It is a great time for creators in India to experiment with the long-form storytelling, says writer-filmmaker Anurag Kashyap, who believes artistes are trying to design content at a time where anyone can be “easily offended at anything”.
Describing the current creative state in the country as “restrictive”, the acclaimed director said politics and religion are some of the themes on the list of “big no’s”.
“I like long-form storytelling, and I’ve been working on lots of stuff but we’re also dealing with a kind of atmosphere where one is very restricted in the kind of drama that you can do. Right now, we can’t do anything that is remotely political or remotely deals with religion. There are lots of big no’s,” Kashyap said during a discussion following the BFI screening of Dobaaraa in London on Wednesday.
Despite the restrictive environment, the director said it was a great time to tell long-form and experimental stories. “And big no’s not because anyone has said that you can’t do that, it’s because everybody is living in an atmosphere where they don’t know how anybody is going to react. Right now, we’re very fragile and we’re very easily offended at anything. So, for creators in India, yes, it’s a great time to create long-form storytelling and lots of new experimental stuff, but at the same time, we are walking a very thin line,” Kashyap added.
Actors Taapsee Pannu and Pavail Gulati, the stars of Dobaaraa also joined the actor for the conversation with film scholar Rachel Dwyer. Kashyap also talked about his most popular movie Gangs of Wasseypur, which completed 10 years of its release last week.
Calling the two-part gangster drama film franchise his “biggest undoing”, the director said he hopes Dobaara goes on to do “something different”.”I don’t want to think of ‘Wasseypur’ because it has been my biggest undoing. A lot of small-town underworld, crime films and series have come out since then. Some of them are really very good.
“It’s not that it wasn’t there before. There was Omkara, The Bandit Queen, and other films that were done before. Wasseypur is like a bane for me. Everybody wants me to keep doing the same thing. I hope people stop expecting a ‘Wasseypur’ from me and start asking for something more,” he added.
Dobaara, which opened the London Indian Film Festival (LIFF) on June 23, is the Hindi remake of the 2018 Spanish film Mirage. This was his first time working on a remake, said Kashyap.
“When we came across the script, luckily, the film was not out yet. Taapsee had reached out to me because she was looking for a director. She was obsessed with this (project), I was trying to find her directors and we just couldn’t,” he added. Then, Kashyap said he told Pannu he would read the script of “Mirage”.
“I went through it and I was three drinks down. I was waiting at the airport for my flight and I said, ‘I’ll do it’,” he added.
Dobaara turned out “better” with Kashyap on board, said Pannu, who reunites with the director following their 2018 film Manmarziyaan. “I was lucky enough that he was drunk or whatever,” she quipped.
Gulati, Pannu’s co-star from Thappad, said working with Kashyap on “Dobaaraa” was a dream come true. “He has been a mentor to me since many years. I’m a sci-fi geek, I like watching films on time travel, parallel universes. I’ve never done something like this before.”
Kashyap, who has backed several acclaimed films including Masaan, The Lunchbox, and Paka, said he lends his name to projects as a “creative producer” who brings the talent together. He has “kind of stopped” producing since the process started consuming a lot of his time, adding he was “happy directing” for others. Crediting the streamers for revolutionising the industry, the director said the audience are not easily satisfied these days.
Citing the example of the super hit KGF franchise fronted by Yash, the filmmaker said the viewers from small-town India may not know the name of the actor who headlines the films but they know ‘Rocky Bhai’. “They won’t say Shah Rukh Khan or Salman Khan. They don’t know the name of the actor, Yash. They know his character and Rocky Bhai is their favourite actor. They want to be engaged and they will go and pay for that.”
Addressing the increasing popularity of films from the south in the north, Pannu said the Hindi audience is “waking up to it because of this crossover”, a lot of credit for which goes to the OTT platforms.
“These kinds of films were made back then (also), but maybe the budgets weren’t as high as (SS) Rajamouli’s films. But those films which were considered regional’ at that time were equally good,” the actor, who made her acting debut with the 2010 Telugu film “Jhummandi Naadam”, added.
It has changed a lot for actors, she said, recalling how she was asked to wash off the image of a “South Indian actress” if she wanted to make it big in Hindi.
“The films are still as good or bad as they were back then. So, I don’t see any difference in the quality of films that they are making. You see ‘Magadheera’, he’s (Rajamouli) made some fabulous films before. That man can make even ‘Makkhi’ (fly) (referring to Kichcha Sudeep-starrer ‘Eega’) a hero. ‘RRR’ is like, Obviously, he can make this’, she said.