Friends, not by chance
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Friends, not by chance

Both director Zoya Akhtar and writer-director Anurag Kashyap have had their struggles and tasted success late. That’s why they bond well. Udita Jhunjhunwala speaks to them.

entertainment Updated: Apr 18, 2009 20:56 IST
Udita Jhunjhunwala
Udita Jhunjhunwala
Hindustan Times

One is an industry insider, the other an outsider. But both director Zoya Akhtar and writer-director Anurag Kashyap have had their struggles and tasted success late. That’s why they bond well by Udita Jhunjhunwala

It took Zoya Akhtar seven years to make her first film; Anurag Kashyap’s first film still has not released. But both had success earlier this year with Luck By Chance (her debut) and Dev D (his fifth film). Though they have had parallel journeys of creative struggle, Zoya and Anurag have vastly dissimilar backgrounds – she’s born and bred in Bollywood, he’s a film festival convert who cites world cinema as his greatest influence. Today they share one world – a love for cinema.

Brunch: How did you meet?
Anurag: I’ve known Zoya since 1994-95 when I used to see her working in the old UTV office.
Zoya: I’ve known Anurag since I watched his first film, Paanch, around 2000-01.
Anurag: She’s been there for me through everything – break-ups, heartbreaks, depressions, films, no films…
Zoya: He was really cool as well. When Reema (Kagti) was writing Honeymoon Travels, he did the dialogues for free. He even went with her to sell the film. Later, every time I got depressed
because my film was not happening, I’d go to Anurag and then I’d feel okay.

Brunch: Both of you had to wait a while for success…
Anurag: Paanch has been ready for nine years, I think it’s releasing in June. Farhan was the first person who made sure everyone knew about the film. Then Pritish Nandy, Sudhir Mishra, Zoya and others spoke about it. That was a huge morale booster. Zoya and I have had parallel journeys of sorts. I read the early drafts of Luck By Chance and Kismat Talkies, and heard all about the stars, producers changing hands. I think waiting can be good, it teaches you so much.
Zoya: It taught me to be patient. Through the process you just have to hang in there. There is nothing else you can do.
Anurag: If Paanch had released and worked, I would have gone insane. I was a nutcase and it would have been too fast a journey. I know what I have got is after a lot of introspection, fighting and struggle, most of that fight with myself.

: How do you rate each other?
Zoya: My favourite Anurag film is Black Friday. It was interesting to watch a movie without a main protagonist which held you from start to finish. I loved the treatment, chase sequence – everything.
Anurag: My favourite movie of the year is Luck by Chance. Nobody ever got that insight into the film industry right. My favourite performance is Rishi Kapoor’s and I still crack up when someone says ‘God bless’. I loved the title sequence – it’s the best I have seen in the longest time, and the use of special appearances.
And the way you handled Konkona’s character was beautiful. You see her as an individual. You don’t know for certain whether she’s sleeping with the producer, but that is not essential to the movie. Even at the end you are non-judgmental about that woman’s character. And that is something I struggle with. That is the kind of woman I like, respect and would want in my movies, but what often happens is that they become something else, like the manipulator in Gulaal.
Zoya: I like the women in Dev D and Gulaal. I thought the women in Gulaal and Paanch were more alike. I like the fact that Paro is strong and has a seriously thumping sexuality which she has no problem expressing in a Punjabi pind way. And she has an ego.

Brunch: Is Anurag self-indulgent?
Zoya: He has his moments for sure.
Anurag: I always quote Charlie Kaufman – ‘What does a filmmaker have to offer except himself?’ I have tried to fix it.

Brunch: What next?
I am writing a road movie with Reema Kagti.
Anurag: Do I have a role?
Zoya: Always.
Anurag: I am working on a thriller called Bombay Velvet – probably my most straight movie besides Black Friday. There isn’t an ounce of indulgence in it simply because of the budget. Set in ’60s Bombay, it is based on true stories and shows how Bombay changed from a city to a metropolis. My next credit will be for dialogues for Karan Johar’s production, Jihaad.

Brunch: Anurag, at one time you were angry with Karan...
Anurag: Anurag ko gussa aata tha because I felt filmmakers like Karan were in a position to do something and were not doing anything, but now they are, so why should I crib? Karan is making Wake Up Sid which is one of the most awesome scripts I have read in a long time. Plus I was the one who was wrong. I was nasty and angry and whatever my opinion, people have a right to their own choices. I admit I was wrong. I sorted it out with everybody. At that time I felt alone. People would say my films were good but no one helped me, except Farhan and Zoya. Plus I had my personal issues.

Brunch: Do star kids have it easy?
Anurag: I know for a fact Farhan didn’t use Javed Akhtar’s name when he was shopping around his first film. Aamir didn’t know the connection till later.
Zoya: There is a perk – you have access to people. If I want Aamir or Shah Rukh to do a special appearance I can meet them, but they will do it only if they like what they hear. During my seven years of waiting I met six actors for the lead but they didn’t do it.

Brunch: Filmmakers you admire...
Zoya: I don’t watch 70 per cent of Hindi films. They bore me. I watch them on DVD because I can forward them. I can only watch movies that are really good or really bad. Filmmakers I love are Martin Scorsese and Roman Polanski.
Anurag: We have a common god in Scorsese. I also like Christopher Nolan, Fateh Akin, Dibakar Banerjee, Zoya Akhtar, Imtiaz Ali, Sriram Raghavan, Shimit Amin, Nishikant Kamat and Raj Kumar Gupta.
Zoya: Ya, I like Dibakar, Imtiaz, Shimit, Mani Ratnam, Shekhar Kapur, my brother Farhan and I even like Abbas-Mustan.

Brunch: Last word?
Anurag: We have one issue with each other – pirated films. I don’t watch them but I don’t have a problem with them.
Zoya: I don’t have a problem if it’s about cinema that can’t get to you. If my film is not releasing in a village in India, I would rather they watched it pirated than not at all.
Anurag: I have a bigger problem with the original DVD of Dev D because the Moser Baer logo keeps flashing on the screen throughout.
Zoya: Oh my god!
Anurag: I am going to have it in my contract that my films will not be sold to Moser Baer.
Zoya: So many people from the industry – actors, directors – have told me they watched my movie on pirated DVDs.
Anurag: Half the film industry has seen Gulaal on pirated DVDs.
Zoya: First you do this, then you are stupid enough to tell the filmmaker! They praise me and I get flashes of strangling them. I mean, why? Call us! We’ll have a screening for you.

First Published: Apr 18, 2009 18:47 IST