When I caught up with Anurag Kashyap recently for a 'Slow' interview, he confessed that for celebrities, solitude is a luxury, but it's a luxury which he wants at any cost! Well, we were on the same page on this ...
So, when I met him in Meerut, where he was on a location-hunt for his upcoming film, we decided to drive without having a destination in mind. It was an unusual set up for a big interview, but we actually stopped at a nondescript village in the middle of nowhere … and discussed life.
Anurag was at home there and talked about his childhood, growing up years, facing abuse in school, the big shift from Delhi to Mumbai, his struggles as an outsider and making the kind of movies he made. He opened up about his insecurities, fears, regrets and guilty pleasures.
He regrets being in a zone for 26 years and not spending enough time with his parents and daughter, but says he is little less angry now, in a happy space and a better version of what he used to be. Here's my rendezvous with Anurag, where he was at his candid best.
Me: So, how has your life been?
Anurag: It has been good. I believe I am a lucky man. I am doing things that I always wanted to do. I enjoy this feeling. I am fortunate to work with people I always wanted to work with. I think there's no achievement bigger than this. I never feel bogged down because of my work. I enjoy it.
Me: Is that a state of mind or a mood?
Anurag: I am at peace at this point in time in life. Earlier, I used to get hassled. I was trying to sort many things out. But, one fine day, all of a sudden, I stopped bothering about those things. I decided to move away and discover new things, and that changed everything.
Me: What were you worried about?
Anurag: When we were kids, we weren't familiar with issues like depression. If something upset us or someone hurt us, we used to call it depression. Now, it has turned out to be a sickness. Now it's a disease and we take pills to deal with it. Earlier, we used to argue, fight and take those things out of our system. That was easier.
Me: Do you regularly visit a therapist?
Anurag: These visits are more like sessions with doctors. And they are very expensive! I was dealing with many issues. Everybody assumed it was depression. There was a time when my films didn't make their way to the silver screen for seven years. Also, I had to deal with many complicated situations during my school days. When you study in a renowned school and you are nothing like all those rich kids in the school, it affects you. You suffer from deep inferiority complex.
A child never realises the hardships his father has to face to educated him/her in a renowned school. So, it was difficult to deal with issues and then to get over them. I used to think that was my state of mind. When you are constantly worried about something, that bogs you down. But, if you deal with issues, come out of that zone, then there's lot to explore. It takes time for you to understand that you are not everything.
Me: How was your childhood like?
Anurag: It was good. It was serious. It was exciting. It was confusing. It was painful. I discovered many things. I grew up in Obra, Uttar Pradesh. This is where I shot Gangs of Wasseypur. I grew up in the same house where Richa Chadda gives birth to a child (in the film). My brother was born in the same house. I would sit on the same hilltop where Faizal Khan (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) sat as a child. (In the film Gangs of Wasseypur). There used to be something called porcupine's ink and there were rattles snakes around. That's how I spent my childhood.
Me: What kind of relationship did you share with your parents? Any moments that you would like to share. What were the names of your parents?
Anurag: I was the eldest. My father's name is Prakash Singh, my mother's name is Manjiri Singh.
Me: We often don't share names of our parents or grand-parents. We just label them as parents or grand-parents.
Anurag: My parents met at BHU. My maternal uncle used to stay with my father. My father liked my mother so my uncle spoke to her. That time there was a trend that the potential boy has to have a government job. My father had so many opportunities. He was planning to go to Manchester. He left everything and took up a government job. He married my mother. When I was born, my mother was just 18. My father was 23-24. When you are young parents you often don't know how to handle kids. And the kind of kid I was, no one could handle me! My mother was also studying. She did her double MA. She studied for many years.
Me: What was your father's area of work?
Anurag: He was an engineer. He had a transferable job. Whenever they would build power houses, my father would go to set them up. There was a place called Vidyut Nagar near Faizabaad. That time the Saryu river used to be so clean that one could see small turtles inside. We would chase them. My childhood was very adventurous. It was also very painful. I suffered lot of sexual abuse. It started in Obra.
Initially, I couldn't understand why was I subjected to that abuse. But gradually I realised many boys around me were going through it. I realised it was a small-town thing. It started when I was around 6 or 7. Sometimes I would get into fits of rage. Even my parents couldn't handle me. My first cousin used to stay with me after her father went away. He took sanyas. I was close to her, but after she got married, I became intolerable.
I was packed off to a boarding school. I was from a small town and would talk in Hindi. It was an English medium school. So, the bullying continued when I was in Dehradoon. Then I went to Scindia where I was both bullied and abused. Gradually I realised that this abuse was cyclic in nature.
