Kashyap sat down to talk about GANGS, which has played both the Sundance and Cannes film festivals, in this exclusive new interview:
INTERVIEW WITH “GANGS OF WASSEYPUR” DIRECTOR ANURAG KASHYAP
Your films have influenced Danny Boyle. You’ve been called the Indian Tarantino. You’ve also equally been hailed as the Godfather of independent Indian cinema, along with being accused of selling out to commercial cinema. But who is the real Anurag Kashyap?
Neither am I the Godfather of independent Indian cinema nor am I a sellout. I’m just me. Everybody has an organic growth and I’m now at a point where I can make films that I want to make. I can continue making films that other people want me to make, but I want to make films that I want to make. I just want to keep making films. As long as it gives me the freedom to do what I like, I’ll take it.
Gangs of Wasseypur is about the corruption in the coal industry. What is your motivation when choosing a story to turn into a film? Do you look at the social relevance of the story? What inspires you?
I don’t look at the social relevance of a story at all. Gangs of Wasseypur is not about corruption in the coal industry. It’s about Wasseypur, it’s about the changing political and physical landscape of a place – how the mineral-rich state of Bihar came from one of the most corrupt and poorest states. It’s a revenge saga and a family drama. We tell the entire story through three generations of one family. So when the family is in coal, the film is about coal, but when the family goes away from coal, the film goes away from coal.
What inspired you to make the film? How did the story come about?
I was quite suspect when the writer (who is actually from Wasseypur and plays the part of a gangster called “Definite” in the sequel) offered me the script as it read too much like City of God. I told him this, and he got really offended. He immediately went home and brought me a lot of newspaper cuttings and underlined the bits he wanted to use in the script. But then I found the bits that were not underlined more interesting. The world had so much more to offer. So I agreed that I wanted to do a film on this, but I wanted to rewrite it. And then we started researching more stories. Initially the script was in more contemporary times, which you will see a lot more in part 2. But when I started digging into it, it began to focus more on the emergence of the mafia in Northern India, and how natural resources played a big role.
The music for the film is also far from a conventional Bollywood score. What can you tell us about your decision to sway from the norm?
I worked with Sneha Khanwalker on the music, who also did the music for LSD and Oye Lucky Lucky Oye. Both films had different milieus but she proved she could do her research and find new voices. I knew she was the person who’d go to any length it would take to find the right music. I told her I wanted to find music that was rooted in Bihar. I told her I didn’t want any popular references – she had to go to local people and find it. When I was growing up, I’d hear women singing these songs like “Saare theen bajna zaroori mujhse milna saare theen baje”. These kinds of songs don’t exist anymore.
You also did the film on a reasonably low budget of 18.5 crores. Did this prove the shoot difficult?
It was actually a lot of strife. We had no money until two days before the shooting started. We just knew we wanted to make the film the way it should be made – on its lowest possible budget. The small house shown in the film where Manoj Bajpai’s kids are born is actually the house I grew up in. It’s the house that my brother, who made Dabanna was born in. We shot in places we grew up. The town has not changed much since the 60s and 70s. We looked for three real places that could create three different time zones of Wasseypur and Dhanbad. The challenge was not in making the film but in putting it together and getting the release. We had no idea how well this film would go. What’s happening now is great, the buzz it’s making in India, the way it’s being sold worldwide.
With your new role as a producer, you are giving new talent their first break. Is it difficult to raise money for these projects?
I have bizarre, stubborn philosophies on life. I don’t like making life comfortable for new filmmakers. I want him to struggle to make his film. I’ll illogically slash their budget to half the amount and ask them to do it for that. And every time they’ll pull it off. I’m interested in filmmakers who break boundaries. People are willing to give us money, but I don’t want it from them.
What is your interest in violence?
We discussed how we’d depict the violence in the film, and all I said was that it has to look real. Let’s try and do every scene in one single shot. Let’s try not to cut away lest it loses its impact. I cannot do gore, I can’t even watch it, but at the same time I want people to flinch when they see violence. Unrealistic violence is the kind that excites you – it’s the kind that makes you want to be that fighter, be that superhero. I prefer my violence real, raw, rooted.
Cinelicious Pictures will release Part 1 of GANGS OF WASSEYPUR on January 16 for an exclusive one-week-only run at several AMC theaters across the U.S. Part II will release in the same theaters the following week on January 23, also for one week only. In New York City, the full film will play at the prestigious Lincoln Center opening on January 16 for one week. This special event is not to be missed by anyone who is a lover of Indian cinema.