Paanch will finally release in January,” says producer Tutu Sharma, admitting that censor problems had caused the delay. “But my writer-director, Anurag Kashyap, was determined not to succumb to any pressure for a censor certficate. No matter how long it took or what effort it entailed, we were determined not to change a single frame. And eventually, with a more reasonable board, the battle was won. It will release without a single cut.”
In September 1993, Kashyap, during his stay at the St Xavier’s boys hostel, used to hang out with the members of a band called Greek (later renamed Pralay). Observing them closely, Kashyap filled 40 pages of a notebook that formed the basis of a script for a film he initially titled Mirage and later replaced with a more Indianised version, Paanch.
Kashyap then drew inspiration from the movie Fun, which is about two mentally unstable girls killing an elderly woman. Later, he came across files relating to the Joshi-Abhyankar murders that rocked Pune in 1976: “Five very ordinary college kids viciously murdered nine people. I got what I needed to finsh my script.”
Censor problems In ’95 he was ready to flag off his directorial debut. But it wasn’t till ’99 that the film went on the floors with Kay Kay Menon, Aditya Shrivastava, Joy Fernandes, Vijay Maurya and Tejaswimi Kolhapure, sister of Sharma’s actor-wife Padmini, as the five-member band that goes haywire.
In 2003, it was lining up for release when the censor board refused to give it a certificate on six counts: it glorifies violence; shows the modus operandi of a crime (killing of a police officer); shows excessive use of drugs; has double meaning dialogues (with sexual undertones); has no positive characters; and it does not carry a social message.
Even the revising committee turned it down and the film was eventually viewed online, generating rave reviews despite its radical concept, inflammatory dialogue, action and sex scenes. Even the industry reacted to it positively with director Sudhir Mishra having seen it 24 times and Zoya Akhtar saying that she couldn’t wait to see it again.
As Sharma readies for a theatrical release early next year, he insists that the almost decade-long delay has not affected the film’s prospects: “Paanch was always a film well ahead of its time.”