Posts Tagged ‘anurag kashyap’

Anurag Kashyap’s Top 10 Films Of 2015

Posted: January 1, 2016 by moifightclub in Year end special
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anurag kashyapAnurag Kashyap was championing films of other directors much before bolly celebs took to twitter to blindly endorse any film which has been made by their family, friends or fraternity. And it killed the ‘championing’ bit completely. Everyone says good things about every film on twitter, completely defeating the purpose, and making it look like a PR exercise.

On his Facebook, Kashyap has posted the list of his Top 10 films of the year. Technically, it’s 15 films in total.

And it comes with a caveat of what all he has not seen yet.

2015 the indian films that I liked , cried , laughed, was moved by and impacted by. Unfortunately I did not see Killa The Film .. Avinash Arun pls forgive me. And yet to see Bajirao Mastaani and Angry Indian Godesses (which I will wait for a DVD from abroad for an uncut version) and haven’t yet seen Chauthi Koot despite of the film lying on my table. And I am waiting for DVD of Talvar as I was shooting when it released. Not that it matters, but as a filmmaker I feel so challenged by all of them and today is actually the best time to be a filmmaker in India with so much inspiration around.

1. Visaaranai
2. Titli
3. THITHI / Court/ MASAAN / Piku
4. Hunterr
5. Badlapur / NH10
6. Tamasha
7. Bahubali/ Bajrangi Bhaijaan
8. Margarita with a Straw
9. Dil Dhadakne Do
10. TWM returns

Many internationally renowned filmmakers do put out their Top 10 list. Steven Soderbergh puts out the complete list of what all he has seen and read. His 2014 list of films, tv shows, books and plays is here. If you have come across more such lists, do add in the comments section below.

It’s one of the most awaited films of the year. And in an interesting promotional strategy, the makers of ‘Titli’ have roped in Anurag Kashyap to introduce the cast and crew of the film. The first video has Kashyap and Dibakar taking about the state of our films, their careers, and producing films. In the second video, Kanu joins them. And then the cast and crew talk about making the film in different videos. Do watch.

 

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A bunch of festival news about Indian films from across the world.

Busan International Film Festival will open with Mozez Singh’s debut feature, Zubaan this year. The film has Vicky Kaushal, Sarah Jane Dias, Manish Chaudhary, Meghna Malik and Raaghav Chanana in lead roles. For more details about the film, click here.

Aprt from Zubaan, Busan will also have a bunch of Indian films in various categories. In its ‘A Window On Asian Cinema’ section, there is Meghna Gulzar’s Guilty (Talvar), Hansal Mehta’s Aligarh, Bhaskar Hazarika’s Kothanodi, Biju Viswanath’s Orange Candy, Mani Ratnam’s O Kadhal Kanmani, Neeraj Ghaywan’s Masaan, and Suman Ghosh’s Peace Heaven.

The “New Currents” section has Hari Viswanath’s Radio Set and the “Cinekids’ section will screen Nagesh Kukunoor’s Rainbow (Dhanak). The fest also has few Indian films in docu and shorts categories. The festival will run from 1-10th October, 2015.

Also, Filmmaker Anurag Kashyap is on the Jury for “New Currents” section of the fest.

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Toronto International Film Festival has few more Indian titles to their 2015 edition. Apart from Meghna Gulzar’s Guilty (Talvar) and Leena Yadav’s Parched, it also has Pan Nalin’s Angry Indian Goddesses in the same ‘Special Presentations’ section. The film stars Tannishtha Chatterjee, Sandhya Mridul, Sarah Jane Dias, Pavleen Gujral, Anushka Manchanda, Rajshri Deshpande and Amrit Maghera

Here’s a short description of the film from the fest site – On the eve of their friend’s wedding in Goa, a group of women discuss everything under the sun — from their careers, sex lives, and secrets to nosy neighbours and street harassment — in this largely improvised and refreshingly frank depiction of contemporary Indian society from award-winning director Pan Nalin.

TIFF will also screen Shambhavi Kaul’s Fallen Objects, Shai Heredia & Shumona Goel’s An Old Dog’s Diary in “Wavelenths” section, and Megha Ramaswamy’s Bunny in “Short Cut” section.

Call For Entries

We all know that Mumbai Film Festival struggled with sponsorship last year. But it also managed to get the best desi films in recent years – with Court winning the International Competition, and Chauranga and Killa making mark in Indian categories. The International Competitive section for debut features always attract good films because of the big prize money it has.

So if you made a film, what are you waiting for. Mumbai Film Festival is waiting for it.

Click here to go to the official website of the festival, get all the details and submit your entries.

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New Logo/Title Sponsor

MAMI also recently unveiled its new logo – a dash of red all over. And the best part is it has got Reliance Jio as title sponsor for the next 5 years. Great! One big hurdle cleared. Now get us the best films!

New Board

The festival has a new board in place now. Film critic and author Anupama Chopra is the new Festival Director and filmmaker Kiran Rao is the new chairperson. Karan Johar, Siddharth Roy Kapoor, Ajay Bijli, Manish Mundra are on board too and were present during the unveiling of the new logo. Anurag Kashyap, Farhan Akhtar, Vikramaditya Motwane, Riteish Deshmukh, Deepika Padukone and Anand Mahindra are also associated with the fest.

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The fest will run from 29th October to 5th November this year.

Bombay Velvet: A Dissection Of Its Allusions

Posted: May 17, 2015 by moifightclub in cinema
Tags: ,

It’s all deja vu here. Because Anurag Kashyap is not new to backlash. That Girl In Yellow Boots is not very old. And before that there was No Smoking. And these are part and parcel of the game – when you don’t want to be calculative about “what would audience like”, but try something new, package it with shiny things, and hope that they will come to your side. Sometimes they will, maybe they wont. The hullabaloo seems to be more this time because of a mainstream big actor and the budget. But when do they matter when you are watching a film as genuine film buff.