Me: How was it cyclic?
Anurag: When your hormones are raging you don't behave rationally. You do to others what you have been subjected to. When you become a senior, you end up doing those very things to your juniors. In a repressed society like ours, no one wants to deal with these things, no one wants to talk about these issues.
I first felt a sense of shame when I realised that an abused person tends to become an abuser. I almost became one and the first boy I tried to abuse, he complained to his parents and his parents reacted unlike other parents. Any other parent would have said it was part and parcel of growing up. But his parents came all the way to the school and shamed me, pointed fingers at me and said: "We don't approve of what you did." I was in 11th or 12th. I was 15. And that sense of shame stopped me from becoming an abuser. These things stay with you. I still remember that phase. I still remember that moment when I felt the shame of what I had become. It made me a very different person. It started to shape me somewhere.
Me: This kind of behaviour is deep-rooted …
Anurag: Yes, definitely. I want to address everyone and tell everyone that when people say this kind of things don't happen or they happen to others, I want to tell them that that's not the case. These things happen and they happen around us. And people should be empowered to talk about these issues and address these issues. There is a sense of masculinity which is thrust upon us since childhood – when they tell us that boys don't cry. There is a word for it where I grew up … mauda (a boy who is feminine). So, if you cry, they will call you mauda. Or if you complain about something to someone, they will call you that. The general sense is if you are a man, you can't complain. You are expected to deal with things, and face situations.
The whole sense of masculinity is so toxic in small towns, especially when you grow up in UP or elsewhere. You tend to become a toxic person. My way of fighting, or bullying, or going to the gym, or walking around with a hockey stick, it all stemmed from there. It's like there is this camera rolling in your head and you are watching yourself from the outside and feeling as if by doing these things you have become a 'Man', you feel like a hero. And ultimately these things start engulfing you.
To come out of it, it's very important that you meet right kind of people in your life and I think I have been very fortunate. I met the right kind of people who took that anger out of me, trashed it out of me. I met my mentors like Makrand Deshpande, Ram Gopal Verma, Shivam Nair, who shaped me; Sridhar Raghavan who gave me books to read. That time I used to read only Hindi literature. A friend of mine Sanjay Shekhar was the one who introduced me to literature. Then there was a friend named Aniruddh Wahal … I remember these people though I don't know where they are in life right now. They introduced me to some serious stuff in music. Then I remember Govind Nihalani who saw some eight pages of the play that I had written. He then introduced me to Kafka and said you read this and adopt this. I panicked. I was just 20-21. How could I have adapted Kafka? How could a man who made Ardh Satya think I could adapt Kafka? I disappeared on him. Those one-year-and-a-half were productive. I read many books.
Me: Where were you then?
Anurag: I was in Mumbai. I read a lot. I developed a sense of understanding and awareness about the world and not just about self. I am still developing a sense of self. Even at 46, I feel I am still discovering myself. I have shed many baggages now. There this baggage of being rebellious and revolutionary that I was carrying since many years.
I still get angry. I just tweeted about a film of mine Saand Ki Aankh. There was lot of anger in that tweet. But somewhere my anger has now converted into sarcasm. I am aware about what I do and why I do those things. Earlier I would act out of emotions. I would say things, I would fight. I would always see myself as a victim. All my anger and my revolutionary behaviour stemmed from the fact that I would see myself as an outsider, as a victim. I would feel no one was supporting me. I sometimes forget that since the time I have been a struggler …
Me: … everyone supported you?
Anurag: Everyone has been very supportive. Zoya Akhtar has always been my best friend. She has been supporting me for 25 years now. But because I got used to playing the victim card, I would always be like: "I don't need you people."
Me: Delusion of grandeur?
Anurag: A lot. I would tell people: "Just wait and see what I do". But somewhere this attitude was also my driving factor.
Me: Otherwise you would have conformed to the norms?
Anurag: I was on the verge of it. I was very arrogant. My film had not even released and yet I had developed a sense of arrogance that they are giving me so much money now, what would happen after my film would get released. Fortunately, that film never got released! Someone up there or some power ensured that the film should not release and that I come back to my senses! Someone made sure I should suffer till the time I come back to my senses.
Me: When did this happen?
Anurag: This happened between 2000 and 2007. Bohot joote khaye. I practically became an outsider and used to get a sense of relief when I would see from outside the kind of person I could have become and thankfully I did not. Today I feel that those from outside this industry are not able to deal with issues because they are not trained to handle success, fame, money and attention. Those who are insiders like Ranbir Kapoor, Alia Bhatt, Varun Dhawan, they are lot more sorted. They have seen both success and failure since childhood. But the outsider, most of them are not able to handle things. That's how I was. I was so arrogant, there was so much anger within me that earlier I was making movies to prove a point. But now, I make films for myself.
