On Anurag Kashyap’s birthday, how he continues to topple expectations and push boundaries

On Anurag Kashyap’s birthday, here’s looking at how he continues to challenge established ideas about religion, caste, and gender - perhaps three of the most hot button topics in modern India.
Anurag Kashyap at the premiere of Netflix’s Sacred Games.
Anurag Kashyap at the premiere of Netflix’s Sacred Games.
Updated on Sep 10, 2019 10:20 AM IST
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Hindustan Times | By

Filmmaker Anurag Kashyap turns 47 on Tuesday, September 10. He is at the peak of his powers professionally, and as promised, has gone underground post the release of his latest work, the second season of Netflix’s Sacred Games.

Kashyap is one of the most prolific directors around. In the last couple of years alone, he has released two feature films, one short film as part of the Lust Stories anthology, produced at least half-a-dozen movie through his now defunct Phantom Films banner, and even performed uncredited work on the recent Super 30.

The filmmaker has started work on Ghost Stories, another anthology film directed by the same team behind Lust Stories, and is working on an international film said to be set in multiple countries.

But through it all, he has maintained his directorial voice, and has stayed true to his reputation as a disrupter. If you were to look at his last three works alone - Sacred Games, Manmarziyaan and Mukkabaaz - you would notice how the filmmaker has played around with audience expectations. He has challenged established ideas about religion, caste, and gender - perhaps three of the most hot button topics in modern India.


In Mukkabaaz, he chose to open his film with a scene that shows cow vigilantes lynching a man. It sets the tone for a film that is brimming with ideas, about caste, about our inability to succeed at sports, about ingrained corruption, but also about our willingness to overcome all the obstacles that our society throws our way.

Such is his reputation as a provocateur that many of Sacred Games’ most controversial ideas have been erroneously attributed to him. For instance, the lynching scene in season two was written by Varun Grover and directed by Neeraj Ghaywan, but Kashyap’s name has inevitably been attached to it. The portions that he directed, however, dissected our nation’s very complicated relationship with religion, and how it has been used, over the years, as a political tool. By exploring how the gangster Ganesh Gaitonde exploited this systemic ‘weakness’ and how he himself was eventually exploited by it, Kashyap suggested that perhaps we, too, could have the capacity to see beyond what we’ve been shown.

And if you think about it, both his Lust Stories short and Manmarziyaan, deftly topple our expectations of gender, especially as seen in film. In Lust Stories, Radhika Apte plays a character that can only be described as a sexual offender - a college teacher who pursues a relationship with one of her students. It’s a sympathetic portrayal, but unexpected, nonetheless. And the romantic drama Manmarziyaan opens with a scene that is almost as shocking as the one in Mukkabaaz; a walk of shame, but performed not by the woman, but by the man.

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