'Touching 100 hearts is better than touching Rs 100 crore'
'Barfi!' director Anurag Basu on his formula for success and being part of Bollywood's golden era
Finding flaws in one’s film is a critic’s job but then, Anurag Basu is too harsh on himself. Even the overwhelming success of Barfi! can’t distract him from “old habits”. The filmmaker seems more comfortable with criticism than with accolades as he believes there is no such thing as a ‘perfect’ movie. The director who started his career with the small screen has no qualms in calling his previous directorial venture a debacle. At the same time, he feels that his latest film is his new benchmark.
Is this film a homage to Chaplin and French cinema?
I’ve believed that too for a long time now! So many people inspire you as a filmmaker. I come from a different era of cinema but I’m not really a fan-fan of silent or European cinema, per se. You borrow things but try to create an onscreen richness that speaks for itself.
What’s the biggest challenge in making a colourful film like Barfi!?
It would be writing a screenplay because it is low on dialogues and high on imagery. And there are various relationships with every character clearly defined. Simplicity had to be the essence since there are so many chronological sub-plots that could have complicated the flow.
How do you rate Ranbir Kapoor?
I think that he’s the finest actor of his generation. What intrigues me about him is that he doesn’t even know how brilliant he is. In a way, it’s working for him because this self-doubt makes him push himself harder.
What is your general view on the contemporary Hindi cinema?
We are definitely moving in the right direction. I don’t want to sound prophetic but I’d say that 20 years down the line, we’ll look back and claim that this was the golden era of Hindi cinema.
Filmmakers are coming up with never-tried-before ideas and they are being welcomed by risk-friendly producers. We’ve come to accept that there are all kinds of audiences and it’s difficult to please each one of them. I consider it my personal failure — not my audience’s — if my films fail to entertain them. To me, touching 100 hearts is better than touching R 100 crore.
Who were your role models while growing up?
I come from Bhilai, a small town in present-day Chattisgarh so I didn’t have the privilege to watch all the classics. I can count on my fingers the number of films I watched as a young boy and those few filmmakers have stayed with me to this day.