Keeping all those things aside, here is Arnab Sarkar trying to dissect Bombay Velvet.

Cinema is like a battleground: love, hate, action, violence, death. In one word, emotion.”

That is the reply Samuel Fuller, portrayed as an American director himself, gives in one famous scene of Godard’s Pierrot le Fou, when asked about the meaning of cinema.

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Being a critic of Cahiers du Cinema, Godard believed the very purpose of cinema, was to make the audience think, to introspect. So when he couldn’t tolerate it further, he went on to make movies, which were in a way thought-provoking, which catered to his instincts. These films, through which he hinted towards cinema, politics, America and wars, were heavily booed by the masses; each time one released, and they were tagged as nonsense.

Few years later, that same auteur would be hailed as one of the most influential movie-makers of all time, and his styles would be adopted and praised world over.

A Kashyap film has hidden layers in its stories. His earlier films No Smoking, Paanch, Gulaal had subtexts too, which were very beautifully disguised inside the outer skin of the script. Recently, a song ‘Taar bijli se patle humaare piya’ from his film Gangs Of Wasseypur was finally dissected on a social platform, to hint at such a subtext about the politics of India.

So while, the whole nation was busy criticising his recent release Bombay Velvet and leaving no stones unturned to make it a huge box-office failure, I interrogated myself: Can Kashyap do this to himself? Or is he simply playing with us?

The film which externally looks as the simplified love-story of Johnny Balraj and Rosie Noronha against the enmity between the media moguls Khambata and Mistry over the politics of Bombay is actually a film-study that points us to myriad conclusions.

The Roaring Twenties

Yes, this James Cagney-starrer movie is referred to, quite at the beginning of Bombay Velvet, as an element of foreshadowing in the script through the line ‘He used to be a Big-Shot.’ But, very few know that The Roaring Twenties, per se, was actually a golden era in the United States and Europe, which had witnessed tremendous development from economic and cultural point of view.

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During that glorious decade, America witnessed a change in its lifestyle post-World War I. Real-estate boomed, skyscrapers built and huge businesses were invested in. That was also the time when labour unions disintegrated due to the rising power of the politicians and employers. Number of strikes dwindled, and the poor became poorer. The fact how Khambata tries to change the face of Bombay post-Independence is a direct reference to this history of America.

Also, it was the same time when American government imposed its Prohibition Act on alcohol, and which led to the rise of ‘speakeasies’(cover-up bars selling illegal liquor) all over America. It was a huge money spinner, and many tycoons invested in that. For here in our film, Bombay Velvet is that very ‘speakeasy’ that is being referred to in the face of prohibition put up by the state.

At a time when the American culture was going through such changes, jazz was introduced for the first time along with dance forms like waltz, foxtrot, which has again been highlighted in the film from Bombay’s perspective.

Homosexuality was getting accepted, and people had started coming out, baring their desires out in open. Now, we know that typical gait, those subtle hints which Khambata gives to Johnny, were essentially, pokes by Kashyap at our numb consciousness.

Khambata’s wife was the perfect description of how females had started realizing their sexual freedom during the 1920s in America. They were not anymore confined to inside their homes. Wide kohl-rimmed eyes, new hair styles, freedom to drink and smoke were the trademarks.

Lastly, the newly found organized crime and gangsters flooded the cities of America, as they were hired by powerful people to get their work done. That led to rise in murders during that period, and thus a drastic enforcement of law and order on the streets. The emergence of Balraj, as a gangster is again an allusion to that episode.

There is one scene in the movie, when Khambata walks out of his room and secretly sniggers at Balraj’s naiveté. It is epic, and I so wish to wonder it’s actually Kashyap sneering at those who didn’t get his references. The film itself is a mock on clichéd cinema.

Bombay Velvet might be a tribute to Scorsese, De Palma, Tarantino for its styles, but it is a bigger tribute to America. In one of the scenes, where Mistry calls Khambata an ‘American agent’, Kashyap just throws it directly at your face to grab it.

The movie may have been based on Gyan Prakash’s Mumbai Fables, but here the rise of contemporary Mumbai has been compared to America.

Godard here?

This method of bringing out important issues about politics, cultures is quite pro-Godard. But the important thing to note here is the limited indulgence of the characters, like in the films of the New Wave auteur. Just before they are making the connections with you, they snap out of it. You do not get deeply involved into their emotions. It remains superficial, like Ferdinand and Marianne, in Pierrot le Fou.

And yet, for the masses, for those who don’t wish to go deep, Bombay Velvet has: Love, Hate, Action, Violence and Death. A perfect cliché-filled cinema.

Parallels to Kashyap in Bollywood

I know this may sound silly, but here I see Balraj as Kashyap’s alter-ego. His entry into Bollywood with nothing to lose, working up his way through the street noir (indies), laughing at his own (street fight) failures, fighting against the system, just to be a Big-Shot one day in the industry, until the industry smothers him.

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But, he still sees a hope that the ones who knew him well, whom he gave a platform to grow and spread their talent, would look up to him and exclaim that he was indeed a Big-Shot!

With that, I rest my views here. Only Anurag Kashyap can tell if these were a bit valid.

Arnab Sarkar

(Doctor during day time, and aspiring filmmaker during night, Arnab loves films more than medicines. Settled in Vadodara, he is currently studying for post-graduation)

(PS – Click here to read Anurag’s latest FB post and closing remark on the film and its making)

Fatema Kagalwala dives into the music of Bombay Velvet and comes out mighty impressed. In fact, it seems like she doesn’t want to come out of it. Read on.

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Disclaimer – This is not a music review. Just rambles. Just my experience of it.