Me: What are your guilty pleasures?
Anurag: I don't have guilty pleasures. I am fond of some things. I like my Malt Whiskey. I like my coffee. I like green tea. I love buying shoes. People say I splurge on these things. But I don't think so. I feel this is my mid-life crisis. I tell them that be glad that I am not buying a sports car! I am just buying shoes!
Me: What are the good qualities in you?
Anurag: That I don't know. I have some weaknesses, which people say are good qualities. There was a time when I could not say 'no' …
Me: I have heard this about you that you are too simple, non-complicated.
Anurag: People tell me it's a good quality. I wish it was a good quality. It would have made me happy then. But it's not good to be nice. There was a time when I was making a film and someone came and told me that my production house was stealing my money. I asked them how much had they managed to steal. They said around 4-5 lakh.
So, I told the person that the cost of production of my film was Rs 3 crore and that no one else would be able to manage this in Rs 3 crore as it's a film worth Rs 10 crore. I also told them that the person who was financing it, if he gave me all that I needed and still managed to save Rs 4-5 lakh, then he deserves that money! Why should I lose my sleep over it? I am very clear about these things. I think I have earned enough credibility in the past 26 years. People, actors who work for me, they give me that respect. So, I am very grateful.
Earlier I used to fight for no reason. I would fight with Karan Johar. I believed he was too privileged, that his father had lot of money and that's how he managed to make movies. And then I met him and I realised that he was privileged – he grew up in Malabar Hills – but he was working in his comfort zone and I was working in mine. He was doing what he believed in, I was doing what I believed in. We are in the same business. He is constantly empowering people, he is constantly finding new people, he is constantly changing, he is constantly evolving, he is constantly giving opportunities to outsiders.
If he makes fun of people, but he also has the ability to laugh at himself. He is what he is and now instead of finding faults in him I have learned to appreciate good qualities that he has. That inspires me. Many people tell me that he has had some kind of strange influence on me. I am not his best friend. Yes, he is a friend but I am not a part of his inner circle. I am a part of his outer circle. I respect him because I learn from him.
Many times, people tell me that you used to be our representative, when and why did you switch sides? And I tell them that I represent myself. I started fighting my own battles. Those who could not fight for themselves started following me. They thought I was their leader, but I wasn't leading anyone. Till the time I was taking myself seriously I would see myself in that role. But, at some point in time, I let that go.
Me: You said something about Amitabh Bachchan …
Anurag: I said a lot of things about him. I said many things about Abhishek. Many fights happen. But later I made a film with him and then I made a film with Amit jee. I started respecting them as actors. I always respected them as actors. I was always a fan.
I realised that because I would see myself as an underprivileged person, an underdog, a victim and an outsider, I would often have these clashes with the insiders. I used to think they don't deserve anything and that they are getting all that only because they are privileged. But when things like the nepotism debates happen, I wonder if I would also become a nepotistic person. And there is nothing wrong in it because I have always worked with those whom I have trusted completely, only when I believe in that person, only after I have gotten to know that person.
Does not matter that the person is not my offspring, or my sibling or my relative. But that trust is also nepotism. It's not that I have given opportunities to rake strangers or outsiders. Lot of these debates happen that outsiders don't get a chance, but when outsiders do get a chance, they become insiders and then they depend on their acquaintances, brothers or parents to manage their work. They don't trust random managers. That's also nepotism.
Me: Were you the naughty type?
Anurag: I was restless. And because they didn't know how to handle me, I would get beaten up the most. I would run away. They still feel guilty about it.
Me: Were you shy?
Anurag: Since I was so restless, I would keep doing something or the other.
Me: Not destructive?
Anurag: No, my brother was destructive. He would often break things.
Me: Abhinav is younger to you or older?
Anurag: He is younger to me.
Me: By how many years?
Anurag: Two years. He had a different way of looking at things. If he wanted to understand how a radio functioned, he would break it down to pieces to understand its mechanisms.
Me: Would you two fight?
Anurag: A lot. Once I ran behind him with a knife as I wanted to kill him!
Me: What kind of relationship do you share with him now?
Anurag: It's fine now. He deals with his things. He is writing a film. He will make it. We have different point of views. He would fight a lot. He looked at cinema from a different perspective, I had my own perspective. Then my father would intervene. He would say do your respective things. We wanted to change each other's cinema.
Me: You spoke about nepotism. Your brother never felt that you were not supportive enough?
