MUMBAI He's been called the "best film school" in India and film-maker Anurag Kashyap is living up to his name.
His co-production "Udaan" made it to the Cannes film festival in 2010. This year, three films Kashyap is associated with -- his own two-part revenge saga "Gangs of Wasseypur" and "Peddlers" (directed by Vasan Bala) -- are being screened at Cannes.
Kashyap, known for his edgy style of film-making is among the few directors giving Bollywood a new direction, choosing subjects and themes that would have been taboo a few years ago.
The 39-year-old spoke to Reuters about what it means to have his movies at Cannes, crossover cinema and why he believes in the economics of film-making.
Q: Has "Gangs of Wasseypur" turned out the way you hoped it would?
A: "It has turned out better. I was always gung-ho about the film, but since I finished writing it, lots of things have happened. There were lots of happy coincidences. Some good actors turned up, we were fortunate to capture some shots that would have otherwise cost a lot of money."
Q: Speaking of money, this is your most expensive film, isn't it?
A: "Yes it is, but it's not the most expensive film around. By industry standards, it's a small budget film -- cost a little over 20 crore (200 million) rupees, not 60 or 70 crore."
Q: You've said in the past that you are a very economical film-maker. Does that economy still work when you are making a two-part film with as large a canvas as "Gangs of Wasseypur"?
A: "Economy doesn't have anything to do with money. I am still a very economical film-maker. We are lazy, and just because we have the budget, we will try ten different things, hoping at least one will work. You don't need money to have scale. We would walk for hours every day so that we wouldn't repeat our locations or so that we could get the perfect shot (for ‘Gangs of Wasseypur'). That for me is having scale."
Q: Why make "Gangs of Wasseypur" in two parts?
A: "Because I know it's a story that will need that much time. I wanted to make the whole film and my first cut was three parts long. Thank God it's now down to two. We don't know whether both the parts will release together, but we are showing both parts at Cannes."
Q: There are three movies you are associated with which are being screened at this year's Cannes film festival. What does it mean for you?
A: "It means a lot. A lot. Already the kind of response we are getting from international buyers is exceptional. There is a lot of buzz being created around these films and that will really help them. Cannes is a very prestigious festival. Also, now I know how this works. Now I make sure that as many people watch it. My films have been to other festivals before and I once had a representative from Cannes asking me why I didn't bring to Cannes. I told him I had, but he hadn't seen it. They get so many films, that it's not possible to watch all of them. Once your film has been watched, you have a chance. Now, I don't mind running with the print and walking up to every single person and asking them to watch my film."
Q: Isn't it ironic that a movie like "Peddlers" would get a great response abroad, but wouldn't find any takers in India? Is there a disconnect in terms of the way studios here think?
A: "I wouldn't say disconnect, at least in terms of ‘Peddlers', because that was a movie even I wasn't sure about. I thought it was too early to make the film and the director wanted to work at the film like you would work at theatre. So I can understand a studio not buying it.
"But yes, I wish someone had got up and produced ‘Udaan'. That was a movie that I had to go around asking for money for because no one wanted to take a chance. There's no disconnect, but studios have their own mandate and that mandate is dictated by shareholders. Also, we are very limited in the way we think. $50 million is our highest box office yet, for ‘3 Idiots'. We think of the Indian diaspora, but not the world beyond that."
Q: Do you really think Indian cinema can come up with themes which will resonate worldwide?
A: "There is more to Indian cinema than just Bollywood. I think regional cinema, especially Tamil and Marathi cinema are exploring some really bold themes. I was inspired to make ‘Gangs of Wasseypur' because of the work of the Madurai trio (Directors Ameer Sultan, Vetrimaran and Bala). So there are a lot of themes, but these people don't know how to sell themselves. Outside of India, how many people are aware of Marathi and Tamil cinema. Especially down south, we only find out about a film after it's been released."
Q: Does a film going to a prestigious festival like Cannes do anything for it back in India? Does it help?
A: "Not at all. People don't even know what Cannes is."