Back in 2009 when Dev D music hit the market it hit me (and many of us) like a thunderbolt. I drew everyone around mad by listening to it like my life (and theirs) depended on it. The things it did to me, the things it evoked, the things it made me want to do – it was these unexplainable things that make the album unforgettable to me even today. And now it’s Bombay Velvet songs that are doing unthinkable things to me. Maybe its just me, but I thought it warranted an un-review, its too good for anything else.

I’ve been listening to Bombay Velvet songs, on loop since it came out. At first, I couldn’t differentiate one song from another except maybe Sylvia and Darbaan and the remaining 12 merged into one another like milk and water. Give it all to my complete ignorance of the jazz music harmony but I’ve never been the one to listen to music with anything but my heart. I connected to hard rock the same way, till date I don’t know anything about yet I love it because it speaks to me in ways nothing else does and I respond like I never knew I could. Bombay Velvet’s retro-jazz does something similar to me.

Is it the haunting darkness of it? The style, the retro-style which is very modern at the same time. Or the upbeatness of the track covering up the darkness? Every song reminds me of a lot of things, songs, references but when I try to pick one I can’t. The song suddenly gains a credential, an identity of its own. Which is when I realise how homogenous is Trivedi’s mixing of a multitude of elements, moods, strains into something with its own uniqueness.

It’s an album that is a visceral experience of ethos of the 60’s Mumbai, steeped in its still predominant Anglo-Indian culture that continued to give shape to the idiom of modernity in society and our films of those times. We may also call it neo-colonialism. And there are three things that when combined have created magic in the past as well. The resident Kashyap quirk, dystopia and desperation. The typical Trivedi touch of using prevalent sounds in new ways and hence fucking up mainstream music once again. And the staple Bhattacharya habit of taking us to newer worlds within amidst the commonest of commonalities.

Darbaan – Papon’s honey-soaked voice over uncluttered, single or two instruments only music track. Love the way the words melt into each other.

Baadshah sadko ka tu, sadke hi teri taqdeer hain,

daakhila oonche makaanon mein kuchh thekedaaron ki jaageer hain.”

Somehow, this refuses to leave me. It touches a little more, just a little than how much it is meant to and I am wondering if it’s the Papon-effect or the words or the sweeping, swaying nature of the tune. It’s got the ‘Hain apna dil toh awara’ abandon, the gypsy-fakir tone but with a disheartened voice. Also, it seems like it’s a 3rd person pov, commenting on the protagonist or the Everyman as we may want to see it, and that gives it one of those singing fakir kinda moods, which is what I love.

In the seductive and tempting mode, a male version of this is super interesting, such moral kind of songs are generally sung by women in films – the upholder of all things virtuous.

The Bombay Velvet Theme – Rarely do I listen to themes, I enjoy them while watching the film but hardly ever take them back home. Except the BV theme. I’ve been imagining Amitabh type swashbuckling fights over it, Humphrey Bogart-Cary Grant type chase sequences, Baz Luhrman type grand bars and ballrooms with a sweep of darkness, intrigue and debauchery. It’s what film theme music used to be back in the 60’s thrillers. Grand, sweeping, moody, dark. It literally takes me back to the 60’s, without any help of visuals. And I am already loving what it is making me expect from the film which I shouldn’t be doing. Let’s stop here.

P.S.: Take a bike ride while listening to it, Especially ghats. You won’t regret it.

Aam Hindustani – I was tickled no end when I first heard this –

“Roothi hain mehbooba, roothi roothi sharab hain,

Aam Hindustani teri kismet kharaab hain!”

*insert rolling on the floor and laughing my ass off smiley here*

Oh but it doesn’t end there!

Pyaar mein thenga, bar mein thenga,

Inki botal bhi goronki gulaam hain’.

Whoa! And I love the slightly scathing tone Shefali Alvares has sung it in. Of course, what else would do justice to this! But I’m thinking about the very idea of having a scathing song at all to mock the guy. Back in the 50’s and 60’s our filmy women, even in bars, only sang encouraging songs (Tadbeer se bigdi hui) or teasing ones (Babuji Dheere Chalna) to the man. Interesting subversion I really wanna know more about from the film.

Circus music! I laughed when I read this description of the unconventionally long prelude. Coz by then I had already started tripping on the soundtrack ‘like crazy’. The waltzy-jive feel is too good to ignore, feet begin tapping on their own. And then follows a sweet la la la and bang! There is that Trivedi whiplash – it is followed with a curt, snide ‘Dhobi ka kutta kaisa ghaat na gharka!’ in Shefali Alvares’ boisterous and refreshingly uninhibited vocals and you’re like ‘whaaaaa…’? . This is Bhattacharya in ‘paan mein pudhina’ zone 😛 full on quirk!

“Lalach ne tujhko aisi patti padhayi

Khwahish huyi hain degchi, khadai

Taqdeer teri abhi bhi chamach hain!”

In lesser hands this would have become ‘tujhko mirchi lagi toh main kya karoon’.

There are so many turns of the tune, dramatic ones that I wonder how the song has been used / picturised. Hide-n-seek, chase, robbery, in bits, in parts, in whole? Phew!