Anurag: No, never. That's something that our father inculcated in us. My brother never wanted to work with me. My sister never wanted to work with me. She is also a film maker. She just finished making a series.
Me: What's her name?
Anurag: Anubhuti. Her husband tells her he would produce her films. Both are very talented. She says she wants to go through her struggles. She never comes to me. She just tells me to read her script. So, that's the thing with my family. She will approach other people for help, but not me.
Me: Where did you go after Scindia?
Anurag: After Scindia, I came to Delhi and studied at Hansraj college. As I had suffered bullying at Scindia, I didn't want an encore of that in Delhi, so I joined a gym as soon as I reached Delhi!
Me: What did you study at Hansraj?
Anurag: I was pursuing Zoology honours. I wanted to become a Microbiologist, a Marine Biologist, to be precise. I wanted to become all those things that would sound fancy. I stumbled upon cinema. The first short film that I made was 'Last train to Mahakaali'.
Me: Yes, it was a completely new field.
Anurag: I think it was there deep inside me. I always used to think one had to be a magician to be a film maker because of the kind of films we made. People sang and danced. That time we didn't know that someone else used to lend his/her voice to the actor/actress.
When I started watching world cinema, I could relate to it. There was one Pandit Aatmaraam in my school. He would tell me that I was sick. My stories would never get published. I had written a story once called Apekshit about a guy who would throw stones at a tamarind (imli) tree with an intention of breaking some imlis. But he would always miss his aim by a large margin and people would laugh at him. One day the stone hit a guy who used to bully him. It was then that people realised that he was just practicing all this while.
My teacher said then that there was lot of darkness within me which was why my stories would not get published. He told me that my stories were not genuine. I didn't know meaning of that word. I went and checked in the dictionary and got very offended. I stopped showing my stories to anyone. Then I started watching world cinema in 1993 and realised that people do make the kind of films I wanted to make. They were not made here, but elsewhere people were making those kinds of films. I realised there wasn't any issue with my writing. And then I just left … that's what I wanted to do.
Me: How did you reach Mumbai?
Anurag: I just came. Imtiaz Ali was coming. Jagdish Sharma, a classmate of mine, was coming as he got admission in Xavier's. So, I also came. I feel to achieve something, more than courage, you need to have that innocence. When that innocence dies and when people start thinking practically, they are then not able to achieve anything. Films like Black Friday are made out of innocence. And then you become aware. Then we start figuring out what are the things that you can do, and you can't. No one tells you.
Me: Yes, there was a time when you were making the kind of films you wanted to make and now you are making the kind of films that people want to see …
Anurag: I am yet to reach that stage. But now I make movies keeping in mind that people should come and watch them or they should like them.
Me: How did you manage alone in Mumbai?
Anurag: You don't realise it. When you are passionate about something you don't realise anything. It was very exciting. One would get rice plate for Rs 7. One had to pay Rs 10 to eat extra rotis. I would survive on one rice plate. I used to walk a lot. I wasn't alone really. There were many people. All were struggling. I would borrow someone's bike, or borrow Rs 5 from someone and give it to someone else. The needs were very limited. We could wear anything … chappals, shoes. Those were good days. There was innocence, there was creativity. We could write anything and we also got opportunities to try those things out. If things didn't work out, we would write some more. We used to make the most of small opportunities that came our way. I remember we had to write a street play for Bharat Petroleum, we immediately wrote it. It was called Tel Tel main. We got Rs 10,000 for that, which was a huge amount back then. We could survive for four months with that kind of money. We would help each other out. Someone needed crowd for their Maruti ad, we went and stood behind. Rakesh Mehra had a company called Flicks. He was doing an ad for Coca-Cola. We went and stood behind and got Rs 700. That's how we earned money.
Me: You did all this?
Anurag: Yes. I did all this. I still watch my old films. I see myself standing somewhere in the crowd. You will spot me. I was a junior artist then. Everyone used to do this.
Me: These are the same people who roam around in big cars. They take crores of rupees to make films. When you meet them do you think they have retained the innocence which they once had?
Anurag: Yes, yes. They are very protective about me. They know me. They tried to change me.
Me: Have they changed themselves?
Anurag: Not as a person. Life offers you privileges which people take. It's not that I don't take, just that I don't want to get dragged into something that would alter my choices. I buy shoes worth Rs 50,000-60,000. My father often tells me that I have lost it. But by buying those shoes, my life choices don't change. For the sake of those Rs 60,000 I am not compelled to make the kind of films I don't want to make. But if I buy a house worth Rs 10-12 crore, or if I buy a fancy car, then I would be forced to make compromises. I would have to pay EMIs. I know many peoples. There EMIs are so huge, now they won't be able to make the kind of films they want to make.
