Looking at how Anurag Kashyap is coolly dressed in a pair of distressed jeans, you’d never imagine he’s the man behind intense films like Dev.D and Gangs of Wasseypur. The buzz around his performance in Imaikkaa Nodigal is such that he got calls from countries like France from those wishing him well.
Excerpts from a conversation with the ace filmmaker:
Can you elaborate on the experience of having acted in your first Tamil film?
Being a filmmaker, I am a firm believer that actors follow a director to the T. I did the same. The action sequences were demanding, but Ajay was more confident about them than I was. I have acted in stage shows, but they scarcely prepared me for the action scenes. At 46, I feel fit, thanks to this (laughs).
How has the feedback been?
I got feedback from AR Muragadoss and Sasikumar about the film. My whole family saw the film and my mother told me to learn a thing or two from the director (laughs). After knowing that I’m doing this film, a lot of people have now approached me for roles in Tamil cinema, but I haven’t signed any yet. There was a discussion with Vetrimaran for a role in Vada Chennai but I couldn’t do it, due to my commitments.
We heard that you are not a big fan of being prompted for the lines.
Yes, I mugged them up. Learning the lines was a three-step process for me. I would write all the dialogues in Hindi and make my assistant speak it to me, so I could understand the emotions. Then I’d say it in front of an assistant director, and on the sets, I’d make Ajay speak the lines again. That’s how I got the pronunciation right. I wanted to dub for the film, but I couldn’t because of time constraints. The shooting was stopped in between because of the late CM’s death and then because of the Jallikattu protest. I had to continue shooting for my directorial as well, and it was difficult to co-ordinate. Director Magizh Thirumeni dubbed for me and I thanked him for the awesome job he’s done.
Being an established filmmaker yourself, how was it to work with a one-film-old director?
When I go on the sets as an actor, I try to be just an actor. I don’t like to interfere. I liked that Ajay is very clear about what he wants. His excitement is contagious and the smile of Rudra (his character in the film), is something I copied from Ajay himself (smiles). I never saw the monitor and trusted him completely. When I eventually saw the film, I was very happy. The response I have received is something I didn’t expect.
You played a negative role in Akira too...
It’s all because of AR Muragadoss (laughs). He made me a villain and passed me on to Ajay (who had previously assisted AR Murugadoss). He’s a very good friend with whom I talk a lot about films.
Speaking about filmmaking, how different did you find Tamil film sensibilities to be?
The technicians and directors are very good but the production system is very different here. While shooting this film, I finished four projects — Mukkabaaz, Manmarziyaan, Lust Stories and Sacred Games.
I think Bollywood is getting influenced by the South. We used to do films about NRI romances and not about India. It was about getting married in New York and fighting in London. Now we’re returning to our roots.
Regional cinema is extremely rooted in its culture. That’s why I can’t do a great superhero film because Hollywood would do it better with better resources, and they’ll dub it into our languages as well.
You’ve produced and directed web-series as well. How do you decide that a story fits into a particular platform?
When you see a story like Imaikkaa Nodigal, you’ll know that it can only be made for the big screen. A film like Raman Raghav 2.0 works better on Netflix because it’s a more intimate, personal experience. When experimenting with small budget films, I prefer OTT platforms as that audience does not go to the cinema. I also find a lot of freedom in such platforms, as they have a much bigger audience. Cinema is just four shows a day, for a few days.
What’s your take on Tamil cinema? Can we expect to see you directing a Tamil film soon?
I want to do one. I have a lot of favourite actors such as Vijay Sethupathi and Dhanush. I haven’t learnt the language but my ex-wife (Kalki Koechlin) used to speak the language. I don’t like doing remakes. I heard someone was trying to get the remake rights of the Malayalam film, Angamaly Diaries, and I was wondering how that’ll work because Angamaly Diaries is about Angamaly. How can you make it in Hindi? But I also got inspired by Subramaniyapuram and came up with the story of Wasseypur. Had I remade Subramaniyapuram, it wouldn’t have made sense. I feel Tamil cinema can go further and not just restrict itself to Tamil audiences. I think the insecurity of the distribution system doesn’t allow it to go further. I remember how Visaranai travelled and generated interest across the country.
I’ve got so much work to do in Bollywood for the next five years. Acting consumes a lot of time and I’m not sure if I can sign more projects. I have a company as well, so when I disappear, they panic. Either I’ll act for a person who I love and respect or I’ll act for lots of money (laugh).