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IFFK 2022: I discovered cinema too late, says Anurag Kashyap at masterclass

At the Kerala festival, writer-director-actor Kashyap speaks about his cinematic journey and discusses various aspects of his craft.

Vidyasree Bindu

Possibly the longest queue at the 26th International Film Festival of Kerala (IFFK) 2022 was not for a movie screening but for a masterclass conducted by Anurag Kashyap.

The event took place at the Kairali theatre in Trivandrum on 21 March. Mediated by festival artistic director Bina Paul, the session saw Kashyap baring his heart on his filmmaking process and criteria for casting, the role of music, and many other questions based on his experience in cinema.

Asked about his arrival on the film scene, Kashyap pointed out that he is a microbiologist by training who ended up making films. He said he was always into writing and could write non-stop. He described writing as an addiction.

He also recalled that he could not get admission in any film school at first; it was only in the transition phase in India in the 1990s, when TV soap operas boomed, that he began discovering new avenues for his talent.

He advised aspiring writers to find their own process of writing and keep writing, no matter what.

Kashyap also spoke about why he is less inclined to pre-production preparation. Asked how he captures chaos in his movies, the filmmaker said he simply trusts the people he works with and looks for organic output from them when they are allowed to work on their terms.

He also said he and his crew work on two principles: first is to not shoot in public places, second is to never interfere in people’s everyday lives with their filmmaking process.

Responding to a question from Bina Paul, who is also a well-known film editor, on how he casts artistes and how he discovered Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Kashyap said he always goes for the intensity in a person’s eyes. “The truth in their eyes” is what connects him with his artistes, he said.

He then recalled how he first met Siddiqui as the assistant of another actor and how he slowly started noticing him. It was on the sets of Black Friday (2005) that he finally realized the extraordinary qualities of the star.

Speaking about the making of Gangs Of Wasseypur (2012), widely seen as his magnum opus, Kashyap recounted how he had started working for commercials to earn some money when Udaan (2010) was shelved for a while. He was then approached by a young man named Zeishan who pitched the idea of Wasseypur. Though Kashyap was reluctant at first, as the script had a resemblance with City Of God (2002), Zeishan persuaded him with stories based on newspaper reports.

According to Kashyap, when he finished writing for the film, it had become a huge project and he had zero budget for producing it. Then he began using his contacts and places in his childhood village and that’s how Gangs Of Wasseypur finally happened.

Kashyap also spoke about how Tamil movies like Paruthiveeran (2007), Subramaniapuram (2008) and Naan Kadavul (2009) had inspired him.

Answering a question about his various phases as a filmmaker, Kashyap noted that the context one comes from and the people one is with will be reflected in one's work. “The people around you change you over time,” he said.

He also elaborated on the role that music and sound play in his films, adding that he gets done with the songs first and then the movie. He also mentioned how his low budgets pushed him to look for new artistes instead of going for established ones and that is how he chanced upon Shilpa Rao and Amitabh Bhattacharya. According to him, they could get along well because they were all "kind of outcasts”.

Kashyap is all in for OTT platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video because they are making his films alive again. Many of his works, which did not fetch adequate returns earlier, are getting monetized now with these platforms, he pointed out.

He also mentioned how it is becoming unsafe for artists to be free in their expression in these times. His recollection of the days when his movies were banned and he had to travel with pirated copies of his own works elicited huge response from the audience.

The session also had questions from the audience for their favourite director, which ranged from how to deal with writer’s block to how to aesthetically show violence on screen.

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