While GANGS OF WASSEYPUR opened to rave reviews at Cannes, it got mixed response in homeland, India. In conversation with filmmaker Anurag Kashyap who shed his blood and sweat to make a film like GANGS OF WASSEYPUR.
The idea behind making GANGS OF WASSEYPUR Some 8-9 years ago I wanted to make a film on Bihar with the name BIHAR because I had heard enough stories about the place. But when Prakash Jha ji made APAHARAN our story became irrelevant. Still we continued with the research and came with the idea on how katha is made illegally. But it was of no use as we can't use all the details. Then in 2008 we met Zeishan Quadri, writer of GANGS. Despite the extensive research we could never come across Wasseypur. To one's surprise we never knew such place exists as we never heard about it...though everyone was aware about the coal mafia thing. So, Zeishan told us about Wasseypur's story and we found it unreal to believe that mafia activity and gang war exists at such high level. In fact, even media is not completely aware as they can't access it. Zeishan narrated enough stories but what really attracted me was, no not gang war, the entire story of emergence of mafia. And how to tell it through few families is what interested me but that also meant a longer reel. My first cut was for an hour. Somehow I edited and made it into 5 hours and 20 minutes without missing out on any of the details. We all know mafia exists but what they do, how they operate, why they do we don't know and that is something which forms the basis of the film.
About GANGS OF WASSEYPUR The film is essentially about two families from Wasseypur and one from Dhanbad. In the process, it explores the larger chunk of the coal and mafia activity. The film deals with the emergence of Mafia. I didn't want to limit to coal activity so family story had to be shown and what the mafia is doing there now. What we have done with this film is even if it's a fictional film we have taken actual shots of sand mining. In the film nothing is recreated. Everything here is real shots. The entire river has been turned into sand mine as there is not an ounce of water.
Opposition from people of Wasseypur There is no opposition from anyone except for one person in Wasseypur. He thinks Wasseyupur is shown in bad light. ONCE UPON A TIME IN MUMBAAI was based in Mumbai, so Mumbaiwaalas don't protest that why it is been shown in bad light. Because the film is not about Bombay. Likewise, GANGS OF WASSEYPUR is not about the place Wasseypur. The film is focusing on three families - two families from Wasseypur and one from Dhanbad. It's about 3 generations from two families of Wasseypur. It's not about Wasseypur in whole.
Mafia and gang war still exists there and the film tries to trace that in a very detailed way. Nobody knows about Wasseypur pehli baar uska naam aa raha hai in relation to a film. So, it is bound to happen that a localite will react in a certain way. The common man there would feel that after this film every person from Wasseypur will be perceived as a goon. But he has to understand right now he is being subjected. The film is not talking about people of Wasseypur. The film also shows them as victims. Just because it's being talked about they feel their town is being projected in a negative light.
The difference between Mumbai mafia and mafias existing elsewhere When we talk about mafia of Mumbai v/s Dhanbad v/s any place I will tell, which I have found in my research, the local mafias of small town or a small city mafia has 100 times more weapon with them than Mumbai mafia any day. If there is ever a war Mumbai mafia will face the heat. But Mumbai mafia is more glamourous because the city is ever in the news. It is also directly in influence with the central politics. While small town mafia deals with local state politics. But there has always been correlation between industrialization, mafia and politics. The three corners which can't exist without each other.
The reality and fictional part of GANGS I have stuck to political, social scenario 100%, time wise. Like there is whole story of two families, there is romance happening but the times change suddenly and for two minutes the film becomes a documentary. It explains the scenario, shows the visual and goes back again in the story. So, structurally we have re-invented the structuring of a film. As such films are rarely made, we did lot brainstorming as to how to tell the story at the same present the true scenario... In terms of story we have fictionalized it, every event that you see is 90% true. The step son in the film in reality is not the step son, some characters dead in the film are actually alive. So 90% characters do exist. We had to camouflage the thing so that it does not affect anybody living or dead directly.
I have fictionalized the film to a large extent. We have merged the characters and made it short. But still we are talking about two families which everybody knows was there. And people who know about the families know what we have done with the film.
I don't know about others but there is also an investigative side to me as a filmmaker. When you do something you want to explore everything and get into the deep. I didn't want to tell a tiny story and leave it.
Touted as most expensive film My most expensive is nothing. My attempt is to be honest to the story. I have made the film in the similar way like I make my other films. This time the story gave me the opportunity to be commercial because it had that potential. The elements are commercial, characters are film obsessed. It has all those songs which I never used to listen in my childhood. It has everything which comes in a very homogenous style with the characters. When we came across the story and wrote the script the idea right from the beginning was we are making the film for mainstream market.
Accessibility of GANGS OF WASSEYPUR It's very accessible. It is there everywhere - B centre, C centre. Everybody will get the film because it's not at all unfathomable. It is not NO SMOKING. That's how simple it is and the characters of the film are not deep too. For GANGS there is nothing that you really need to crack your brains behind it. It's just a simple story.
Based in heartlands of India, GANGS OF WASSEYPUR travelled to Cannes I didn't take it to Cannes. They selected the film. I was not even showing the film. If you read Edawrd's interview, the head of Director's Fortnight, I was pitching for PEDDALRS and my other films that were produced. But he wanted to see what I have done as director. And that's how the word spread around. Prior to that other festivals also selected the film but it was not complete as it needed the post production work. For the first time I made it for Indian market and every big festival selected it. I have never got such amazing reviews. We never sold so much. French and Americans at Cannes went gaga over the film and lauding for it. And all that made us very hopeful about the film.
