Censorship is a political tool in India but I’ll keep fighting till the end, says Anurag Kashyap
Anurag Kashyap will keep fighting the establishment, even when he wins. On the eve of the release of Lust Stories, Netflix’s new anthology film in which Kashyap along with three other prominent Hindi filmmakers - Karan Johar, Zoya Akhtar and Dibakar Banerjee - continues going against the grain, he spoke to us on the phone about how he managed to create uncompromising films despite suppressive censorship laws.
In his short film in Lust Stories - there are four, one by each filmmaker - he voices these ambitions through Kalindi, a college professor played by Radhika Apte who enters into a scandalous sexual relationship with her student. “By giving the audience an alternative to aspire to and to learn from,” he said, we could change how Indian cinema is perceived.
He compared the sheer power of showing sexual freedom on screen to the impact Madhuri Dixit’s character’s clothes had in the romantic drama, Hum Aapke Hain Koun - a deeply demure film by even Indian standards. “When they watched Madhuri’s sari, they wanted to buy one,” he said.
But such outspokenness isn’t rare for Kashyap, who opened his most recent film, this year’s Mukkabaaz, with a scene in which Hindu cow vigilantes executed innocent Muslim men. Obstacles, he said, are in your head. He doesn’t let India’s tough censorship laws deflate his spirit, and has developed a co-dependent relationship with the CBFC after years of public tussles. “I fight till the end,” he said. “When I have facts in my hand, they also know I won’t give in. I won’t back out.”
But after decades of being at odds with the system, doesn’t Netflix offer a luxurious alternative? No censorship, complete freedom and a huge, 130 million potential audience. “Online streaming is going to change everything,” he said, adding that bringing change to the film industry isn’t a priority for the powers that be. “Censorship is a strong political tool in a country like India,” he said. It’ll take constitutional change to amend censorship laws.
And with the world’s best filmmakers turning to online streaming - Martin Scorsese, Bong Joon-ho and Noah Baumbach all have films on Netflix - Kashyap suspects India isn’t too far behind. In any case, most people, including his daughter and his driver, prefer watching movies on their phones or at home. “My driver was watching Gangs of Wasseypur in front of me on his phone,” he laughed, “and I told him to at least do it behind my back.”
Certain films, Kashyap said, are more suitable for streaming, but “I will keep making cinema.”
Lust Stories is his first collaboration with Netflix, a partnership that will continue in July when Kashyap and director Vikramaditya Motwane’s adaptation of the crime novel Sacred Games is released in eight episodes. “Watch it, watch it,” he said, “it’s turned out good. I did the Nawaz part and Vikramaditya did all the Saif scenes. That’s how we work.”