Anurag Kashyap on his prerogatives as a filmmaker and a food lover
His films might have moved from festival circuit favourites to box office success stories; Anurag Kashyap continues to be a darling at the festivals. The ongoing Osian’s-Cinefan Film Festival is no different. “It was the first festival that I attended as a filmmaker when Paanch was shown as the closing film in 2005.” In the meantime he has come a long way. Paanch has yet to see a theatrical release but this time the festival will see the premiere of the second part of his much debated Gangs Of Wasseypur before next Wednesday’s theatrical release.“I see film festivals as my market, a market that sustains me. Here you come across people who are fed up with formula and looking for a way out. It is these people who have made my films successful by spreading the word of mouth,” says Anurag settling for a quick bite at Adesia restaurant of Crowne Plaza Today.
Trying vegetable curry with rice, he says he eats to live but the master raconteur doesn’t have many food stories to offer. “I am a good cook. I learnt mutton do pyaza from my father. I make it without water, only in onions and then there is palak gosht, which is a Nizami recipe. I learnt it from Dia Mirza’s mother. Here the meat gets cooked in spinach. It’s chewy and yummy.” On shootings, he usually takes home food along. “This time I was lucky as I was shooting in Benaras. So my mother used to send food. Her speciality is that she cooks in very little oil and her best is arhar ki daal. Then Kalki’s bacon pie is the best. She has introduced me to different salads, things like avocado,” he says, reminiscing how they had plenty of littis and chokha on the sets. Age, he says, has introduced him to healthy food. “Olive oil and brown rice is the order of the day. I avoid meat these days but when I do I go all out like this evening Huma’s (Qureshi) mother is going to treat us to some yakhni recipes. Her keema is amazing.”
Reema Sen walks in and Anurag comes up with a punch. “See, I cast heroines according to the food they bring to the table. Huma’s father is a restaurateur and so is Reema’s husband!” he quips.
Hijacking Reema’s chhach, Anurag turns to serious issues like the reactions he got for the first part from the media. “One magazine has described the film as right wing while another one has called it left wing for presenting a Muslim as the hero and a Hindu as the villain.” On the charges of presenting Wasseypur in a bad light, Anurag says, “The film is about gangs of Wasseypur and not people of Wasseypur. I was telling the story of 60 years. So I had to say it on the run. Chal chal ke nahin keh sakta tha.”
To the charge of excess violence, he points out that his film ends in 1990. “And all the four-five acts of violence that have been portrayed in the film are taken from real life. Nobody can dispute that. Only the timeline has been changed,” avers Anurag adding the film is doing good business in Wasseypur. “All the protests were political and quickly died down. I have a close experience of such protests. When Water was being shot in Varanasi, the Kashi Sanskriti Suraksha Sangharsh Samiti was formed one day before the protest. If the media starts ignoring their names, such outfits would get frustrated.”
Some people have objected to the music and shot taking, which is more cool than real to the region. “If you take away the music, it will become very raw. That’s the difference I don’t expect people to understand. Music has been used to blend so many stories that are broken and spread out. Whatever style has evolved, it has evolved out of necessity to make the whole experience more coherent. Also as a filmmaker it is my prerogative. The charge is coming from the same people who watched Black Friday in pirated version because the film could not be released for using real names.”
At one level Gangs… is about the impact of cinema on society, so how will he justify the verbal and physical violence in his film? “Cinema has a deep impact but it can’t be judged like the way our media is doing these days by looking for cause and effect within hours.
I feel the violence shown in formula films is much more dangerous for impressionable minds than the one shown in realistic cinema. Recently I read a news story where the youngster who kidnapped and killed a person responded with the dialogue “Ek Baar Jo Maine Commitment Kar Di…” when he was asked about the reason.” Similarly, he says, we reached a conclusion on the shooting at the Batman premiere in the U.S. “The person shot when the midnight screening was on. So he didn’t know the story and must have planned in advance considering the ammunition he was carrying. That the alleged shooter is a PhD student is no guarantee of a certain kind of behaviour. During my college days once I went to watch Vittorio De Sica’s Yesterday Today and Tomorrow as part of a festival at Rivoli. During the show, somebody whispered in my ear, ‘scene’ aya kya? When the lights came on during intermission, I found he was my professor..”
Coming back to the food diaries, like his films, Anurag is not too fond of sweets. “But as we have discussed it I am going to check.” He collects a couple of gulab jamuns from the counter.
Like his stories, he is always in search of local specialities. “I keep looking for a good shami kabab but despite being in Mumbai for a long time I have not been able to develop a liking for pomfret. And today in the evening I am going to have shalgum (turnip) mutton for the first time in my life.” Who is cooking? “Huma’s mother, of course!”