Anurag Kashyap [eng]

Anurag Kashyap is one of the most significant film-makers of contemporary India; director of praised movies such as Ugly, Raman Raghav 2.0, Dev.D, Black Friday, Gangs of Wasseypur, writer of classics as Ram Gopal Varma’s Satya, producer of unsettling flicks like NH10, he has a career made of over 100 films on multiple tasks. We have interviewed the film-maker in Florence during the River to River Florence Indian Film Festival, where he brought two films (Dobaaraa and Almost Pyaar), accompanied by the actor Karan Mehta and where he won the audience prize with Dobaaraa.
The interview you’re about to read includes a couple of questions posed during the press conference along with the other collegues. The rest is the outcome of the following face to face interview recorded in his hotel hence totally unique and yet unrealeased. Unfortunately, the time at our disposal was extremely limited and we couldn’t discuss a few more relevant topics as we wished to. We save those subjects for the next time, including a few understandable annotations in the interview.






Asian Feast: Regarding your recent movie Dobaaraa, how have you come up with the idea of making a remake? And what has attracted you the most of the original Spanish movie? 

Anurag Kashyap: My first reason to do a remake is, like she said, I’m a workaholic and I was having a tough time in India, making films and with the government. So I had time, maybe once a year, to make a safe film which is not political and then I have never done a film subject like that so the safest film to make is the film that already exists. And also the advantage of the bigger original film wasn’t that I had the script of the film. The script of the original Spanish film (Mirage by Oriol Paulo) and my film were different, it was much stronger and detailed version and we started working on the remake, before the film came out, from the script. And when the film came out, a lot of it was lost in the editing, so it was a good opportunity to tell a story like that for the first time in India and do it in detail; it was a challenge, I had never done that before. Plus Taapsee Pannu (the leading character) wanted to make that film, she’s the one who brought it to me and it was also being secure with a person because she was involved so I said I can do the film. Taapsee Pannu is obsessed with Oriol Paulo (director of Mirage, the original), she has remade two (Badla, Blurr) of the three remakes in Hindi (respectively the films The Invisible Guest and Julia’s Eyes, the latter only written by Paulo), so almost all Oriol Paulo’s films are remade in Hindi with Taapsee Pannu in it (Blurr was released in India the same day of this interview).

AF: I watched the Black and White Interviews on Eros Now and during that interview, you said to follow a religion with many gods: from Fritz Lang to Samuel Fuller, from Bimal Roy to Hrishikesh Mukherjee o Martin Scorsese, who you love the most. You also said that some of your gods are even born after you, could you tell some names?

AK: Several young film-makers: Anthony Chen, Fatih Akin, Damien Chazelle. And Julia Ducournau, she’s very inspiring to me. There’s lots of, lot’s of young film-makers that keep coming in and I get inspired by a lot of them. I really think that They Call Me Jeeg is one of the best super human, superhero films ever made. Jeeg Robot is one of the best super heroes films I’ve seen, so much better than any Marvel movie.

AF: About your influences, it’s known your appreciation for Kinji Fukasaku. How much of Kinji Kukasaku is there in Gangs of Wasseypur?

AK: There’s a lot of Fukasaku in many of my movies.

AF: The first movie you worked in has been Satya (1998) which you co-wrote. You said you learned everything from that movie as well as from Ram Gopal Varma (the director). What kind of impact did Satya have in Indian film-making? How important was it?

AK: Satya, in India, is extremely seminal, a very important film because, Not just because it was a very new kind of cinema that inspired lot of current film-makers, but it also had a lot of new actors. So Ram Gopal Varma, being an established film-maker, worked with many new actors for the first time and because of him working with a lot of new actors, the way he went and brought me in this film, against all odds and the success of it defined the way a lot of film makers as Sriram Raghavan, Shimit Amin and me started making movies. For me, it was a different film because I was the writer, assistant director, casting, I did everything and he taught me everything. I was also the second unit director.

AF: Staying on Ram Gopal Varma, I watched the interview where he openly criticized The Kashmir Files. Basically he says The Kashmir Files broke all the rules of film-making in India. How did it happen?

