From Dhanbad, to Cannes, a look into the journey of Indian Cinema’s poster boy, Anurag Kashyap.
If there’s one Indian filmmaker after the great Satyajit Ray to have a global appeal, it’s Anurag Kashyap. India's poster boy at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival, Kashyap is the driving force behind the parallel cinema movement in India. This mutual fondness between Kashyap and his French counterparts was cemented into formal appreciation when Anurag Kashyap was conferred with the “Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters” by the French Minister of Culture in 2013.
Regarded as India’s godfather of indie cinema, Kashyap is responsible for backing and acting as a mentor to many young relatively unknown filmmakers. When he's not producing, writing, directing, editing or acting in films, Kashyap travels the world and acts as a conduit to showcase Indian cinema to the world and in turn world cinema to India. Here’s a look at some of his best films, ranked.
Raman Raghav 2.0 tells the story of a serial killer of the same name who terrorized the streets of Bombay in the mid '60s. Raman Raghav was responsible for brutally murdering 41 victims, with the majority of them being women and children that belonged to lower social classes. Rather than pitting the killer against the cop, Kashyap's film explores the similarities between the two deeply twisted men. Raman Raghav is a deep dive into the psyche of a deeply disturbed soul, which makes it a disturbing film to watch. Nawazuddin Siddiqu's portrayal of the deranged killer amps up the tension, almost reminiscent of a bomb that could go off at any moment.
Ugly is a 2013 thriller film directed by Anurag Kashyap. The story revolves around a struggling actor named Rahul and his ten-year-old daughter, Kali. During an outing, Kali goes missing; unable to locate her, Rahul reaches out to Kali's stepdad (a cop) for help. Things take a turn for the worse when the two men start suspecting each other of having a hand in Kali’s kidnap. Ugly premiered in the Directors Fortnight section of the Cannes Film Festival in 2013, where it received a standing ovation. If you’re in the mood for a fast past nail-biting film that functions on the latticeworks of a classic whodunit thriller, you should definitely check Ugly out.
Mukkabaaz (The Brawler), is the story of an aspiring Indian boxer (Shravan Kumar) who faces tougher challenges outside the ring than inside. As Shravan defeats his opponents inside the ring, he realizes his biggest foe is someone who works outside the ring — Bhagwan Das Mishra, the head of the boxing federation. Mukkabaaz is the classic tale of a fighter’s trite layered with classism present in some parts of India. In Mukkabaaz Kashyap beautifully demonstrates that even the strongest fighters are no match for the haymakers that life can throw.
Anurag Kashyap’s Dev D is a modern day retelling of the classic Bengali novel Devdas by Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay. In Kashyap’s adaptation, the story revolves around Dev, an arrogant, self-destructive man whose life spirals into madness when the love of his life, Paro is wed to another man. Considered a cult classic after all these years, Dev D was one of the few first modern day films that truly portrayed the leading man in accordance to what the character demanded rather than to comply with societal norms.
Touted as a film that put Kashyap on Bollywood’s map, Black Friday is a deeply dark film that explores the events that led up to the bombings and the subsequent police investigations that shook Bombay in the '90s.
The film was shot in a documentary style, with rapid camera movements and jarring cuts, transporting the viewer to the hyper-stimulating streets of Bombay in the '90s. Rather than being a stylistic choice, this was done due to high budget constrains and permission issues, a classic case of run and gun filmmaking. Black Friday dedramatized many situations that happened based on first-hand accounts and interspersed it with documentary footage creating a docudrama type experience.
The film was initially scheduled for release in 2004, but the release was put on hold by the Bombay High Court. After the TADA (TERRORIST AND DISRUPTIVE ACTIVITIES) court presented its case in 2007, the stay on the film was lifted, and Black Friday wasallowed to be released to the public.
Arguably Kashyap’s magnum opus, Gangs of Wasseypur 1 & 2 are often regarded as gems of Indian Cinema. The films are thematically reminiscent of the Italian film Gomorrah and are based on real life rivalry between two rival factions in Dhanbad, India.
What makes Gangs of Wasseypur stand apart from other gangster films is its timelines. Gangs isregarded as a case study into family dynamics and politics and their outward influence of power play in the real world. Both the films were shot seamlessly as one film, measuring up to a total of 321 minutes but were split into two separate films as no Indian theater would agree to screen a film that was five hours long. In recent times, The Guardian featured Gangs of Wasseypurin its best 100 films of the 21st century going so far as to call it India’s answer to The Godfather.
“I don’t want to achieve immortality through my work. I want to achieve it through not dying” – Woody Allen