Behroopia – Of shadows, of doubts, of lies and half-hidden truths, mysteries and the subtle threat of it all…This is the wine of the album for me. Classy, seductive, romantic, moody, dark, a slow high. The fabulous trumpet giving way to almost minimalist vocals and that giving way to a full-blown orchestra is a transition I can’t get over right now. Between this, Darbaan and Sylvia what would I choose as the best? I’m still trying to figure out. And after Rockstar, in my imagination, Mohit Chauhan is to Ranbeer what Balasubraniam was to Salman at one point 😛

Dhadaam Dhadaam – This one is ‘Duniya’ level good. The operatic touch gives it that grandness of lost passions, a passion critical and deadly at the same time. Throughout the album Bhattacharya uses words we used to use in cinema back in time, but don’t anymore like ‘malaal’, ‘sehra’, ‘gila’, ‘daga’, (the Urdu influence fast disappearing from our films and lives today but immersive back then). This infuses a refreshing old-world-ness to the song only to be taken down with a dhadaam, literally! Someone, once said, everything that had to be discovered has been discovered, now we just create newer meanings and expressions by playing around with those discoveries. And AB puts a very quirky and unpoetic ‘Dhadaam’ bang in the middle of light and beautiful Urdu. The effect.

Ka Kha Ga – The fabulous trumpet makes an appearance again, with a band taking over. And then a seductive, drunk ‘Ay’. Geeta Dutt would have been so happy! This one I love singing! And I do, chilla chillake. (The corridors at Girls Hostel echo, all the more joy :P)

Naak Pe Gussa – Here’s my ‘Tadbeerse Bigdi Hui’ but as modern as it could get! Bhattacharya’s choice of words is so mellifluous, it’s a delicious thing to keep listening to. Teasing, warm, naughty, and one of those rare happy songs in the album. And it sounds like it has been literally sung with a smile on! (Like one feels about Ashatai’s songs!)

Sylvia – This is the true-blue retro song of the album, lovingly and truthfully recreating the O.P Nayyar-verse.

“Bhavra tha sayana, mukar hi gaya na,

Rusvayi reh gayi, (Oh ‘rusvayi’!)

Ghosla suhana, ujad hi gaya na,

Tanhai reh gayi

Tanhai…

Aankh ke surme ko daag banaya,

Kaanch ke aashiyan ko phook jalaya

Fitrat mein hi thi bewafai

Tu pyaar pe tohmat chhod gayi

Yeh kya kiya Sylvia !”

Rusvayi, aashiyaan, fitrat, tohmat haye!

Mohabbat Buri Beemaari – I’m not much of a fan of this, something is very laboured about it…something isn’t right and I can’t put my finger on it yet. I’ve simply stopped listening to it.

<detour> (Sylvia is playing right now. And yet again I am giving myself up to it. My first favourite of the album, its retro-ness calling out to those long-lost childhood memories. Growing up on O.P.Nayyar in a family that hailed him as a path-breaking musician when he was somewhat of an outcast in the mainstream more Indian-classical-is-music-alone world, the quality of his songs and sounds make me smile even today.(really wanna know if it’s a conscious hat-tip). There is something searing in the rendition and the use of march rhythmic chorus to underline that entire effect wanting to overpower…well, succeeded there!)

Shut Up – Drum rolls!!! Drum beats now, foot-tapping, jubilant trumpets and others follow. All upbeat and celebratory. And when things are about to settle down, Trivedi throws a spanner in the works. And then the song starts. Then you realise the effect this juxtaposition has on the expectation of the opening and the surprise in what follows.

Aisi kya, aisi kya, aisi kya bhookh hain…The first time I heard this I tripped on how the use of repetition fits in so beautifully! And lately I’ve been noticing how ‘harqatein’ almost sounds like ‘harqutein’ and suddenly it gains more quirk. Remember ‘sufed’?

And the merging of light, lilting, Urdu words with a crude ‘Shut Up!’ Why isn’t this today’s ‘Emotional Atyachaar’ of the youth yet?

Conspiracy – ‘Conspiracy’ is so well-named! And Trivedi plays with extremes once again, kabhi silent, kabhi ceiling-crashing, extremes – tempo mein, scale mein, aur emotion mein. Leaves me a little breathless every time I listen to it. And I love that feeling of anticipation as the music keeps picking up scale only to peter out, without any fulfilment, without any answers…letting a dullness set in that’s ‘safer’.

Out of 15 tracks, 12 are with vocals. Out of the 12, 11 are romantic songs. Only one is about the overarching ambitions of the protagonist, the central conceit of the film. Let’s see how the film treats the music and vice-versa.

For now, let the trumpets and trombones lull me to sleep, like they are used to by now. I wonder which one of these I will wake up singing tomorrow morning! Will let you know 🙂

Danis Tanovic’s desi film Tigers starring Emraan Hashmi will have its world premiere at Toronto International Film Festival this year. Synopsis, cast & crew, and other details of the film is out.

Film

Director: Danis Tanovic
Country: India/France/United Kingdom
Year: 2014
Language: Hindi/English/Urdu/German
Premiere Status: World Premiere
Runtime: 90 minutes
Rating: 14A

Synopsis (from TIFF)

Devastated when he discovers the effects of the infant formula he’s peddling, a young salesman challenges the system and the powers that be, in this based-on-fact drama from Academy Award-winning director Danis Tanovic (No Man’s Land).

Multinationals’ activities in the developing world come under harsh scrutiny in Danis Tanovic’s hard-hitting new drama Tigers. No stranger to controversy, the Academy Award-winning director is unafraid to stick his nose into contentious subject matter. Here, he explores Pakistan’s fascination with Western drugs, basing his film on a true story — its real-life protagonist lives in Toronto — involving a corporation aggressively trying to increase its market share through the sale of baby formula to new mothers.

Ayan (Emraan Hashmi) is a young, recently married salesman who gets a job peddling locally made drugs to pharmacies and doctors. Despite the fact that the Pakistani-manufactured pharmaceuticals he sells are much cheaper than those sold by Western competitors, no one will trust or buy products that lack major brand names. His wife encourages him to apply for a job with Lasta, a large multinational, and Ayan is hired on a trial basis. It’s not long before his natural charm and knack for glad-handing make him into a minor star, and Lasta expands his responsibilities. However, one day he is devastated to see first-hand what the selling of baby formula really means in certain cases. Shocked, Ayan sets out to challenge the system and the powers that be.

