Anurag Kashyap, the Godfather
Anurag Kashyap, godfather to aspiring filmmakers, a writer-producer-director whose stature has reached almost mythic proportions among his fanatic fans. Kashyap has scripted a success story fit for a Bollywood blockbuster.
The youngest boy in class is bullied by his peers.
Forlorn and dejected every day, he stands near an iml itree.
The boy aims stones at the low-hanging imli fruit.
One day, while he is taking aim, one of the bullies happens to be passing by and the stone hits him.
The Principal decides to let the boy go - 'He was seen trying to get the imli every day. He didn't mean it.'
A simple story. Right? But now comes the Anurag Kashyap twist. The boy was actually practising to miss the imli every day - hoping to hit the bully one day.
All of 41, with a life studded with enough twists, turns and struggles to give filmmaker Guru Dutt material for an epic tragedy, Kashyap is nonchalant about all that fate has thrown his way. "Sexual abuse is common in schools, especially residential ones. It's not the children's fault, it's the system that's faulty, but that I realise today. Then, I was deeply affected by it," he says, sipping French coffee in his Versova home. He bought the coffee recently from Cannes, where four of his movies were at the festival this year - Monsoon Shootout, Ugly, Bombay Talkies and Lunchbox (either from his production house or directed by him.)
The Mumbai rain hammering on the drawing room window pane picks up tempo, from a mellow treble to a forceful bass, as Kashyap goes back in time. The walls of his no-fuss home are littered with posters of films he has loved all his life. Movies from America (Black Swan, West Side Story) and Belgium (Man Bites Dog), along with snapshots of iconic New Wave French-Swiss filmmaker Jean-Luc-Godard. Photographs of Kashyap with wife Kalki Koechlin, and daughter Aaliya, sit on a side table, adding the finishing touch to his living room. The only hint of indulgence (something he has been accused of in his films by critics) is a small cushion with a caricature of his face on it.
Originally from Varanasi, since his father worked in the Uttar Pradesh Power Corporation, Kashyap spent a lot of time in places like Anpara and did a few years of schooling in Obra, Faizabad, Dehradun, Gwalior's residential Scindia School and Delhi. After school, he decided to go to college in Delhi in the late '80s, because that's what everyone around him was doing. "As a direct effect [of the abuse in school], I built muscle in college, started playing sports, and would often be seen with a hockey stick in hand. I would get out of the oppressive college cliques, and form my own parallel world, all the while protecting those who weren't strong enough," he says.
In 1992, after finishing a BSc in Zoology from Hansraj College, Delhi University, he was lost for a while. He cleared the National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT) exam in Delhi -- because the college girl he loved (but who didn't love him back) had got admission there. He decided to back off, got through the Short Service Commission of the Army, but didn't join. In the midst of these existential dilemmas, Kashyap discovered international cinema. A new world opened up to him, with stories he couldn't relate to but stories which affected him. And even now, he searches the Internet for some of the films he saw back then. That's when he decided - he would go to Mumbai!
With dreams of becoming an actor, Kashyap came to Mumbai in 1993 with just Rs. 6,000 that he took from his father. Because that's all that he thought he would need! But he ran out of the cash quickly.
Struggler in Maximum City
A friend (a cough syrup addict) offered to let Kashyap stay with him at his cousin's place. But the cousin turned him out. An addict was bad enough to deal with, she didn't want his friend too! Some days were spent on the streets of Mumbai, at forgotten nooks of Andheri where cars were less likely to run him over. On other days, the same friend ('a predator in a good way') would hook up with a girl who had a place to stay and often, would ask Kashyap to stay over, or invite him for breakfast. "The days she would refuse to let me in, he would be with her, and I would just sleep on the roof next to the paani ki tanki in her building," he recalls. On better days, when he had Rs. 30, he would sleep in a lodging house right outside Dadar station in a room that already had several people in it. Belongings were to be kept in the pocket, as even underwear would get stolen. But Kashyap loved these experiences, "These experiences are now a part of my filmmaking. In Murabba (his story in Bombay Talkies, which included short films by three other filmmakers), I recreated that world. So many people had slept on the mattress that it would stick to your back when you woke up in the morning," he laughs, oblivious to the grossness potential of his statement.
Back in his Delhi University days, he fell in love with a girl, would stare at her in class, and tell everyone she was his. Once, he even gifted her a life-size singing Archies card that she didn't take (obviously). These are the little moments he recreates in his films. Dev's alcohol-induced trips in Dev D, his walking around the city, his sudden realisation he didn't love Paro are all things Kashyap has been through himself. "People say you don't realise something suddenly, it's a gradual process. But believe me, it happens in a snap," he says, defending Dev's (the lead character played by Abhay Deol) sudden falling out of love in Dev D. Audiences had complained on Internet film forums that people don't realise something in a moment, it's a gradual process. But Kashyap insists otherwise, picking from his own life experiences.
Once out of his bath, Kashyap rolls a cigarette, and then goes to the kitchen to check on the chicken and meat dish he's making. Cooking is a big de-stressor for him. He often lures friends and co-workers to his home on the pretext of giving them good food, and then bounces ideas off them. They have no choice but to be his captive audience. He's one of the very few people in the industry who takes opinions from everyone. "Even his office boy can tell him, he's made a f**k-all film. He's that nervous about a product, as well as that sure of himself," says Bahl.