Two weeks ago, when Tamil film Paradesi released in Mumbai, Anurag Kashyap’s Phantom Films distributed it. Over the past few years, the celebrated filmmaker has been constantly associated with projects from across the spectrum — irrespective of genre or language. However, the 40-year-old director and producer confesses that he’s overrated by the media. In a remarkably frank chat, he reveals why.
You were once touted as the face of indie cinema in the country...
Yaar, if I am the face of independent cinema then we’re not really independent! Yes, AKFPL (Anurag Kashyap Films Pvt Ltd) was about indie cinema but it gave way to Sikhya Entertainment and it’s funded too. I did what I did because of Guneet (Monga, co-producer). She used to run AKFPL while I just spotted people, gave ideas and laid down some ground rules. I did that by watching things and people online from my sofa. All the hard work was done by Guneet and her team.
And how do you manage the time to do so many things at once?
It’s not me alone, it’s us. And we delegate a lot. Besides, I’m not doing so many things at once. It’s just the perception. Most of our films are finished. And my time is mostly consumed by only what I direct. We discuss projects once a week or twice a month. The key is to invest in a director who knows his job. After that, he goes and makes his film. We enter the scene later when the first cut is done. And then when the movie releases, we become the mouthpiece.
Well, imagine your most favourite pastime becoming your profession, won’t you enjoy it? There is so much adrenaline with an incredibly talented young generation around. Give people their due. Media credits me a bit too much for what others have done and then they ask me how can I do so much.
And your team comprises...?
We have great setups. The real heroes of Phantom Productions are Vikramaditya Motwane (director of Udaan), Vikas Bahl (producer of Lootera) and Madhu Mantena Varma (producer of Ghajini). Vikram nurtures scripts and new talents while Vikas looks after the nitty gritties. Madhu takes care of the finances and I’m the bouncing board! Sikhya is run beautifully by Guneet and her gang of girls. Vasan Bala (director of Peddlers) and Shlok Sharma (director of Haraamkhor) have taken on the mentoring roles. When you have such great teams, it does not seem like work. There is a complete lack of insecurity.
Speaking of insecurity, you share a rather warm friendship with fellow young filmmakers. Isn’t it unusual for an industry known for its creative insecurities?
Yes today, there is a sense of camaraderie among filmmakers. We share ideas, first cuts, criticise and motivate each other. Be it Imtiaz (Ali), Zoya (Akhtar), Dibakar (Banerjee), Tishu (Tigmanshu Dhulia), Sudhir (Mishra) or Vishal (Bhardwaj), I share everything with them and they do the same with me.
What role does your wife Kalki Koechlin play in your work?
Kalki doesn’t decide what I do. She only likes to see the final film. She is a very sharp and honest critic.
How do you spend time with each other?
Yaar time kahaan hai? We try so hard to make time without cinema and work getting in between. With so many promotions last year, I almost got dumped! (Laughs) Now I am working hard to organise, stay free and I am learning.
And how do you deal with criticism?
Whenever criticism hits the nail on the head, it makes me angry because it exposes me and I am caught. Later it settles down and I accept it. However, that comes mostly from people around me and also some critics who write online. The other so-called criticism based on box-office collection is trade prediction and you just hope they give enough stars to bring people in. They help in your economic growth, not your personal growth.
Which filmmakers influence you?
Anyone with a great life story inspires me. Every good film I’ve seen has influenced me. Even a line or a great shot affects me. My cinema is that of a very impressionable filmmaker.