In a neat piece of narrative structuring on Tanovic’s part, this David-and-Goliath story is told partially through the eyes of a film crew making a documentary on Ayan’s astonishing findings. But the power of Tigers lies in his willingness to push his film out onto the streets of Pakistan and into the face of a system where narrow interests prevail, and an honest man doing the right thing is castigated and threatened, and finally sees his life endangered.

Cast & Crew

Executive Producer: Karen Tenkhoff, Michael Weber, Praveen Hashmi, Achin Jain
Producer: Prashita Chaudhary, Kshitij Chaudhary, Guneet Monga, Anurag Kashyap, Cedomir Kolar, Marc Baschet, Andy Paterson, Cat Villiers
Production Company: Cinemorphic Pvt Ltd, Sikhya Entertainment Pvt Ltd, A.S.A.P. Films
Principal Cast: Emraan Hashmi, Geetanjali, Danny Huston, Khalid Abdalla, Adil Hussain, Maryam D’Abo, Satyadeep Misra, Heino Ferch, Sam Reid, Supriya Pathak, Vinod Nagpal
Screenplay: Danis Tanovic, Andy Paterson
Cinematographer: Erol Zubcevic
Editor: Prerna Saigal
Sound: Anthony B J Ruban
Music: Pritam
Production Designer: Rachna Rastogi, K.K Muralidharan

Danis Tanovic was born in Zenica, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and attended l’Institut National Supérieur des Arts du Spectacle in Brussels. His feature films include No Man’s Land (01), which won Best Screenplay at Cannes and the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film; L’enfer (05) and Triage (09), both of which premiered at the Festival; and An Episode in the Life of an Iron Picker (13), which screened at the Festival and won the Silver Bear at Berlin. Tigers (14) is his latest film.

anurag--300x300Dear All,

When I am not making movies – which is thankfully rarely – my favourite pastime is to get fundamentally quoted without the context. Blame the lack of space in newspapers today with all those advertisements accounting for most of it. It helps to keep our conversation going, you see. And it has happened again. My whole conversation has been reduced to one line that’s being knocked around, “rape is a bad accident says anurag kashyap”

Fun though it is, I think it’s time I speak for myself and not let some out-of-context quote in a paper, or an edited version of a half-an-hour conversation do the talking.

Sitting here in Karlovy Vary I have been inundated with texts and mails about an interview of mine, that has of course, as always, been completely misread.  It does not help that a long conversation has been reduced to a paragraph, but credit to the writer that he does mention that the now-controversial paragraph is the point of view of a woman and not my own.

The reactions on various social platforms do prove that in anger the opinionists also turn blind, and they actually read what they want to, so that they can rage over it, rather than seeing it and arguing healthily over it.

I don’t mean to spoil the rage party, but let me try to bring some context here.

Recently, I was in conversation with a woman, who quoted an old article she had read in The Times of India oped page, years ago.  That article profiled a courageous rape survivor, a European woman living in India, who after being gang raped, actually fought for a fair trial for her rapists and a lighter sentence. She strongly protested any baying for blood or vengeful mindset. She was in fact ridiculed and vilified for standing up for justice for her own rapists. When asked why she did it – she said that she would treat the trauma of her rape the same way she would treat the trauma of being in a terrible car crash. She would try to heal from it, she would want the irresponsible perpetrators punished, but she would not allow the crime to gain greater significance than she felt it was due. Any greater assignment of meaning to her own rape would be to give in to a male view of the female gender. She also believed that her identity and her dignity did not reside between her legs, but between her ears.

The woman friend of mine who told me about this case, also mentioned that this article made her rethink the concepts of honour, izzat,  dignity and personal identity, for years to come.

What was read as my comment or statement in the HINDU were actually “questions” raised by the survivor, which were then subsequently narrated to me by another woman and by me to Sudhish Kamat who writes it like it is but not all of it, which by now is attributed to me as my quote. Those questions stayed with me and bothered me, and made me question things, because I felt that there was a certain truth to them.

I am not so good at articulation without my camera, but let me try and elucidate the point my female friend was making: No woman invites rape, rape is never ever the woman’s fault, and no woman would chose it – if the choice was a viable one. But in a situation where the choice is between life and rape, a woman might just choose the latter. If her choice is ‘life’, why is that very life taken away from her, once she is raped? Why is she called stuff like ‘zindaa laash’ and why does the entire focus shift to ‘honour’ rather than to ‘healing’? To ‘punishment’ rather than to ‘rehabilitation’? When does the male gaze take over, such that even the extent of the victim’s physical and mental bruising is decided for her by others?

Why is she never granted the quiet she so sorely needs? She is frequently dragged out by the social worker to narrate her story again and again, she relives the trauma again and again, she is used to make a point. should that not be a choice. the choice of the survivor.

The woman who told me this story also said that she often puts a very difficult binary choice to her female friends: Such as: burnt alive, or rape? Dismembered, or rape? Acid attack, or rape? Horrible though it sounds, when given a choice like this, many women went quiet. The horror of rape, when pitted against other ghastly horrors, acquired a perspective. Not that of being ‘fine’ or ‘acceptable’ but often, of the lesser evil – if other brutalities or violence was not involved.

Does this mean any of us is trivializing rape here? Far from it. It is a violent, traumatic, battering, violating experience. All I want to say is that let us not add male notions of honour and purity to it. That is like adding insult to the injury.

The point is about not having a choice. When one is raped, there often is no choice. When one has the option of fight or flight one uses it but often neither option is available. It is the same in a bad accident. You do not have a choice but you go through the brutality .