I know many film makers who wait for 2-3 years to make a film. They have to wait so that they could sign big stars. I don't need to sign a star. I make those films that fit my budget. People tell me that my life is good, that I keep working round the clock. I tell them to cross the fence and be like me. They refuse. For them it's all about comfort now. They say that time is up when they could cross the fence. But they are still my friends. I am envious of them, they envy me. We are envious about the good things that we have.
Me: What makes you jealous?
Anurag: When four of us were working on Bombay Talkies or Lust stories …
Me: Who four?
Anurag: Dibakar, Karan, Zoya and I … we have healthy competition between us. We compare our work in a constructive way. But I always end up liking their work. I feel I just fool around. That's something that we look forward to.
Me: There are many youngsters from small towns who want to be Anurag Kashyap …
Anurag: Many have arrived. But I want to be the next Amar Kaushik (director of Stree), next Amit Sharma (director of Badhaai Ho), next Aditya Dhar (director of Uri), next Chaitanya Tamhane (director of Court), next Neeraj Ghaywan (director of Masaan) … I want to be them. I compete with all. I call them up and tell them that. I get envious when I see good work. Anurag Kashyap's time is up. These guys have already arrived. Next generation is here. Who knows where would next Nagraj Manjule come from … their time starts now.
Me: But those who live in small towns, is it relatively easy for them to make their mark?
Anurag: These are the guys who have stories to tell. Now it's easy for them, it's not very difficult. I feel it's all in a person's head. A person makes things difficult for self. I know many people. They want everything on a platter … served. If they don't get things served, they won't be able to do anything. They want everything sorted, figured out. Many people don't realise that they need to scream and tell people what do they have.
Me: They keep waiting for the cheque to arrive.
Anurag: Yes. It does not work that way. You will have to take the first step. People are very scared … scared of the unknown. I know a guy. There's this talented couple from Banaras. They have worked in two films of mine – Mukkabaaz and Manmarziyan. When I was in Banaras, they told me they wanted to work with me. So, I asked them to come. When the work got done, they stayed back. So, I asked them to come to Mumbai. They said they would whenever I will start my new film.
When Manmarziya started they came again and went back. Then when they asked me the third time, I told them I would not be able to help them. If you need an assurance every time, that won't work. Now even if they come to Bombay on their own, I won't help them. I won't help them till they are able to survive on their own for a year. If I continue to support them then they would always be dependent on me and that will keep pulling me down.
Me: You use poetry very well in your films. Do you also write?
Anurag: I wish I could write. Like they say if you could not be a Tansen, you become a Kaansen! I just can't play any musical instrument.
Me: Have you ever tried?
Anurag: I have tried to write songs. I have written songs. I wrote a song for a film that I was producing. But the director did not include my song! The film was Udaan. I had many good thoughts. I had so many thoughts that Amit Trivedi (music director) told me you have so many thoughts that you have more material than what's needed to make pulaav! He thought I was all over the place. Then he said I had so many amazing individual thoughts, why would I want to put all into one song. So, that's the thing.
I have many good ideas, but I am not disciplined enough. So, because I have so many thoughts, that's how I work. I give ideas. I share my thoughts, I give them words, I tell people what I want and how I want it to be, then I leave it up to them how to put it all together.
Like recently I told Amit Trivedi not to use words like dil, pyaar, mohabbat. I told him talk about love but without using these words. I got into this habit because initially when I started off, people used to tell me that they don't like watching my films. So, I would tell them that there are people who want to see the kind of films I make and I was looking for that section of audience. That's how my journey started. I would go to these festivals and saw my kind of films being made. I would come back and tell them that there are people like me who have life, a career. So that's how I got in to this habit. I tell them that I am not a producer. I see myself as an enabler, as an empowerer. I always tell them that if you want to use me and make a film, go ahead. I have never asked for anything from anyone. I have never asked for money, or a cut from anyone.
Me: Have people taken you for granted?
Anurag: Yes, but film makers have never taken me for granted. Very few film makers have taken me for granted. Maybe one or two. The structure and the system have taken me for granted. What happens is when you start something passionately, people gradually presume that if they are very powerful now and that's where things start falling apart. I run away from such situations. I am very scared of such scenarios. I have seen power has destroyed so many people.
Me: Have you always been a short-tempered person?
Anurag: Yes, very.
Me: Have you broken things?
Me: What kind of things?
Anurag: The breakable ones!
Me: Hearts and other such things?