AK: The Kashmir Files is kind of a propaganda film which was doing everything Indian cinema does not do. It worked because there were a lot of character actors, television actors and it was made with a very low cost. And it used the kind of black and white way of making film where the Muslims were the villains and the Indus were the victims. It was so dramatically done and it worked at the box-office because people wanted to believe that. So, it broke all the rules in the sense that film-makers, when you become a film-maker and you’re making a film you have a kind of responsibility you take on yourself for the truth. When you’re making a film about an actual event, you’re documenting the truth.
But The Kashmir Files did not document it, it dramatized it. It was manipulative. And because a lot of people saw it, it became a massive success. This is why. What I want to say is, it broke the rules under the rules and became a massive success. It didn’t have anything successful that Indian cinema has. No superstars, no songs or dance.

AF: …Beside Mithun Chakraborty.

AK: His career is over, he’s finished.

AF: And he’s also one of them, he’s BJP. [1]
Let’s talk about the present and the future of action cinema in India which, according to me, produces the best action movies nowadays, I’m talking about RRR, Pushpa, K.G.F. 1&2 and other similar titles. What do you think the future of action films globally will be, after these titles became a global phenomenon?

AK: In India we don’t need super heroes movies because our actors are supposed to be super heroes, without a mask. I think the West has discovered RRR in a very big way and they have discovered Baahubali and Eega. The incredulity of storytelling in India is something that became a fascination for everyone. And also Vikram, big action movie that was a massive success. Or like the newest Brahmāstra. I think India is ingenious because it makes movies mixed with songs and dance, their action will be big action pieces. So for the West, it is a new thing and this discovery helps Indian mainstream cinema at the same time. 

AF: How do you think it will change the way they make action films in the West and outside of India? Because in every decade there’s at least one super hit action movie that molds the others that follow, so it’s like the one like every other movie copycats from. Currently India produces the best action films, because Hollywood, besides Marvel, produces nothing (of action movies), just remakes.

AK: I think S. S. Rajamouli should direct a Marvel movie, I think S. S. Rajamouli should do a DC or a Marvel movie because he has a lot of incredible ideas and he’s very ingenious in that sense. I think Indian action movies, like Shekhar Kapur went from India and made Elizabeth at one time. And he used the emotional melodrama of India to tell the story of Elizabeth and the film was nominated for the Oscars. You know, the basis of Indian films is emotions, the core is emotions and I think using that when they go out and make action movies, it definitely will change because you know, action movies in the West are very devoid of emotions. It’s just business, there’s no emotional core to it which is, I think, Indian film makers are going to bring to the West. Then it will change. 

AF: I have a question on Gangs of Wasseypur, there’s a specific dialogue, spoken by Ramadhir Singh that more or less goes like: “I got his grandfather killed, Sardar killed and also Danish but I’m still alive. Why? Because I don’t watch Bollywood movies. My friends used to watch Ganga Jamuna and wanted to be Dilip Kumar. Then Amitabh Bachchan came. And these days Salman Khan. Every fucker has got his own movie playing inside his head. Every fucker is trying to be the hero of his own imaginary film. I swear as long as there are fucking movies in this country people will continue to be fooled”.
So, my question is: in the West, when mafia, gangsters or underworld movies are made, there’s a big component of the public that idealize that kind of lifestyle. You made it clear that those are the villains, even one song is specifically against Faizal Khan. So, how do you think the public perceived this aspect of Gangs of Wasseypur?

AK: Indian public idealizes anything that is anti-authority. But they also idealize prime ministers and they also idealize the government playing dirty politics. They enjoy it, for them it’s a game. So, what happens in India is India likes powerful people being defeated. Anybody who is in a position of power, of privilege and they are pulled down, they are defeated, India loves that because it’s an over populated country. They like people falling down more than they like the underdog winning. Which is why they idealize anti-heroes and gangsters and people like that because they are not privileged. They like to raise, they like to follow the privileged people (this answer refers to a local cultural characteristic that is deduced also from many movies: the people’s compromise and leniency towards powerful persons (either good or bad) with an inner hope to see them falling down in order to be able to embody and replace them in the social ladder, for better or for worse).

