rai/Abhishek Bachchan flick from the Mani Ratnam stable), earning anything between Rs 12 and Rs 15 lakh, he tells you with a huge smile, but what’s keeping him busy are three of his own projects, including two old ones.
“I am writing and directing Gulal, which is 80% over, after a Bengali producer stepped in.” Ask him about the story and he tells you softly: “It’s inspired by that song in Pyaasa, Yeh duniya agar mil bhi jaye to kya hai….” Shot mainly in Jaipur, starring usual suspects Kay Kay Menon, Aditya Srivastav and introducing model Jesse Randhawa, it’s waited a long time in the wings. And the song is — an angry poet’s (Guru Dutt) outburst at the world around him — a chilling resonance of Kashyap’s own life.
For, Kashyap, 34, hasn’t had a stroke of luck (it seems to be changing, but more on that later) ever since he landed in Mumbai in June 1993 despite making two extraordinary films and a dazzling short film. While his film on a rock band and its excesses Paanch got caught at the censors, his next venture Black Friday, on the Mumbai 1993 blasts based on S Hussain Zaidi’s eponymous book, has been held up from release by a court ruling.
“It’s (Black Friday) been to 30 festivals abroad. I have screened it at Columbia University and Washington’s Smithsonian Institute and I also showed it at a workshop on script writing at Princeton University.” Kashyap remembers getting standing ovations at most places but he wants it to be screened at home. “People will get to see Black Friday. It will be free for release once the Mumbai blasts verdict is out (new date, September 12),” he adds.
“We must celebrate Anurag (Kashyap)’s work. He’s a rarity, the one and only among the young breed of writers who has an original take on life and a specific point of view,” gushes film director Sudhir Mishra.
“He’s a great story-teller who knows the craft very well too… so his work is from the heart as also from the head.”
Kashyap is beginning to see a change in Bollywood, thanks to the multiplex culture, and says many producers are now willing to listen to his ideas. “My problem is that I have no reference point and this industry works at a reference point… so it’s important for me to make people listen and get excited about my stories.”
According to Mahesh Bhatt, the original risk-taker, Kashyap intimidates people because of his irreverence. “He doesn’t conform to the prescribed dictates of what is considered good, wholesome cinema… but this is a burden any original has to carry. His films (I have seen his short film Last Train to Mahakali and Black Friday) are very refreshing.”
As for Kashyap, he laughs and tells you, “pirated CDs of Black Friday might have helped change producers’ minds.”
As it turns out, this audacious, non-conformist film-maker has got the backing of Vishal Bhardwaj and Kumar Mangat, fresh from the success of Omkara, for his other unfinished venture No Smoking. “It’s a bizarre thriller, a David Fincher (Se7en, The Game) meets Kafka story. No Smoking is about an arrogant, selfish man (John Abraham), who’s a chain smoker, agreeing to give it up and go into rehab to save his marriage and Vishal has agreed to produce it.”
Third in line is an animation film, a sequel to Hanuman, which he’s co-writing and co-directing with Toonz Animation. It’s probably for his five-year-old daughter Aaliya, who prances around happily as we talk in Kashyap’s den, a beautiful, sea-facing apartment on Bandra’s upscale Carter Road. “I love staring out at the sea. It makes me feel that I am not in Mumbai.”
This is the place where Kashyap, who has struggled with alcoholism and come out of it, writes for four days in a week. “I spend the weekends with my daughter who loves coming here.”
He has slowed down considerably. “Earlier, I used to write a script (of a film) in two days. These days, I usually take a month-and-half to do the same. I would also like to do my own thing some day, but right now I need the money too.
Kashyap is writing two scripts for Sudhir Mishra (Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi) and Shiivam Nair (Ahista, Ahista) and giving finishing touches to the UTV produced film Goal.
Oh, and this graphic novels and noir fiction addict (Irish writer Ken Bruen is the current favourite) also likes to spend hours watching DVDs of movies from around the world — “I have the largest number of DVDs” — even as he toys with the next interesting idea.