His forthcoming film Mukkabaaz deals with the deep-rooted casteism which stands tall on the shoulders of corruption even today and director Anurag Kashyap says it was about time movies based on socio-political issues made a comeback in Bollywood.
The 45-year-old filmmaker says 1960s saw films by Bimal Roy and Hrishikesh Mukherji, who highlighted social problems in their films, and these issues were dealt with utmost care on celluloid just how he has stayed honest to his story.
Kashyap says, “We grew up in a time when we made socio-political films, filmmakers like Bimal Roy, Hrishikesh Mukherji, Raj Kapoor made films that dealt with elements in society about casteism, widows, unwed mothers etc. These films were appreciated by the audience but then we stopped making them but again that trend has come back (in films). Our film is about boxing, so we have to be honest to our story, it is about where do boxers come from, what is the status of boxing in society and the like.”
The film traces the story of a boxer from UP, named Shravan Singh, played by Vineet Kumar Singh, who belongs to a low caste and falls in love with a Brahmin woman.
Things go south when he lands a punch on boxing federation head and politician-gangster, Bhagwan Das, part essayed by Jimmy Shergill. How the underdog Shravan fights - both for his rights and love - is what Mukkabaaz is about.
Producer of the film, Aanand L Rai questions the parameters of development in today’s scenario. “Tomorrow, if a filmmaker wants to make a story like ‘Prem Rog’ which was about child widow, will I be allowed to say (the story) now or will I be stopped? Similarly will I be allowed to keep the name of the character Ganga with a film like Ram Teri Ganga Maili?
“...understand where are we going? Are we progressing? Is it progressive space for us or is it taking us backwards? It is not about makers or audience or media, we as country what is happening to us... Are we together to bring the change or are we accepting that?” he asks.
The upcoming sports drama film received a standing ovation at this year’s JIO MAMI Film Festival and Kashyap says the response the film has garnered at several international film festivals is overwhelming. “I was surprised that there is an audience for a film like this in the West. This is my third experience (with international audience). Every time I have gone out (to film festivals) with a film, we have got good response be it Dev D or Gangs of Wasseypur or Mukkabaaz. “Every time I have stemmed out and set out to thinking I want to make a story - not complex but relevant - that reaches out to audiences everywhere, it has worked. They have become bigger hits at the festivals,” says the filmmaker.
Kashyap says he fails to understand how the international audience understood the various elements of boxing in India from Mukkabaaz. “I recorded the reaction of the audience of an international festival and my team was amazed. They (referring to international audience) did not understand the context (of the film) but they enjoyed it. However, they did ask what the context was towards the end. Here, at MAMI, the reaction was extraordinary because they understood the context.”
“It is high time our audience becomes a part of the global audience. You can’t keep them aloof. You have to raise the audience to that level,” he adds.
Mukkabaaz marks the first collaboration between Kashyap and Rai as director and producer respectively. The duo next have Manmarziyan in the pipeline, with Taapsee Pannu and Vicky Kaushal in the lead.
Talking about their maiden outing together, Rai says Kashyap and him are quite similar as creative people. “I know Anurag likes to tell stories and same is the case with me. I want to work with like-minded people as it makes your life easy. I had this story which I wanted to pitch to Anurag and I was looking for an opportunity where I will get Anurag to do something. I wanted to see him make one story. We both are not that money-minded we came together for love of the story. He was working on a story Mukkabaaz and I was working on Manmarziyan. So we went ahead with ‘Mukkabaaz’ and then we decided to go ahead with the other film.
While Kashyap on a lighter note reveal that all directors usually end up meeting each other during each other’s birthday parties and that is how the Gangs of Wasseypur helmer met Rai.
“We (Rai and I) were done with our creative business in ten minutes.”