Anand Gandhi isn’t your usual Bollywood writer-director. He doesn’t think like them, and he rarely talks like them. Probably that’s why a straight question about who he considers his audience turns into a philosophical spiel about the ‘larger questions of life’. These questions, he admits, only struck him around the age of 16, which is when he was first exposed to a “few Iranian films”.
Our photographer, who sat through the interview waiting for Anand to strike a pose, had only one question to ask us when we finished, “Aam aadmi ke liye film hai inki?” (Is his film meant for the common man?) In these excerpts, we try and offer you a glimpse into the psyche of this not-so-‘aam’ aadmi. His debut feature film (if we may say so) — Ship Of Theseus — will hit theatres on July 19.
How did Kiran Rao end up presenting your film?
Cameron Bailey, (the artistic director) of the Toronto International Film Festival, asked if I would be seeking Indian distribution. I remember my first response being, ‘I don’t know if I want to meet anyone here.’ I was a bit sceptical. He said, ‘Kiran (Rao) and Aamir (Khan) are dear friends and they would be keen on looking at this film.'
Then I thought that made a lot of sense. Kiran’s definitely inclined in an interesting direction and she’s already building an audience base for cinema of a certain kind. He sent Kiran a mail. When she saw the film a few months ago, she met me and told me this is one of the greatest film experiences she’s had in her life… I suggested that it would be amazing if she comes on board and takes Ship Of Theseus on.
That was around the same time the news of her production company surfaced?
She was misquoted about that. She is presenting this film because she loves it. She has no concrete plans of starting a production company. She’s made everyone watch the film. Aamir (Khan), Ronnie (Screwvala), Sidharth Roy Kapur... and everyone loved it. Bollywood people loved it.
‘Bollywood people’… You’ve mentioned in the past that ‘Bollywood’ isn’t something you stand by.
Yes, I’m still not heading in that direction. I’ll continue to make the kind of cinema that I want to make.
What kind of cinema is that?
Cinema that has a very serious purpose; I’m trying to take a shot at meaning. To really find out who we are and what we are doing here — the questions we ask as children.
Who is your audience?
Philosophical inquiry and the inferences of philosophical inquiry are an invitation for everyone to participate in. And by that, I do mean everyone who watches Dabangg (2010) even… And those who have not had the exposure and the opportunity to engage with a certain kind of medium, this is the opportunity.
The whole point of literature and cinema has been misrepresented. One of the most important purposes is enlightenment. That has been forgotten, and we have latched on to this current of short term commerce. It’s not even commercial; it is a short-term myopic trade because long-term commerce believes in the collective intellectual evolution of the community, which hasn’t been happening… So this film is economically viable. This film has a huge audience.
Ask yourself the one question that you’ve been waiting to be asked, but haven’t been.
Why should I make films? It’s all turned out too well, this time; I made something that resonated with so many people. So it worked. But why should I make films, when all the resources available to the medium are driven towards making French fries and caramel popcorn? Essentially, why should I make a Ship Of Theseus when Dabangg is what works? …I should make it for the sole purpose of the childlike pursuit of truth.