Director Anurag Kashyap on his upcoming projects and why he backs scripts he believes in

If you haven’t been there before, finding Anurag Kashyap’s office means taking the narrowest of lanes. And being on the phone with one of his associates for directions. It’s like being inside an Anurag Kashyap film. The kind of location Kashyap likes to shoot. A surreal maze of realism, surprises and blind corners.

Aaraam Nagar is Kashyap’s wonderland. The rabbit-hole that churns out quirky characters, set in a familiar world but with a touch of whimsy. As I finally find my way in there, I get a glimpse of what the Mad Hatter is up to.

As he debates not using a score for a crucial scene (probably in the climax), I look away from the monitor to avoid spoilers. He’s just locked his magnum opus Bombay Velvet and seems quite relaxed today.

He has backed two of the very best films this year – my top two favourites – Queen and The World Before Her. Both feminist statements. Just a fortnight ago, I was moderating a Q&A session after the screening of The World Before Her and Kashyap had a lot to talk about it.

“I LOVE that film, it has been life changing for me. It evoked so much thought in me... I don’t know how it came together,” he starts off. “Gitanjali Rao introduced me to Nisha Pahuja. I saw it and said it has to be released. She asked me if I can put my name on it. I said I would be happy to.”

He was also one of the editors of Queen. Which cut?

“The final cut. It was a four-and-a-half hour long film,” he adds.

Would he call himself a feminist?

“I’m anti-feminist,” he’s quick to clarify. “Why are Indian feminists such angry people? If it’s supposed to empower you… powerful people are not angry. Why are they angry and bitter? Empowerment comes from within and I’ve met strong women who don’t call themselves feminists. Empowerment becomes a false sense of power.”

He met a woman when he was in the US who gave him a completely new take on rape.

“She told me it’s like a bad accident. And people who caused it should be punished because they were power drunk… in a state of intoxication. It should be seen as just that. A very bad accident. But you move on. What we have done is victimised the victim for years. Like her whole sense of honour and self-respect comes from her vagina. What is this notion of ijjat loot gayi? (losing honour)”

Kashyap is collaborating with Riya Mukherjee, a radio jockey, on a film on the same issue. “It is that strong argument that made me want to do a movie about rape… the patriarchal system has legislated the vagina. Kiski ijjat loot gayi? A man decides that loss of virginity is loss of respect?”

The other issue he feels strongly about is censorship.

He had challenged the smoking disclaimers and said that he wouldn’t release Ugly with text interrupting the narrative. “We lost that battle. Also, the interest was mounting for the producers. My battle will continue but I can’t hold back the film.”

Ugly will finally release on September 19. Then, he has Gangs of Wasseypur releasing in America in October and Bombay Velvet end November.

As a producer, he plans to release Monsoon Shootout in September and Peddlers later this year. Kashyap is also very excited about his associate Neeraj Ghaywan’s debut feature Masan (previously titled Flying Solo), an Indo-French co-production.

And there’s the TV series Yudh (out this month) that he has put together and can’t stop raving about. He hopes it will change Indian television, with Amitabh Bachchan in an avatar we’ve never seen before. “He is so real in it. The series opens with him as a fragile man looking at his feet. He’s not covered by make up. We have so far seen it without ad breaks and are very excited… It’s really kickass. It’s something else.”

Kashyap watches quite a bit of TV.

True Detective, House of Cards, Game of Thrones (just the first two seasons), Boardwalk Empire, The Killing, French series Braquo, Spiral, Maison Place, Bridge from Scandinavia, Orphan Black from BBC,” he rattles off, specifying which season he’s at.

Where does he find the time?

“I am an insomniac. I go to bed at 7 and wake up by 11 a.m. Nights are for editing and watching. But I’m going away to write again. There are five scripts I’m working on, whichever happens first… I like material written by actors because they bring something extra in terms of character. Gulaal happened like that, Wasseypur happened like that, That Girl in Yellow Boots happened like that… Now, there’s Isha Chopra who has written a script.”

What about all his other pet projects, like his superhero project Doga?

Doga will cost me a lot. But if Bombay Velvet can happen, Allwyn and Doga will also happen. Bombay Velvet is a 400-crore film made with 90. We had to get 200 vintage cars, create VT and BMC, the trams… It’s a film about the city, so how do you create that? How do you create Nariman Point? We’ve done partial sets and partial CG for the extensions. It was a massive task.”

We soon get talking about the length and indulgence of his last epic Gangs of Wasseypur. “It was a seven- hour cut when we finished. When I started writing, I had decided I want to tell the whole story, whatever the length. Every film has a lag and I want people to see what I want to show them. I don’t want to be a caterer… though I’m getting there slowly now. But it’s good when people are allowed that space.”

As we continue talking, the Mad Hatter has started rolling again.