QUEEN’S ROAD: Writer, actor, director and producer Zeishan Quadri inhabits a cinematic space where Francis Ford Coppola meets the great Indian blockbuster and gets reinterpreted in Anurag Kashyap’s visual punchlines. He wrote the story and co-wrote the screenplay of the genre-pushing film Gangs of Wasseypur, directed by Kashyap, and his first film as director — Meeruthiya Gangsters — has opened to mixed reviews.
In an email chat with City Express, Quadri, a compulsive storyteller who hopes to be around cinema for a long time, talks about his influences and the films he wants to make. Excerpts:
The wonder years
I grew up watching the films of Amitabh Bachchan and Salman Khan. As a kid, I always wanted to be like them when I grew up. From my childhood days, I was an avid cine buff and movies, among other things, played an important role in my creative evolution. In Wasseypur, I would often sneak out of my house to catch the latest releases. I also watched many films on VHS and later on VCDs and DVDs.
When I was in Class 8, we got our first cable connection and from then on, there was no dearth of cinema in my life. It was always on my mind, even when I was studying, though I never thought of cinema as a career option. I worked at a call centre in Delhi and though the job was lucrative, it was monotonous and didn’t give a vent to my creative energies.
In the city of dreams
The decision to leave for Mumbai to make a career in Bollywood was sudden and impulsive. During my initial days there, I started watching all kinds of films. That is also when I watched films of Martin Scorsese and Quentin Tarantino. Their crime thrillers fascinated me. Having grown up in Wasseypur, I had a fair idea of the crime scene there. I realised that people were not aware of such macro-level crime scenes in small towns. They lay hidden from the world’s eyes and Wasseypur was a story that needed to be told. Two of my favourite films are The Godfather and City of God. Filmmakers who have inspired me are Anurag Kashyap and Martin Scorsese. I’m inspired by the extraordinary events in the lives of ordinary people. The things that generally go unnoticed by most catch my fancy.
How Gangs... came together
Once I was ready with a small concept summary of Wasseypur, I started looking for directors who would like the concept, understand the story and be willing to work on it. I was fascinated by Anurag’s Black Friday and believed that the person who made such a film is the only one who would do justice to the story of Wasseypur. I started looking for ways to meet him and one day found out that he would be attending Kalki Koechlin’s play at the Prithvi Theatre. I met him there and he was willing to listen. I narrated to him the story but he was not ready to believe it. I had some news clippings that I showed him. He then said he wanted to see a detailed version of the story, backed with more news reports.
Why Kashyap is exceptional
During the making of the two instalments of Gangs of Wasseypur, I spent a lot of time with Anurag, observed him closely and learned the craft and techniques of filmmaking. I was fortunate to make my entry with him. That ensured I was in good company, that I learned the nuances and the fine craft of cinema. He’s accessible. He’s a bold filmmaker who has constantly pushed the envelope and made films that are experimental and innovative.
He’s also ready to listen to people, even those who have no background in filmmaking. That is the reason he has a huge fan following. He can connect with people; youngsters connect with him even more. They are inspired to make different kinds of films and make a worthwhile contribution to cinema.
When success arrived
I was ecstatic. I realised that the hard work for over a year had paid off and the story on celluloid looked and felt exactly as I had visualised it. For me, my films should entertain and bring something new to the table, and at the same time, be commercially viable.
On Meeruthiya Gangsters
The film documents the life of six reckless friends who would do anything for money and, more importantly, for each other. The film highlights the psyche of the youth who are driven by impulse, loyalty and bonds forged over companionship. Like Wasseypur, Meeruthiya Gangsters is backed by research. The story was inspired by real-life incidents that took place in Meerut in 2011. We took information from newspapers, both local and national dailies, and local crime reporters.
What the future holds
I want to tell stories that are unique, that have a resonance and linger in the mind of the audience. They should also have some entertainment value. I’m wary of making a film that will not keep the audience engaged. Filmmaking is a collective enterprise. Everything is connected. The actor should know what the director expects of him, and the director should have knowledge on editing, among other things.