The release of second part We will see how the first part gets the response accordingly we will decide the release date for part two. We wrote, designed and put together as one standalone film yet you want to know more. I wanted to tell the whole story. While shooting we were planning to make it in three parts. Actually we wrote 3 different scripts which were floating around. So we combined half of second half and integrated in part one and two. Two parts are never enough. I mean this can become a huge TV series like Boardwalk Empire for 12 hours. We have tried our hands in TV series as well. We have done everything. BLACK FRIDAY got rejected as TV series so it became a film. BLACK FRIDAY was supposed to 5-6 parts TV series for a news channel. All thanks to them they rejected and it became a film.
Gap between two parts may disrupt the connection of the film If the story is good the connection cannot break. For eight long years people incessantly watched the HARRY POTTER series without ever complaining. If story is not good the connection will break in the interval itself. The film will collapse and will be out from theatres immediately.
Secondly, it's the call of exhibitors, distributors and production houses like Viacom 18. I can make the entire 5 hours 20 min film shown in one day. But they won't agree.
GANGS... will make a difference Even after being in the news for a long time it could not bring about any change what the film will do? It doesn't go to that level. I didn't make the film to bring any changes in the society or system. It interested me so I made it. Films can never make any difference.
Music of WASSEYPUR creating ripples with its bold & innovative lyrics My aim was to find the right person and that I could find in Sneha Khanwilkar, music composer of the film. She has this kida of going and finding the right song. She spent some three years on music. We started working on the music one year before the script was locked. When I was writing the script I knew I have to put it musically. The first song was done in February 2009.
We have long tradition of songs like that. Why there should be opposition? There was a song in VIDHAATA 'Saat Saheliyaa Khadi Khadi...', if you analyze it was erotic in nature. We have a long tradition of songs in North India where women get together and sing and sub ward the system to singing songs which are sexual in nature. And it is not a double meaning song. Hunter is a single meaning song. It's in your head. For 'O re Womaniya' Sneha and Varun Grover (lyrics writer) sat together and came with that idea.
Having an unconventional hero Manoj Bajpayee I know what Majoj Bajpaayee has done for this film. He shaved his head, lost 15 kgs and poured himself into that role. You have seen Manoj's bathing shot. He's done that in -1 or 0 degrees and he had fever. SO after every shot of pouring water he would go and wrap himself in a blanket. He just could not breathe anything. A lot Manoj has put into this film.
The fun of shooting on real locations I like to shoot on real locations. It's a different shooting on real locations. That's also one of the reasons why I don't take known faces. The moment I put known faces on real locations I can't shoot. So it's all mutual and vice-versa. How I will create coal mines on the sets. Actually going to coal mines is a different feel and it's much larger than we can imagine. Technically also it was conducive.
GANGS...shot in three different time zones The film is set in three different time zones - 40-50s, 70-80s and the current time. To create Wasseypur, Dhanbad in three different time zones we had to shoot in 6-7 different places. To shoot 40s time we had to find the village with no electricity and houses made of mud. To create the later part of Wasseypur we had to find slightly more urban area. Earlier in 40s and 50s, Dhanbad & Wasseypur were two different places but they got merged in 70s-80s. So we had to find a place where we could show them as part of each other. Now Wasseypur is in middle of Dhanbad, in the beginning of the film both Wasseypur and Dhanbad are part of Bengal, middle of the film they are part of Bihar and by end of the film they are part of Jharkhand. We kept travelling in these areas early morning in the fog and to travel in these areas is scary.
Experience of shooting a large than life film GANGS OF WASSEYPUR The film has taken a lot of blood and sweat out of us. We used to guerilla shooting. One crew member was even slapped by the goons asking about taking shots. They even asked Are you from the news channel? And we had to tell them we are making a Bhojpuri film or Abhinav Kashyap who made DABANGG. Because people there love the film DABANGG. It is everybody's favourite film in North India.
Take on films making it to 100 crore club People are conditioned to watch a certain kind of cinema. Every time a film breaks record it takes time to digest. Somewhere even the filmmaker knows and he readily accepts. Am very happy that they are making money. If all the people have same opinion about certain thing then it's a very boring the good fun is in fighting.
If UTV's making ROWDY RATHORE they will spend that money in making LUV SHUV TEY CHICKEN KHURANA. Today GANGS is being promoted hugely because Viacom minted money from KAHAANI. I am not sad about any film making money but it makes me rethink things....As a filmmaker it empowers me that I can continue telling my own stories. But I don't think I will be ever sad that a ROWDY RATHORE is making money. If I ever make a ROWDY RATHORE it'll be a flop. It has to be made with conviction. A Prabhu Deva has a conviction. He believes in what he is doing. The day internally I start believing in a film in the mainstream zone I'll make it.
The pressure of film doing well This film should not be out from Ray Talkies, the only theatre outside Wasseypur, for 15 weeks. If the film is out before 15 weeks then I will think there is some problem with the film. Ray talkies is one of the biggest character in the film.
The pressure of wanting to do well each one takes it individually. The film that we know right from the offset is very easy to reach out to people. All these films which we are doing is with big studios. And the films which are completely ground-breaking and difficult to explain even the filmmaker doesn't want to sit down and go explaining the process. Those films are made independently raised money from social networking sites or abroad through institutions.