However, what happens afterward is telling. When in a bad accident, the victim goes to the doctor or a hospital, tries to recuperate, allows oneself to heal, the victim is rehabilitated or allowed to rehabilitate.

And the one who causes the accident is punished.

My distress with our social network-ists is that they assume they understand rape simply because they are women. Rape is not that easily understood and it is not a gender’s prerogative to do so.

In this world men are raped too and more so in our society, in this part of the world. I am also a victim of rape and I have healed a lot more than most because the world was not fussing over me.

Suddenly there is a new term being thrown around, VAW (violence against women) well, coming to VAW, VAW is not the same as rape, VAW includes rape but rape has a much broader bracket that includes the other gender too and also the one we most often don’t consider a gender, the transgenders, who are the biggest victims of the said crime..How I look at Violence? You can’t wish it away, laws will not and can’t control it, it has existed since the mankind has existed, violence against animals, violence against humanity, all kinds of violence exists and will continue to as long as people are not equal. as long as two people will have different strengths and ability, there will always be a power struggle and there will be violence. The weak will always be violated by the strong and it is not gender specific. You can police it. regulate it .. there is violence in sport but is regulated. the perpetrator is always shown a yellow card, then a red card and then is barred from the field and if he/she continues, is banned from the game for life. Only physical assault does not constitute violence, emotional blackmail is also violence, mind games are also violations, misusing nirbhaya laws is also violence and rise in that VIOLENCE AGAINST MEN since those laws have been constituted, was even commented on by the Supreme court just last week. Every solution will create a new problem. anyway i am digressing here..its a never-ending discourse.

If I had to discuss or argue about rape, I would much rather do so with the victims and survivors than with a feminist.Why? Because I get a strong feeling that the Indian feminist is very hard to talk to, because he/she doesn’t listen. He/She has a fully formed opinion etched in stone and will give no space to accommodate any other point of view.

Indian feminists start with the agenda already defined, and hence there is no room for any other opinion or position. Feminists are always eager to adopt any woman with a strong voice as their own. We saw our film “Queen” being immediately adopted by them as a feminist film. Let me say here that neither is Vikas Bahl a feminist, nor am I, and we both love and respect women as we do men: as people, as human beings. Isn’t that the way it should be?

Queen was not intended to be a feminist film, it was the love and respect for this human being and her story that came through, the film was not pro woman or anti men. It was a story of a girl finding her own self and how she does it on her terms.

I know a lot of women who the feminists project as their own and these women hate it, they hate it because they don’t see themselves that way but don’t say it out loud because they are mortally afraid of offending the feminists. The fear that the feminists inculcate even in women is especially peculiar.

Next. coming to my short film – well everything we do is not always a statement. The purpose of the film was not to offer a solution but to tell a story. I made a deal where I was obligated to do a short film for the platform it provided to five other young filmmakers around me who I think deserve more and so that they can showcase what they are capable of.  They made their shorts and the time came to do mine, we were running out of time, I was already late by a month. We were to do a short film and I had two days and the script was chosen from a bunch of scripts and purpose of the film was not to offer a solution. Purpose of the film was to tell a story, and this was the best of the lot, it had its issues but we did not have time to iron out the issues and in that story we tried to shoot it in a way , that one feels the harassmentThe ending was meant to be light hearted. We had no idea that it would go viral and that’s our shortcoming probably, we had no idea that it will be taken as my opinion and even after it was, it helped to bring forth so many points of view – and that wouldn’t have happened if that short did not exist.

I responded to and engaged with some sensible points but the angry, short sighted judgemental ones that came from twitter anger we chose to ignore. I refuse to take the responsibility of making a statement on behalf of a half baked -ism of this country through my work. I am not your voice so please stop expecting me to be, I am on my own journey and constructive points of views help me grow and understand things more, I have been taught not to be afraid to sound like an authority before I speak, I have been taught to speak freely because until and unless you don’t do that, there will not be debates and discussion and arguments.

I am my own voice and I speak for myself, and my life is an ongoing process, I have not come to any conclusions about anything in life, about you or me or cinema or rape or women or anything. I react, I think, I over react, I think too much and I think aloud. I am what I do and not what I am expected to do.

I don’t think I am that important in any scheme of things and I write this letter for the sake of the few people I actually care about, who are distressed, and  who urge me to have my say.

– Anurag Kashyap

(ps – To avoid further misunderstanding, let us clarify that he didn’t send us that profile pic of his to go with this post, we just googled and put one. Because just text looks bit drab)

The World Before Her, directed by Nisha Pahuja is currently playing in select cinemas across India. Fatema Kagalwala first wrote about it on our blog, where we called it a ‘must-watch’. Here’s another post about the film by Shazia Iqbal:

MFC1

“The question isn’t who is going to let me; it’s who is going to stop me”

These are words of Objectivist Ayn Rand who rejected religion and faith and believed in rational reasoning as the way to make sense of life. Her words tore up the frame as the sub text every time the two protagonists (along with other girls) spoke in Nisha Pahuja’s powerful documentary ‘The World Before Her’. The irony is the world they want to capture; a world where they know they can’t be stopped has already caged them with its regressive ideologies and unfortunately they aren’t even aware of it. I watched the film a few days ago and it has been pulling me back for several reasons. Not because the film is full of strange, depressing truths about a divided India, and a women’s identity in the same, more so because it asked the very questions I have been asking of myself for years now. Who else does an atheist woman go to? I love and respect Ayn Rand and women like her who publicly shunned religion because it’s a tad bit more difficult for women to deny God than their counterparts.

