Anurag Kashyap: The present political situation frightens the filmmaker in me
A conversation with Anurag Kashyap, and actor Sobhita Dhulipala, as they discuss their recent Netflix collaboration, Ghost Stories
During the promotions of Ghost Stories, Anurag Kashyap had called his segment, Bird, the most satisfying work he has ever done. It seems like a bit of an overstatement, given his impressive body of work. He emphasises that none of his previous films have made him feel as content. "My films so far have been 95 - 99 per cent complete. I've never been able to do complete justice to my initial vision. For the first time, when doing Bird, I had full liberty to translate my ideas on to the screen." He does share that he was skeptical initially, on account of the intensity of the film and the technicalities involved. "The usage of VFX and prosthetics was new and I was a bit afraid whether I would be able to get the mood of the film right. But in the end, the output we got was just what we wanted it to be."
He is no stranger to horror, given he’s done films about the horror people can sometimes cause. What made him take to this genre though? "The fact that I haven't done it,” he says. “I have always wanted to explore something that affects people on a personal level. Isha Luthra's story was more of psychological horror, which involved few dialogues and it presented me a challenge to present everything visually.”
Much like Anurag’s, the work of Sobhita Dhulipala so far has been quite serious. Ask her if these stories take a toll on her and she denies immediately. "My characters are conflicted people, but I find them to be normal. Each of us is conflicted. In fact, I would say that crisis feels comforting to me."
Anurag has predominately worked with the same crew in all his films. He feels it helps him bring out the best version of the story. "There is a great understanding among us and my team acts as my bounce board. They keep throwing ideas at me. For instance, when I wanted a script for Ghost Stories, I was able to find one within my team." He also credits his team for letting him be experimental. "Whatever I am is not just because of my effort. My entire crew keeps looking out for new challenges and all of us have an undying urge to keep asking us the question, 'What should I do next?' This keeps us motivated."
Does Sobhita feel that her highly experimental performances in OTT platforms like Made in Heaven and Ghost Stories will benefit her cinema career? "I don't see OTT as a stepping stone. I am a confident actor who can act in any language, any medium and any part of the world. Stories and the behaviour of people in those excite me. I am curious to learn why people do what they do." She adds that she has never been interested in the commerce behind cinema. "What happens to the film after the film is beyond my control and I am definitely not one to be interested in trade. I stick to the creative side." Ghost Stories is her second outing with Anurag after her debut, Raman Raghav 2.0. This time, she says, she was less afraid. "I had never faced the camera before when shooting for Raman Raghav 2.0. I was surrounded by people who were serious about their jobs and it got to me. But this time, I felt free to be wrong. In fact, I look forward to being proved wrong on Anurag’s sets."
Any interview with Anurag would be half-complete without talking about his fearlessness in expressing political views. "The present political situation affects me a lot. That's the reason I decided to come back to Twitter. It felt wrong to be silent when students were fighting for me and my nation, and not many celebrities were speaking up against the cruelty. This disturbed me. It is scary. Many, including me, were wondering how bad this government could get. I never thought the day was this close." He adds that in such a political scenario, the rights of filmmakers are curbed. “It would be close to impossible to make a film now to create the right kind of political awareness. Even if we do so, I don't think it will be allowed to get released."