Interview With

Anurag Kashyap

Anurag Kashyap needs no introduction. An acclaimed director, producer and actor, he makes his acting debut in Tamil through Ajay Gnanamuthu's Imaikkaa Nodigal. In an interesting conversation with Jyothsna Bhavanishankar, Anurag discusses about his first Tamil film, his affinity towards south cinema and much more.

We know you are a keen follower and supporter of Tamil films. But what made you say yes to Imaikkaa Nodigal?

I had worked with Murugadoss in Akira. One day he told me to meet his assistant Ajay who was very keen to narrate me something. I had no idea for what it was. I met him; he narrated an exciting opening scene and asked me if I liked it. I liked it as it sounded very stylish Hollywood types. Then he said I have to do this film. My plate was full as I was about to go into shoot for Mukkabaaz and I had other things lined up. I told him I just have two months and he said he can complete in that time. That's how I came on board Imaikkaa Nodigal.

You are an acclaimed director. In your perspective, how was Ajay Gnanamuthu?

Ajay is a very good director; his vision is very big, larger than life. I don't think like Ajay and Ajay doesn't think like me. He is a very different filmmaker than I; he is absolutely clear about what he wants. He is probably more fearless than I because he thinks big and takes what he wants; he is quite stubborn that way. He has enough patience to wait and go the distance to get what he seeks. He is going to be a very big director in the future. His fearlessness and courage will surely take him that far.

Can you tell us about your working experience with other cast members such as Nayanthara, Atharvaa, to name a few?

Nayanthara and I had two sequences together. Most of the film is about the cat and mouse game we play. She is extremely professional and sincere. She does not indulge in any kind of nonsensical gossip talk. I liked my interactions with her.

I had more scenes with Atharvaa. I like him a lot. I had seen his Paradesi. He is very interactive, sincere and passionate. It was great fun watching Atharvaa and Nayanthara. Both of them are very giving and secure actors.

I wish I got to do some scenes with Vijay Sethupathi but it was not to be (sighs). I love him as an actor.

How was it speaking Tamil dialogues?

Speaking in Tamil was very tough. I used to write my dialogues in Devanagari (how it was meant to be spoken), make one assistant speak them and I used to watch how Ajay spoke those lines. I tried to take as much from Ajay, the way he saw it, and the way he wanted the character to be. I have this ability to copy and imitate. I used to borrow from people around me. Ajay wanted me to play the character in a particular way. He had more clarity on it. I was like an actor in the set. I did not let the director in me interfere with the proceedings. I would follow Ajay's directions and that's how I would like actors to be in my set. I used to hold Ajay's fingers and go the way where he took me. All the credit goes to him. I wanted to speak naturally. I also wanted to dub but things got delayed so much that I couldn't.

Cinema is a very powerful medium. We come across cases in papers that talk about its influence in day-today lives. In that sense, what according to you should be the role of censor in this country?

I think we are all responsible enough to practice some kind of self-censorship which comes from self-awareness and responsibilities that we think we have as a filmmaker. Censor in times of Amazon, Netflix and internet is pointless.

Now, it's just not feature films wherein one can express their creative freedom. Therefore, where do you see the future of the conventional cinema in India?

I don't think too much about the future. All I can say is Digital is changing the scenario right now. There is more freedom. As regards budgets, making a film for a smaller screen format doesn't mean you don't spend money on it. There is a whole new generation which is watching films on these formats. People will keep making films; it depends on the audience where they want to see the film. Conventional films are essentially local art forms from where our cinema has evolved; they have to exist and there will also be these new cinemas, new voices in new formats. I think we all will find a way to co-exist. Nothing is going to go away, only new things will keep emerging.

The reception for Sacred Games, has it been on expected lines? Do you think more successful actors/directors while being successful in the big screen are going to simultaneously take a plunge into the web series format?

We did not expect Sacred Games to be this big a success. It is much more, beyond what we thought. Netflix was very confident about it and they placed it like that, they probably had more objectivity. I hope more actors participate in Netflix. I think everybody is toying with the idea of doing something new. Somewhere down the line everybody likes the freedom, everybody wants to explore beyond the conventional things expected from them.

As someone associated with independent cinema what is your take on well-made masala movies. Do you have personal like/dislike for this star driven genre?

I think we need masala films as much as we need all other kind of cinema because masala films have the maximum number of footfalls. That money indirectly comes to us to make films. It is a system co-dependent on each other. I don't have problems in that. I think it is a healthy system to co-exist.

What do you think about social media? Earlier, there was a kind of intrigue about stars but not anymore. Do you think it's good or bad?

It's both good and bad. It was good when it started out. I believe a lot of people found their voice. Slowly, people who had a problem with people finding their voice figured a way out and they have more power to control it. Now it has become more of a propaganda machine and a tool. That is a problem. Jo hona hai, jaise hotha hi jaayega (What is to happen, will happen in that way). Let's see which way it goes.

You have a great deal of affinity towards the South. How/when did that all start?

I think my affinity to the south started long back, during the times of post-production work of Sathya which happened in Chennai. At Media Artists, I discovered a lot of films along with Sridhar, the sound designer. I remember Sathya was dubbed in Tamil and Telugu and Chiyaan Vikram had dubbed for it. He was a dubbing artist then. I saw Sethu happening. I hung out with Bala. I worked with Shankar in Anniyan. I worked with Mani sir in Yuvaa. My affinity with south has been there for a long time. I have discovered south films through them. I saw Selva's first film with Dhanush when it came out. I was simply blown by it. I also discovered a lot of films through Natty Natrajan Subramanian, DoP/Actor. I found a lot more realism in regional cinema than there was in Hindi mainstream at that time when we were dealing with NRI romances. So my affinity goes a long way.

What do you like and dislike about Tamil cinema?

I don't see every Tamil film to answer that. Actually I had seen a lot of Tamil films when I was a part of the jury at Vijay awards. When you are the jury you only get to see the best. I hadn't seen bad films in Tamil in that sense. I watch when I hear good things about a film, so by default I end up watching only good Tamil films.

You have been profuse in your praise about Vetri Maaran, Bala etc. How do you see the new bunch of talents like Karthik Naren?

I loved Karthick Naren's first film. I saw it when I was in Chennai. I heard his second film will soon be released. I would see it too.

Are there any plans to direct or act in Tamil films?

I will never say never! I would love to direct a Tamil film. But I don't think I am ready for it yet. Soon maybe! I would also like to act but now, there is no time. Let's see.

Can you tell us about your international project with Angira Dhar?

It is too early to talk about my international project because it will begin probably in early 2020 or middle of 2019. There is a lot of work to be done like casting, recce, to name some.

All the best, Anurag Kashyap!