Anurag Kashyap has always championed independent cinema. For someone whose own films did not release for a long time in the initial years of his career, the Gangs of Wasseypur director knows that a lesser-known film with an unknown cast needs all the support that it can get.
And now, Kashyap and renowned filmmaker Nagraj Mule have come together to present Kastoori, a National Award-winning children’s film which will release in theatres on December 8. Kastoori, which is director Vinod Kamble’s debut feature, addresses caste issues has already been screened at 13 film festivals, including Jio MAMI, Dharamshala Film Festival and New York Indian Film Festival.
As for Kashyap himself, he has been busy gathering all the accolades that came his way post the screening of his Rahul Bhat-Sunny Leone starrer, Kennedy, which received a standing ovation both at Cannes Film Festival and MAMI in 2023. The filmmaker, who seldom makes on-screen appearances, was also seen in Haddi with Nawazuddin Siddiqui and the Tamil film Leo. Kashyap sat down for a chat with Zee Zest about all things cinema.
1. What made directors such as you and Nagraj Manjule get on board to support the release of Kastoori?
I recall seeing the film and the impact it had on me. There were two or three people who called me and recommended the film. I saw it and realised that this is a film which people need to watch. Independent films need support. We had this discussion at the MAMI film festival that we should release more independent films. It is an initiative that a lot of filmmakers and distributors are coming together for. We want to release more independent films. Movies such as Kastoori should get visibility. It is a beautiful film. Vinod knows that world. He comes from a family of manual scavengers and has made such a poetic film. If I try to make this, it will be an outsider’s gaze and I will not be able to understand it fully. You see the film through Vinod’s eyes. There is so much hope in it. It really impacts you, which is the reason I reached out to Nagraj and said that we should help this film to release.
2. What is the support a film like this gets when established directors like you get behind it?
The whole idea is that me and Nagraj are endorsing this film. If you trust our taste then see this film and give visibility to it. It is important that we have discussions about these films.
3. Do you think that is the way to be for filmmakers, especially established ones like you who can make a difference by virtue of being associated with a project?
I’ve also been an unreleased filmmaker for a very long time, so I understand that pain. I know the industry well. When you don’t have big names associated with a film, it becomes difficult for the film to be seen. Initially, when Marathi independent films started releasing, it became compulsory to have one show in Maharashtra. It started from there and see how that industry has grown! Everyone wants to do their bit. We want a new type of audience to be developed. If you see worldwide, independent films are slowly disappearing and only the big, formulaic cinema is being made. Everyone is making big blockbusters and talking of numbers. When that happens, films stop being a representation of the various worlds we inhabit and that exist around us. We are creating an imaginary universe but the actual universe that exists is not being seen, which is the reason documentaries don’t release in India.
4. Children’s films don’t always get the kind of attention they deserve from the audience. What do you think is essential to make a good children’s film?
What do we define as a children’s film? A film like ET is for everyone, that an adult mind who can still wonder could make it beautifully. An actual children’s film is very difficult for an adult to make and understand, especially in a world that is so rapidly changing. There is a new generation born every five to six years. Today’s kids cannot imagine a world without mobile phones, a world that I grew up in. They have grown up knowing that when they go to the airport, there will be security. When I speak about airports which have no security checks, it doesn’t exist for them. We come from two worlds. It is very hard for me to understand my daughter. She is born into this world and is a native to this world. I am a migrant. I need to adopt this world. So often, when we represent children in the movies, they sound like adults. Kids are over smart in our films.
5. Talking about your films, Kennedy received so much love at Cannes and MAMI. You said in an interview that it fulfilled all your cinematic fantasies. Can you tell us in what way?
It is after a long time that I really went out with my film. It had such strong support from Zee Studios who backed the film and said ‘make your film’. Out of all my films, Kennedy has travelled the most. I saw the audience warming up to the film I made. You understand so much when you interact with so many filmmakers. It has been quite an eventful journey for Kennedy.
6. When is the film expected to be released in India?
We are hoping for an India release somewhere around February next year.
7. You were recently at the Marrakech film festival, meeting and interacting with filmmakers and actors from across the world. You have been going to different film festivals for years now. What do you find so enriching about it?
I like meeting filmmakers; it is like meeting my tribe. I am in an industry where people only discuss box office figures. I go to festivals where they discuss cinema and culture among other things. In India, even the normal junta only discusses numbers. Why do we go to literature fests? We don’t go there to find out how many copies of a certain book have been sold. We discuss literature. Your minds meet there. That’s what these fests are for me - a meeting of like-minded people.
8. You were seen acting in a few films this year, including Haddi and Leo? Do you enjoy being an actor?
These are just cameo roles that require two-three hours of shooting. I really do not enjoy much being an actor. It is just these one-off cameos that I enjoy for my own kick. Khaali dimaag shaitan ka ghar hota hai (an empty mind is a devil’s workshop).
9. There is a lot of discussion these days about south Indian cinema and Bollywood and where the latter is going wrong. What is your take on it?
These discussions have been going on since a long time. Earlier, there were different fan clubs of actors and they would discuss issues. Then it was the 100-crore club, then came 200 and now 500. These discussions are not ending. I go to film festivals to escape these discussions! I don’t want to participate at all.
10. What’s next for you?
I am in my writing phase and when that happens, acting keeps happening simultaneously. Next year, I will start something new.