AF: On Nawazuddin Siddiqui, who you directed several times, what was his greatest challenge from his characters among Faizal Khan (Gangs of Wasseypur), Ramanna (Raman Raghav 2.0) and Gaitonde (Sacred Games)?

AK: Ramanna. It was for him very difficult because emotionally it was very difficult for him. He was hospitalized while shooting the film because he was obsessed with the character. So Gaitonde and Gangs of Wasseypur was much easier compared to Ramanna because he was playing a character that needed to prepare psychologically; so much, that he ended in the hospital and affected him the most. So Ramanna was the character that was the most challenging.

AF: And I meant to ask you if Gaitonde is like a tribute, a mention to Agneepath. (Gaitonde was the police commissioner in Agneepath).

AK: Gaitonde is from the book, it’s actually totally from the book by Vikram Chandra, which the TV series has been inspired from.

AF: Why do you reckon Indian films, though available on different streaming platforms online, don’t have a proper home video distribution, like Hong Kong movies or South Korean movies? Many movies don’t even have a blu-ray release.

AK: In India they don’t care about blue-rays because in India people watch films on mobile phones and they download movies. And the quality, nobody cares about it in India which is very difficult for us film-makers because we really have to fight for it. We fight for our films to be preserved on blue-ray and on the top platforms but it’s very, extremely difficult and Indian audience will watch the film anywhere, quality doesn’t matter as long there’s sound and there’s picture; the quality doesn’t matter to them. Which is why, you see, we are trying to restore Indian cinema heritage; there’s a film-maker called Shivendra Singh Dungarpur, who works with Scorsese and he tries to restore films. It’s very difficult for him to find film, he just restored some Amitabh Bachchan’s movies and Dilip Kumar’s movies but it’s very difficult for him to find prints to restore cinema. [2]

AF: This morning I mentioned the Black and White Interviews, there you also said you like, you fancy more powerful female characters than the girl next door. We watched Kalki Koechlin in Dev.D and Sacred Games; is this your definition of powerful female characters?

AK: Yes, I like powerful women, I like women who own themselves, I like women who own their sexuality, who own everything about themselves and they speak their mind and they stand for themselves. And those are the kind of people to look up to because India propagates women to be subservient, to be servile to the man and to all the people; which I don’t like, I’ve seen it closely but I like strong women. That’s why my female characters are strong women because strong women are whom I like to talk to.

AF: You’re a great expert of cinema and film-makers. Our editorial staff, including me, loves Aleksei Balabanov. Do you know him? What do you think of him?

AK: I love his films. I really liked Brother and the second, Dead Man’s Bluff.


[1] As the matter of fact, The Kashmir Files is included in a path of hindutva (hindu nationalism, founded by Vinayak Damodar Savarkar in 1923) propaganda insinuating inside of Indian cinema, both national and, probably, regional since the era of b/w movies, as the director said.
More recent films as Kesari (2019, source 1 and source 2), Manikarnika: The Queen of Jhansi (2019), Pawankhind (2022), Hindutva (2022) and Samrat Prithviraj (2022) with the always participating Akshay Kumar are some of the titles that are part of the dualistic vision of cinema described by Anurag Kashyap. To Akshay Kumar (the hindutva poster boy in the cinema) who remembers to have also Indian citizenship only when he must stir hatred and divisions between religions (source 1 and source 2) are set against numerous actors and actresses including: Aamir Khan, Salman Khan, Kareena Kapoor and Tapsee Pannu, hated and boycotted by saffron terror (source).
The difference between the mentioned films and The Kashmir Files is the victimization of hindus in the latter rather than the barbarising of Muslims including the ignoble Kesari. In addition, Vivek Agnihotri, the director of The Kashmir Files, recently targetted Anurag Kashyap himself, describing him as the leader of the (alleged) genocide deniers’ lobby (source).

[2] About the home video distribution, my question included also the foreign market, like the English Arrow Videos, Eureka and 88 Films do with Hong Kong cinema but i had to omit this part for the lack of time.


We, once more, wish to thank Anurag Kashyap for the willingness and his friendliness.