DIRECTOR KASHYAP ON HIS SLASHER FILM RAMAN RAGHAV 2.0 AND BREAKING THE RULES
MAVERICK filmmaker Anurag Kashyap has never been afraid take on the establishment and break the rules.
This was perfectly illustrated in the recent couple of weeks. He won a high- profile court battle with the Indian censor board with his film Udta Punjab, and this week’s big cinema release is his serial killer thriller Raman Raghav 2.0. Based on
real-lifeevents, the powerful drama has ripped up the Bollywood rulebook and sees acclaimed actor Nawazuddin Siddiqui portray oneof India’s most prolific serial killers. It is a film that sees the writer, director and producer present another story very much rooted in reality.
Eastern Eye caught up with Anurag Kashyap shortly after his Udta Punjabvictory to talk about censorship in India, Raman Raghav 2.0, filmmaking and biggest motivating factor.
Anurag Kashyap: Rebel with a cause
THE FILMMAKER EXPLAINS WHAT DREW HIM TO MAKE A MOVIE ABOUT A REAL-LIFE SERIAL KILLER
How do you feel now after the battle with the India censor board over Udta Punjab? The battle is far from over, I feel, and it’s a long one, believe me. For me the Cinematograph Act needs to go, which is more than 50 years old and constantly reinterpreted based on convenience. There’s a whole lot of fight left, so the battle is still ongoing.
Do you think the Indian Censor Board singles you out sometimes because this isn’t your first run-in with them? Yes, we have had issues like this a lot before, but each time the film has eventually come out. The processes are in place, but the interpretations are not the same. The revising committee is always much wiser and much more open than the examining committee, which interprets the guidelines as they are. The revising committee watches it more in context. That is gone now, so there is no difference between the revising and examining committee. I don’t want to let go of anything. I don’t believe the film should be cut.
You are a filmmaker who always thinks out of the box. What attracts you to a subject? I am drawn to anything that is real, you know; something real, provocative and anything else. Raman Raghav 2.0 is a film like that, so I picked it up. You know, we have not made those kinds of movies about real serial killers. Every time we have made a film like that, it is probably like Red Rose where Rajesh Khanna is still the hero, or Darr, which is more like a love story and is the reason why he’s killing some- one. It’s still a romantic notion of killing. For me, Raman Raghav is a man without reason and I’m shooting it in real places. It is shot in those places that we don’t tread into. Those are the things that have always attracted me, I don’t know why. I have always been a big fan of genre films and I feel with a genre film, you can do a lot more.
Raman Raghav is a famous serial killer in India. I am guessing you’ve had this story in mind for a while? Yes, I have been attracted to the Raman Raghav story for the longest time. Ever since I found out about him, I have wanted to do it [make a film]. When the time came, it was turning out to be too expensive, so I just did a kind of take on it instead of making the original full biopic. What we have done is a take on the original biopic of Raman Raghav.
Why did you decide to cast Nawazuddin Siddiqui in the title role? Nawazuddin was always my first choice for the script and character. I don’t think I thought of anyone else apart from him for the role.
What was the biggest challenge of making this film? The biggest challenges were the spaces and areas we were shooting in, the kind of emo- tions we needed to extract from the actors and explaining that to them. We tend to think logically, but when you are playing a character who has no sense of logic, it becomes a whole internal point of view of the world. So to take the actor in there is kind of disturbing for them. Nawaz was pretty disturbed while playing that character – why would he just randomly react like that and kill people? That was a difficult emotional space for Nawaz and Vicky Kaushal. For them, it was much more difficult. The spaces and intensity we were shooting in was challenging, and more so because we shot a lot more than we were supposed to in a day.
Are you happier as a filmmaker doing a lower-budget drama rooted in reality as opposed to a mega-budget movie with big stars like your last film Bombay Velvet, which didn’t do so well? No, I have been happy doing every movie including Bombay Velvet and this one. It is just that the consequences after Bombay Velvet came out and the aftermath did not leave a good taste in my mouth. That is probably one reason why I would avoid going back there for the time being.
Why do you connect so strongly with films rooted in reality? My schooling has not been with the kind of cinema I have seen here (in India). My school has largely been a whole lot of realism and nerealism kind of cinema, growing up. And I read a lot of noir.
Is Indian cinema changing now and will there be more films like Raman Raghav 2.0? Yes, Indian cinema is changing very rapidly. A lot of our mainstream is looking for and fin- din realism. They are not absolutely realistic, but they are getting there.
So is it fair to say that the film will appeal more to overseas audiences? I think so. I believe it’s a film that will appeal to the non- diaspora audience as well as fans of foreign language cinema because it will translate very well. I think over the years, the whole exercise has been to find a language that is more universal in the way you tell a story.
Do you have a favourite moment in Raman Raghav 2.0? The climax of the film is my favourite. I think it is one of the best endings I have ever writ- ten. It is one long scene. For me it was magical shooting it, editing it and putting it out there. That’s my favourite, but I can’t tell you what happens in that scene. Let me just say it is something that the whole story leads up to.
You always get great performances from your actors. Do you have a set method of working with them? Yes, I have. I love my actors and spend a lot of time getting to know them. That is the only exercise I do. When I know them very well is when I can push them, prod them and take things out of them.
Do you see yourself as a rebel when it comes to Indian cinema? I guess it is all relative. I am a rebel keeping in mind the kind of cinema we used to prefer. But I think slowly everybody is tilting towards what we are doing. (Laughs) I think in time, I will be seen more as a conformist.
What do you think of the young filmmakers in the industry? The young filmmakers are from the age of the Internet where they have access to world cinema. The biggest problem we had previously was we had no access to films from around the world. It was the same for me until I went to university and started watching the shows the embassies would organise of their cine- ma. I had no access to anything beyond mainstream Hollywood and Bollywood. With the internet, the access has increased. They are watching a whole lot of other cine- ma and they relate to it and aspire to make films like that, which is why I believe cinema in India is changing.
Do you think there will be more cross-over films from India? I do think that is slowly changing. I believe a lot of people are. I am getting support and a lot of enquiries from outside the country for the kind of movies I am making. My films are travelling to the festivals everywhere. I see myself as a genre filmmaker and I want to speak to audiences around the world.
What key advice would you give any aspiring filmmakers out there? I would tell them they are more original than anyone else, so keep their cinema. People should have their own point of view rather than borrowing anybody else’s perspective.
What inspires and motivates you today? My motivation is simple. I go to all these festivals and see these young filmmakers who have such a strong voice, who are so fearless and don’t compromise, and I feel so old compared to them. (Laughs) That drives me to try and be young. Eve- rybody wants to be young with their language at least, you know. I can’t be young physically, but in my language, communication and in my cinema, I want to be as young as I can.
Can you see yourself working in the west? Yes, and I think I will be. The whole plan is to go work out there maybe next year.
Why do you love cinema? I have not known anything more exciting, more beautiful and more consuming than this. It is my greatest love.
Finally, why should we all go watch Raman Raghav 2.0? I think you should go because you have not seen anything like it. We have all seen regular movies, but not seen how it is in Raman Raghav. It’s an absolutely new world and new perspective.