Filmmaker Anurag Kashyap’s battle of wits with the country’s film certification system and Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) chief Pahlaj Nihalani is far from over. In a candid chat with Hindustan Times ahead of his next directorial venture, Raman Raghav 2.0, Kashyap talks to HT about censorship, his genre of movies and the reason why he thinks Nihalani is one of the biggest challenges faced by the Indian movie industry in recent times. An excerpt:
Udta Punjab was finally released without the 100 cuts suggested by the CBFC. But, in your statements, you have targeted Pahlaj Nihalani more than the functioning of the board itself.
Pahlaj Nihalani says he has been following guidelines. I don’t think he understands the guidelines. Have the guidelines changed in the last two years? There were people before him too… have the guidelines changed in the last two years? Why are so many films going to the tribunal (Film Certification Appellate Tribunal) now? His mind is more perverse than the movies he examines. I think he is intellectually incapable of heading the board. In a scenario where the censor body is chaired by a senile person, filmmakers must be empowered to approach the court directly.
The CBFC has stalled the release for Haraamkhor and Sat Uchakke. So, the Udta Punjab victory didn’t really change much.
The man is too egoistic. In the last four days, he has refused certificates to four films. It’s because of his ego that the Bombay high court ruled that you cannot cut films. So, he has been randomly refusing certificates. He has an ancient mindset. The world of the Internet has changed the way information flows. Now people are well-informed, and way more mature.
Watch our video interview with Anurag Kashyap here
Anurag Kashyap is known for making dark films and portraying grey characters. While others make films on inspirational personalities like MS Dhoni, Mary Kom and Paan Singh Tomar, you make a film on a serial killer. Why this fascination with crime and criminals?
I have always been fascinated by dark characters. While I was growing up in Uttar Pradesh, I used to read Russian literature translated in Hindi. When I read Crime and Punishment, I was really impressed. I think that had the maximum impact on my mind. There is a curiosity to know why someone would choose a life that’s not within the limits of the law. What is the definition of crime? Who is a bigger criminal – a man with a gun who robs a bank, or a man with a bank who robs the world? There are a lot of questions. The world functions in a certain way, and we have been told what right and wrong is. Who decides that? What if someone questions that set pattern? I am just too fascinated with the other side of things.
The one time you deviated from dark films – with Bombay Velvet – it didn’t really work.
I always wanted to make a movie like Bombay Velvet. I would disagree that my films are dark. They make such light films that my films look dark in comparison. I would call them grey, not dark. If the budget of a film is such that my decisions are required to go on the backfoot, I refuse to do it. If stars don’t want to change the way they function, I cannot work with them.
Your characters use too many abusive words.
In Ugly, Vineet Kumar Singh’s outburst led to a barrage of abuses. It was improvisation. It was not in the script, but it was so natural that I didn’t want to cut it out. We hear abuses everywhere in our society, but we don’t want our films to show it.
While Udta Punjab gave a realistic view of the drug problem, it didn’t offer any solution.
It’s not the job of cinema to offer solutions. Every solution creates its own problems. The job of a filmmaker is to hold a mirror to society. A filmmaker is not the government, an NGO or an activist. We live in a world of contradictions – first we do not think the audience is mature enough to deal with adult content, and then the same society thinks it is cinema’s responsibility to solve social evils. First you expect cinema to be juvenile and immature, and then you also expect it to give out social messages. I think just showing the problem can haunt one into finding a solution. It is up to an individual to come up with solutions. Drug addicts can be free only if they want to, you cannot force it on them.
Tell us about Raman Raghav 2.0.
I was always intrigued by the way Raman Raghav’s thought process worked. Why did he think killing was not illegal? I recalled the questions I had and rewrote them. So, what you will see isn’t really a biopic, but a portrayal of how the criminal mind works. We grow up with the tendency of sweeping every uncomfortable thought under the carpet. When a kid asks about sex, we say talking about it is wrong. Just because I am troubled by what you say, you stop asking it. We tend to avoid too many things, but I like making people uncomfortable.
Watch our video interview with the Raman Raghav 2.0 team here
Is there an Indian film you wish you had made?
You have also acted in a few films.
It was always blackmail, emotional blackmail. Acting is something I never want to do.
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