I am a Muslim woman. My surname makes me a minority in a country that largely has fixed notions of the community I belong to. My gender makes me a minority in a patriarchal society. Also to make things a little more twisted for myself, I questioned and tried to reason with my religion and others, and bracketed myself in another group, the atheists. Minority again. Minority within minority is a task to pull off, I now realize. In a world where humans are so deeply fucked up, it sometime gets lonely to not even have a god but when you see the madness in the ones that have him, you know you are better off not belonging anywhere.

When asked about my faith, my regular responses are ‘I’m not a Muslim.. I’m an Atheist’, ‘Agnostic?’ Or simpler: ‘My parents follow Islam.’

‘So you are a Muslim?’
‘No, I don’t belong’
‘Don’t belong?’
‘Don’t belong to any religion.. I’m fine without knowing the truth about God’s existence.’

Somehow my answers have never been good enough to not raise eyebrows. For years I have been looking for an identity. And I have made my peace with not having one and my questions being unanswered. I don’t look at myself as a Muslim and that’s why I have not felt discriminated against though being called a Pakistani is something most Indian Muslims grow up with and get used to. I am not victimizing Muslims, just that being a minority comes with its own share of pros and cons in every part of the world. We have our own. So every time my surname separated me from the crowd and I was treated differently, I didn’t retaliate because why should I? I am not a Muslim. So I thought.

I think my parents are a rare case because they celebrated the birth of their first daughter, when everyone around was killing the female child. I was born in a small village near Patna. After two sons, they were craving for a daughter. I am not thankful to my parents for not killing me, I take it for granted as my right to live and yet the character I empathized with the most in the film is Prachi Trivedi, the 24 year old instructor at the training camp of Durga Vahini, the women’s wing of VHP (Vishwa Hindu Parishad) because she is grateful to her father for not killing her at birth. That line made me realize how deeply complexed we are as a society.

 

My life is not about a movement, I don’t hate Gandhi and terrorizing people is not my idea of teaching. And yet it was Prachi’s volatile relationship with her father that touched my heart. Prachi is aware that the world that gives her strength to fight the enemies of the Hindu Culture (apparently the Muslims and Christians) is also the world that eventually asks her to follow the norms of marriage and children, something she doesn’t agree with. The ideologies that tell her women are not meant for house chores also tell her she ‘has’ to be tamed by getting married and not fly high and dream of a career. Girls don’t do that. Prachi struggles to balance the two contradicting ideologies, while asserting the right to find her way. Like Prachi, I have had my own daddy issues. My emancipated father raised me and my sister like ‘boys’. He told me very early in life about carving out a place for myself in the world. Marriage was not his idea of making a good life. It’s never been my idea of anything. We never spoke about marriage. But our relationship is volatile and argumentative because of our different belief systems of surviving in a society, where we are lesser in numbers compare to other race. It’s not about me being atheist. Although I have defied God in his presence, he is liberal enough to mostly let me think with my own head. The only one issue I have had with him is he asked his children to be quiet and not rebel because ‘we are minorities’. Under different circumstances, we fought over the same issue, and never reached common ground.

During a Ganapati festival, my mother was just back from a long stint in hospital. The noise mongers were playing loud music at 5 in the morning, and after bearing with it for days in row, I finally decided to call the police. He stopped me. ‘We are Muslims, we can’t complain. You are a girl and people don’t show their bias to women but you’ll know some day’. I argued and was told ‘ladki ho, ladki hi raho’ (You are a girl, behave like one). I struggled to understand if this was the same man who took pride in raising his daughters like sons. And whether I should be a boy and speak up or be a girl and shut up. And what’s stopping me from speaking up is it being a Muslim or being a girl? Or both? I felt suffocated in the hypocrisy of the world my father created for me. I didn’t choose to be a Muslim or a girl. Why do others have the rights that I don’t? Lottery of being born a man? Lottery of being born in a religion that’s bigger in numbers? I didn’t want this world. I wanted to make my own new one that doesn’t chain people in their own thoughts. But largely this is the reason why most anonymous in history have been women.

Somewhere halfway through the film, when you are already exposed to two very different, yet parallel, disturbing worlds, a young teen at the training camp gushes with pride ‘No, I don’t have any Muslim friends and I am proud about it’. After bearing with a few prejudices, this one felt like a sharp knife cut through the heart. I felt stifled. A few drop of tears streamed out. Why did it affect me so much when I don’t consider myself part of the community? When I proudly defy standing by any faith. When I don’t feel the need to group with a bunch of people who have similar ideologies and believe we are superior to the other race. Her words made me realize that even though I have left the religion years ago, it hasn’t left me. And in all probability, it never will.

Her words reminded me of how I felt years ago, when Bombay’s lifeline, the trains were attacked on 7/11. I worked as an Asst Art director back then and was shooting in a studio at Filmcity for a feature film. We were working with a couple of stars and anticipated an early pack up that evening. But as soon as the blast news came out of the vanity, the set became a story in itself. Chaos reigned. People panicked and called home. I managed to call home and found everyone safe, except my brother, who none of us could trace. Production decided to lock up the set till the bombings stopped. It went on for 11 minutes but we kept getting news. Mostly post blast rumours. My mother realized that the sixth train that blew up was my brother’s regular ride back home. That was it. I fell on a chair and broke down. A couple of Asst directors gathered around me. Out of nowhere the production manager, a paan chewing middle aged man, shrugged them aside and attacked me in his stringent language ‘kyun ro rahi hai? Tum logon ne toh karaya hai yeh sab’ (why are you crying when you and your people have executed this). I looked at him. The asst director retaliated ‘What the hell! She is a girl…’

He attacked further, ‘the girls carry the bomb inside the veil.. ’ He said that and spat his chewed betel leaf next to me. My friend blabbered something that I didn’t hear. I was numb. I don’t know the chemical composition of a bomb, not even as much as Prachi’s knowledge of an AK-47. But we are both victims here. I have never worn a veil and have fought against people who support and justify women being bound in a veil. I realized that I belong neither to a community that wears the veil nor to the one that’s judges it and labels them a terrorist because of it. I feel that spit on my face every time I recollect this incident. I remembered my father’s words and reasoned his fear of speaking out as a minority.

