Anurag Kashyap on the inspiration behind Bombay Talkies

Why would a filmmaker create an ode to the very actor who he has publicly spoken against on several occasions? The answer is simple. Because he actually loves him. Anurag Kashyap was an emotional bundle when we caught up with him to discuss Bombay Talkies and why he loves to hate Amitabh Bachchan. “I had this story about a guy who idolises Amitabh Bachchan, which is just about everyone’s story in India. His house, his staffers and his van; everything is an enigma. When we thought of making Bombay Talkies, I told just about everyone to direct this film — Dibakar (Banerjee), Imtiaz (Ali) and even Raju (Rajkumar Hirani). Everyone told me that this one just had to be directed by me,” he says.

Anurag comes clean on why he was persuading other filmmakers to film his script. “There was a lot of silence between him and me,” he says, constantly referring to the Big B as ‘him’. There have been regular pow-wows between the Bachchan clan and Anurag over the delayed release of the latter’s co-production Chittagong reportedly due to the release of Abhishek Bachchan’s Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Se (2010) on the same subject and the director’s criticism of Amitabh’s acting in Black. But those seem minor things in comparison now.  “What I didn’t realise was that I was the smaller one here. With a big ego,” he adds.

The director says that he once got into a Twitter fight with one of Amitabh’s biggest fans who told him that he puts on a façade of hating him because he himself is a big fan of the actor’s work. “It hit me bang on the head.” Then one night, when he was two drinks down, he sent an angry SMS to Amitabh saying he had ‘issues to sort out’, hardly expecting a reply. “He replied in the most serene manner and told me that he would be glad to speak to me. “I went across to his home and there he was — the most genteel person I’d ever met. He addressed my issues. I asked him impromptu about this short film. He agreed. And that was it.”

Bombay Talkies is an anthology of sorts created by four filmmakers on the centenary of Indian cinema. Zoya Akhtar, Dibakar Banerjee and Karan Johar are also part of this omnibus of four short films dedicated to the cinema fan. Anurag’s film is about a young man who comes to Mumbai from Uttar Pradesh to fulfil his ailing father’s last wish, which he believes might save his life. The film has been shot largely outside Prateeksha, Amitabh’s house in Mumbai. “I see Prateeksha like Xanadu. In the film, there is only a little that you’d get to see of his home. The climax culminates with a bit of him and his home, but that you have to watch. It’s more about the persona of Amitabh and everything around him,” says Anurag.

The director says that he respects the other filmmakers of Bombay Talkies. “Dibakar, Zoya and Karan have a unique voice of their own. Ashi (Dua, producer) knew me so I was the first to come on board and I didn’t want Karan to direct a short film. I thought it wasn’t up his alley. I had told them the budget would go haywire! But I have been humbled. That man was so enthusiastic about it. My perception about Karan has taken a beating. I salute him. In fact, I have seen the film and I think his is the best,” he says.

The filmmaker is having a dream run at the box office. His Gangs of Wasseypur (I and II) proved to be a commercial and critical success. Anurag, who has always made news for his Cannes presence, is delighted that at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, four of his films have been selected for screening. There is Bombay Talkies, kidnap drama Ugly written and directed by him and his two co-productions that include Ritesh Batra’s Dabba (Lunchbox) and Amit Kumar’s Monsoon Shootout.