Anurag: Earlier, I would fight a lot. I still have that reputation. I don't think I have fought with anyone in a very long time. But as my reputation precedes me, a lot of work gets done on its own! People still have that perception about me.
Me: People have perceived power of your anger.
Anurag: Perceived angry young man! Though a lot of work gets done because of this, but eventually people do realise that I am a simple and emotional guy. Karan Johar is to be blamed for this! He wrote in his book about me and called me a teddy bear. Now people come and tell me: "Sir, we know you are a kind-hearted guy!"
Me: Is your heart very restless?
Anurag: Not any more. I ignore it now and I shut myself off completely. That is also a weakness. I don't unnecessarily favour anyone now. I don't unnecessarily empower anyone. I used to do that a lot, either out of emotion or out of pity. But that damages you from within actually.
Me: The power of changing lives of others …
Anurag: That I don't possess. I can only give opportunities.
Me: But you do manage to change people's life by giving them opportunities
Anurag: That people manage on their own. People only witness the transformations, but they don't know people who have struggled all their lives. Not every one is a Vineet Kumar Singh (an actor in Gangs of Wasseypur). People know him, but what they don't know is that there is 17 years of struggle behind him. He knew he had this one opportunity to prove his worth and he did it. There are people who come and tell me that I give them opportunities and then I forgot about them. I forget them all, because I never give anyone a chance. I make my film, the actors are there. If people are hungry to perform, a good film will get made. People are under this impression that if you have a good script, Anurag Kashyap will launch you as a writer. So, many actors started writing scripts. But they don't have ideas, they are not disciplined enough. People don't have original ideas. So, people have this perception about me. They come and tell me they are assistant directors. I tell them that they are actually there to be actors. I tell them to be honest. People lack that honesty.
Me: People at times consider themselves to be gods. I have seen this a lot in Mumbai. People start talking about themselves in third person.
Anurag: Yes, that happens a lot. I feel very uncomfortable when people talk about Anurag Kashyap. I feel as if they are talking about someone else. Because the person is not talking about me, that's his perception of me or his description about me. Almost all of them come and tell me that I am a very simple man. I ask them if their expectation is based on any perception? Because this is how I have always been. If at all, I was bad version of myself now. I was short-tempered, I would fight, I would abuse. I was never a better person than what I am today.
Me: Do you think you are a better person today?
Anurag: No, I am happy. I am at peace. I am a quieter person now. I know my anger is very measured and controlled now and that others won't get affected because of it. Because of this, I am now capable of fighting my own battles. I am not ashamed to discuss my problems with the outside world. I can talk about my weaknesses. I have gotten rid of that hesitation.
Me: Brutal honesty?
Anurag: I was always very honest. My parents, my family … they all are like that. But the worldliness is not a part of that honestly anymore.
Me: This morning when I came to meet you in your hotel room, you were talking to your friend and you two were discussing his personal problem. You were talking for good 15-20 minutes. And, very beautifully, as a sounding board, as an advisor, you talked to him. You still do that?
Anurag: All my friends are close to me. When they share something with me, I be with them. They have given me that father figure status. It clashes with my vanity. It's strange when they call me a father. I feel you don't age on your own, I feel you age according to your children's age. My daughter is 18. Her friends are now a part of the industry. They have started calling me uncle!
Me: And you are not liking it?
Anurag: No, I am fine with it. When people call me uncle, I feel there are those who are elder to me but kids don't call them uncle because their kids are younger to my daughter. They haven't reached the 'uncle' stage yet, but I have reached that stage.
Me: Tell me about your daughter Aaliyah.
Anurag: She means the world to me! She is my life. She is a teenager. She is 18. I tell her she is a grown-up person now. That she can do whatever she wants to. But she should also keep in mind the consequences. While I was explaining these to her, I thought why didn't I explain all these things to myself! So, if you have done something, you have to keep in mind the consequences. You can't blame others and say that they didn't understand your perspective.
The onus is not on the world to understand you. We, as artists, tend to be confused about it and live in a bubble. I could never tell my brother how much I loved him. When these things became obvious to me, I realised that I am not bound by anything.
Me: What does she want to do?
Anurag: I have no idea. She will do something when she will figure it out.
Me: Has she inherited your traits?
Anurag: Yes, many. I wasn't as sorted even at 30 as she is now at 18. She is aware that she does not want to inherit her father's weaknesses.
Me: What do you two talk about?
Anurag: She is very good at saying 'No'. She can stand up for herself. She is aware what she wants and the things she does not want. She is not gullible. She is not malleable.