Ruhi is a Miss India contestant who dreams of winning the crown to make her parents of their product, that’s her. Jo-Ann Endicott in Pina Bausch’s Walzer struts around angrily, frustrated and enraged at a world that tells her how to carry off her body. She chalks out a boundary in different spacial forms her body creates and repeatedly screams ‘I don’t need your help or anybody else’s help, Thank you!! ’ She describes how she is asked to sit with an erect posture, so her legs don’t look fat and ugly. She struggles to keep her thighs together because they fall apart or hold her boobs up with a bra or they hang, sometimes right till the floor. There is rule for every part of the body, the fingers, wrist, elbow, the long neck, the longer hair, the various ways of doing up the hair, which lets the world categorize as classy or trashy. She wants to let her hair down and be herself. She wants to hide herself behind her long hair but they wont let her. Her face, her torso, her spine, her legs, her gait is all exposed for her to be judged. This is the gist of what beauty pageants stand for. Girls in this country have grown up dreaming of the crown from the time Sushmita Sens and Aishwarya Rais won the Miss world crown and made India ‘Proud’. The beauty standards pretty much changed in this country since then and how.

I would love to say fuck your fascist beauty standards if I myself wasn’t falling prey to it every now and then.

It was only a couple of months ago when I went to a skin clinic for a regular acne issue; they asked me to undergo a surgery for a sharper Jawline. A half an hour procedure that would apparently change my life. I was dumbfounded. The doctor told me it would give me confidence to face the world with a new face. Ha! Fortunately I didn’t think anything wrong with the current one. I smiled and walked away. But a lot of women fall prey. The rising numbers of these clinics are a proof of that. Everything is wrong with a world that tells a women a certain body type, certain shapes, particular complexion are what makes an ideal women, empowers them. Botox, skin whiteners, weight control, boob jobs are not going to let me have my place in the world. A director once belittled me when I refused to do a fairness cream TVC. He said if not me, somebody else would take it up. Exactly! I am aware.

Wearing a bikini doesn’t empower women. Neither does holding a gun and being able to pull the trigger. You are not empowered by exposing your bra strap or by being married and raising kids at 18; not by having ideal torso and limbs, not even by internalising the politics of hatred in a religious camp.

If this is power, I don’t want it. I want the opportunity to voice my opinion and be heard respectfully. I do not ask for permission before I speak. It is my right as a human. I do not want a career to escape the world you have made; I want to create my own world. Don’t allot me my space. Give me the freedom to carve my own niche. That would be empowerment. Hope Prachi and Ruhi and thousands like them comprehend this and liberate themselves from the world that is thrown before them.

Thank you- Nisha Pahuja for this hard-hitting story and Anurag Kashyap for supporting it.

(Shazia Iqbal is an Art director, and has worked in Films and Advertising since last eight years. She designed Dum Maaro Dum and many other films. Her script was selected for NFDC’s Director’s Lab.)

 

 

After doing the fest rounds, Nisha Pahuja’s critically acclaimed documentary, ‘The World Before Her’ is all set to release on May 16th, 2014. Filmmaker Anurag Kashyap is presenting it and PVR Directors Rare is releasing the film. Moving between the worlds of a Durga Vahini training camp and the beauty boot camp of the Miss India Pageant, the film is a powerful story that could not have come at a better time. Some of us managed to watch the film earlier and we have put it in MFC’s Must Watch recco list. Click here to read our recco post on the film.

We are posting two clips from the film – one from the film, and one that did not make the cut. We also got Nisha to write on these two clips.

1. Pooja’s story

Director’s Note – I remember when Pooja told me the story of almost being killed at birth for being a girl..that moment became a turning point for me in terms of the focus of the film. I knew it had to be about the struggles that so many Indian women continue to face. It also changed the way I looked at Miss India–suddenly it was no longer passe or just simply derogatory..it was so much more complex. I had to ask myself “Given the Indian context, can I disregard my Western prejudices and see a beauty pageant as “empowering.” It’s something I still grapple with..

2. Tulsi’s story

Director’s Note – When I began the research in 2008, I was determined to find a young woman from a village who harboured dreams of becoming a Miss India.  Somehow I did. Meet Tulsi – achingly lovely..a symbol of “aspiring India.” Tulsi’s story was incredible, she comes from a village in UP that got electricity in 2009, and that only intermittently. Her grandfather was a freedom fighter and and there was a temple that had been built in his honour. Tulsi’s mother did not want to get married but was forced to.  So in an act of defiance on her wedding night she chopped off all her hair and began to dress like a man. Somehow she was accepted. She decided she would allow her daughter to do as she wished. When Tulsi told her parents she wanted to move to Bombay and pursue her Miss India dream, they sent her off with the money they had been saving for her dowry.  The Miss India team never responded to her application or her pics and when I last saw her in 2010 she was having a hard time and it seemed clear to me that she was being exploited, but didn’t want to talk about it in too much detail. I still get the odd email from her but she never responds when I write her back. I had always wondered how her grandfather, who had fought for India’s freedom would feel about Tulsi’s dream of winning a beauty pageant. Was this the freedom he was prepared to die for?

TRAILER

FUND-A-FILM Project

The makers of the film are also running a kickstarter campaign with the goal of taking the film to a wider audience – schools, colleges, public screenings. Click here to read about their plan and do contribute if you want to support the initiative. The aim is to raise US$ 50,000 out of which they have already got $ 41,000. Now they have just a week left to achieve the target. So if you feel for it, do contribute generously. The film needs your support.