A quest for self-discovery and more - The New Indian Express

A quest for self-discovery and more

Published: 29th October 2013 10:42 AM

Last Updated: 29th October 2013 11:04 AM

Back in 1999, a 19-year-old young man penned the dialogue for TV soap opera Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi which turned out to become an obsession even in the remote villages of Afghanistan.  “Don’t try to telephone an Afghan at 8.30 in the evening,” wrote Shashi Tharoor once, “that’s when the Indian TV soap opera Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi, dubbed into Dari, is telecast on Tolo TV, and no one wishes to miss it,” pointing to its global impact.

About one month before he landed in Kochi, that young man turned 33. In between these years, Anand Gandhi, showing streaks of greying hair, parted ways with mainstream Bollywood, directed two short films and one feature, and is repeatedly inked in the press as the most important man to watch out for in the Indian film industry. In between these years, Anand Gandhi made a sea change, both in his life and career.

The long-haired, unassuming and soft-spoken Anand Gandhi strikes you more as a philosopher than a ‘stylish, entertaining and a brand in himself’ typical Bollywood director. He was in Kochi recently as part of the ‘INK Conference 2013’, which is often dubbed as the Indian version of ‘TED Talks’, and unsurprisingly, was all praise for Kerala. He hints that his love for the state is more than for its picturesque landscapes, perhaps, he loves Keralites, for many of them take shelter under the shade of left activists and existential philosophers, like himself.

“It’s a great feeling to be in Kerala. The last time I came here was when I was just nine. Over the years, I learnt more and more about the literary and cinematic history of Kerala and it is really inspiring,” said Anand.

 Anand’s debut feature released recently, Ship of Theseus, was a turning point for independent cinema in India. It got rave reviews and was celebrated amongst an audience as diverse as the poster boy Karan Johar to the polemic Arundathi Roy. In Anurag Kashyap’s words, this is the most brilliant Indian film in decades. Arundathi Roy called it a profound and fearless film. When the film was premiered in at the Toronto Festival, it was hailed as ‘the hidden gem of the year.’ Derek Malcolm listed it in the ‘films that changed our lives’ for the prestigious ‘The Critics’ Circle.’ And when you asks him on how it feels like being Anand Gandhi, he laughed in childish glee.

“Since my childhood, I have been curious about things. I was also very keen on sharing things. I guess these two played off each other well. I wished to become a writer, a painter, a sculptor, a magician, a philosopher and so on. Yes, it’s true that I wrote for TV soaps at a particular point, on that I shall say that I was a 19-year-old in my defence,” Anand said. When asked about how he reflects upon his own ‘identity’ before and after Ship of Theseus, he says, “Everything is changing. Our genetic materials have been changing for four billion years. Information has been passing from one gene to another gene for all these years. We change constantly, mutations happen, variations happen. Everything is part of a continuum and I am also part of the same. I would say I have changed but I would also say I remain the same,” said Anand. Like seasons. “Ah! Yes, like seasons,” he exclaimed.

The audience across India voted for the film to be screened in their respective city which points to a sea change in the way audience receive independent films. “It’s a proof that we’re definitely shifting to a time in the history when we’re willing to inquire, to understand and to learn from films. We’ve the privilege to do so,” observed Anand.

Winning the minds of TV soaps audience to acclaimed critics, you ask Anand whether he is on a run to capture the essence of everything,  like the protagonist of Tom Tykwer directed Perfume, and Anand replies, “I searched for a meaning in life, and I found that there isn’t any. Now I am writing one.”

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