Me: It's incredible how life changes after we become father. Especially for creative people like us who usually tend to run away from relationships and responsibilities …
Anurag: Yes, you start understanding lot of things. Many of my issues are sorted today because of her. Now I can't have my issues. She is now dealing with issues and I can't dump my problems onto her. I can't have a baggage of my problems. I want to be her friend. I want to be her father. I will have to leave my problems out so that I am open and receptive to her problems and I could absorb her problems. So, yes, in that sense we all change a lot.
Me: You have been in the depressed zone, so have I. The constant battle is -- do we cut ourselves off from the world? How was it like for you?
Anurag: Mostly, we feel that we are all alone. You look for a partner to nurse you back to life. But nobody is available for you for 24 hours. You tend to become selfish. You feel the need to have a person in your life to who you can go back to after a hectic day. We don't realize that that the person has a life too. Why do we you expect that person to set everything aside and devote himself for us? It takes time to understand all these things. Having said that, I have a personal shortcoming. I shoo people away when my life is on track.
Me: Isolation and companionship on your own terms ...
Anurag: Yes! It happens a lot. We tend to believe that we are artists and we have a right to do that. But after a certain point in time, you let others live their lives and you enjoy yours. It took me years to realize that the onus to change cinema is not on me. There was a time when I was given that responsibility. It tends to make you a poster boy. I used to run away from that. You should seek strength to make a film, but not ask for the attention that comes with it. If you have that strength, it will get you attention. Then you have to deal with downfalls as well because you do not taste success on your own terms. I was very particular about my needs and wants. I was clear that I need this so and so thing, but I do not want things that comes along with it.
So ... that was the reason for my depression. I made an effort to set up two companies to manage my films. But I realized that running a business is not my cup of tea. I am a filmmaker. If I can't do that efficiently, then why am I putting efforts in it?
When you set up a business you have to share the responsibilities that come along, but people tend to run away from those. My partners would say: "Yaar! you avail companies' benefits, but you never share responsibilities. You don't even read contracts. You don't get into the nitty-gritties. You don't sign the cheques. But, in the end you want to avail the benefits. Everyone was annoyed with this attitude. So, I realized it's not my cup of tea, so I shouldn't do it.
I like writing. I like filmmaking. I like looking for new talent. I like to learn from new comers. Apart from that I watch films. I dive. I read. I spend rest of my time with my loved ones. I spend time either with my daughter or my girlfriend. What else do you need? When my parents come, I spend time with them. Earlier, my parents would come and stay with me for one-two months, but I couldn't give them time. But now I realize that I should spend time with them.
Now that I am visiting Meerut for shooting, I called my relatives, and my brother and sister. I called them as soon as I reached there. I asked them about their wellbeing. I promised them that I would catch up with them. I was way too emotional.
I had that mad streak in me when it came to work. I still have. But I could never strike a balance. I never had that in me. I did everything on my own terms, In a very selfish way. I would ask people to leave when I used to be working! And people would leave.
Me: It's a curse when it comes to creative people. They are like, don't ask us to sign cheques, don't ask us to buy vegetables, don't ask us to pay electricity bills. We feel we are above all this. We feel that we were born just to write poetries, to write scripts, to make films. And because of this, we tend to hurt people around us. Did you face this issue?
Anurag: Yes! To a great extent! When I look back, I realise how unfair I was to my loved ones. Sometimes I wonder what did I give them? Money? Comfort? I have given them all materialistic pleasures, but I couldn't give them my time.
Me: For how long?
Anurag: It's been years that I have given them time. I had a habit of looking for my kind of qualities in others. I always underestimated others. But people are not similar. No two persons have identical drives. And that does not mean that they don't have any qualities. Now, I don't get affected when people don't stand up for themselves. Now I feel it's normal and there's nothing wrong in that. If someone's scared, it's normal. Very normal. I have stopped judging people. And I have stopped expecting anything from them.
If I volunteer for something, I shouldn't expect 50 others to support me. It's my fight. And I will face it. If I have started a battle, there are consequences. I was explaining this to my daughter the other day …
Me: Are you a good father?
Anurag: I don't know. I don't think I have been a good father. I think intentionally I am a good father. I provided them with everything. But I couldn't give them my time. I have that guilt in me. I would take them on holidays, but I didn't spend much time with my daughter or my family. I do realise that now. I have been in a zone since past 26 years. I tried very hard to change things around and resolve my issues. But I couldn't give them my time.
Me: Did your relationships break because of this reason?
Anurag: This is the reason why my relationships broke. I couldn't give them my time. I couldn't give time to my own people. They all are my friends. They don't dislike me. They are not angry with me and hurt because of me.
Me: Have you been a good son?
Anurag: That you will have to ask my parents! My parents love me a lot. But I don't know (if I have been a good son) since I couldn't give them my time. I have reached a stage where I can't give anything to people. I just know how to struggle.
Me: Do you take pride in what you have done so far?
Anurag: Pride! I am making a film on "pride" because the jury is still out when it comes to this!
Me: Is it pride or arrogance?
Anurag: Yes! That's what I meant! Sometimes it's arrogance, but sometimes it's a matter of pride. That's why I said the jury is still confused about this. There's a fine line between both. I have no idea when I will cross this fine line. Sometimes, you cross this line out of anger or in order to prove a point to your opponent.
There's this college friend of mine. He is writing a book. He asked me to write an introduction for his book. I agreed. I was depressed then. I wrote an awful introduction. I didn't even realize it till the typewriter called it awful! He called it "bakwaas"! I read it again and discarded it. He kept waiting for a response. And after a while, I couldn't face him. I kept wondering what would I tell him if I met him. It was not about him. The guilt was within me.
Me: Do you have any regrets?
Anurag: Yes! I've got a whole heap of regrets! But I don't store them. I keep learning from them. The only regret I have is that I have hurt lot of people.
Me: Have you?
Anurag: I have, but not intentionally. Because of my stubbornness, because of the way I am, I have hurt people, but unknowingly.
Me: What is Anurag Kashyap like?
Anurag: I feel I am more like Utpal Dutt, like a harsh grand-father. At times I feel I am a generous person. Say, I explore sexuality in my cinema. I explore its different aspects -- be it the depression or unconsciousness or extroversion. But I feel awkward while filming intimacy. I want to explore sexuality because I was depressed at one point in time.
Me: Like how?
Anurag: I grew up in a small town. I used to be bothered about smallest of things. I wasn't even aware how much of patriarchy was ingrained in me. I believed that we were done with issues like patriarchy or misogyny. But sometimes people point out that I am still a victim of patriarchal way of life. It is there inside me and I can't help it. The fact that I am talking about it, means it still exists. I have been dealing with this awkwardness for a year.
In the past two years, we have seen campaigns like the #Metoo. You read about others. You read everything about them. There was a time when I often wondered if I have been like that or if I have hurt people unknowingly? You tend to question things around you. Sometimes you don't get any answers. Like, when I was making Dev D, my co-workers were very annoyed with me. They questioned me about the kind of film I was trying to make. They came back and said that they couldn't understand the gist of the movie. They were also dealing with their conditioning. I try to get better during the course of filmmaking. I too didn't have any answers to their questions back then. I explore myself while making a film. And I also try to understand others during that period. This is my style of filmmaking.
Like, while making Manmarziyan, when I was shaping the character of Rumi, I would look for Rumi while interacting with Kanika Dhillon or Taapsee Pannu. By doing that I discovered many other things. I try to look for things that aren't within me. This is my method of working. At times people question me. But those who get this, respect me for it. A few people ask me about Dev D. They ask me if there was something between Paaro and that boy. They say there was so much pent up energy inside him! My standard reply is: "I don't know". They say you have written it, you should know! And I tell them again and again that Paaro didn't tell me about that! I don't know what was going on in Paaro's mind. She didn't tell me anything and unless she tells me, I would never be sure if there was something between them. But people are never satisfied with this response.
Me: Are you not very expressive?
Anurag: I am very expressive when it comes to work.
Me: And when it comes to relationships?
Anurag: I don't know. I can't manage. Even if I try it seems as if I am putting in a lot of effort. When I sit with people, mostly I am silent. I fail to understand what do they want and how do I give it to them.
Me: And then you don't know how to convey it to others.
Anurag: Yes, that happens. And where emotions are not involved, I am extremely expressive. When I have to fight with someone, I go all out. It all comes out. It's very complicated.
Me: What are your future plans?
Anurag: I don't think much. I don't have any future plans. I never save. I don't have any savings. I live in the moment. I travel when I can.
Me: When do you take a break from Bombay?
Anurag: When I don't have any work, I leave Bombay. I travel a lot. I love my solitude.
Me: What do you do when you are on your own?
Anurag: Nothing much. I read or I watch something. Or I don't do anything. I just sit.
Me: For people like us, solitude is a luxurious thing …
Anurag: But I want that luxury!
Me: Are you always surrounded with people?
Anurag: Yes. I am here right now and I am enjoying here. I can sit here for hours. Here, we don't have to do anything. You can actually hear silence sitting here. You can hear the scooter pass by, you can hear a car pass by.
Me: You can hear life, not machines.
Translated by: Swati Subhedar