Let’s face it. Filmmaking is an expensive affair. Every shot in the film costs a certain amount. The famous Stanley Kubrick quote where he says if it can be thought and written, it can be filmed is but partly correct. Sure, anything can be filmed, but at a cost. Using extravagant sets, high-action sequences, or shooting in prime honeymoon locations to tell your story is possible only when there is a good financial backing from a production house. Most of these films, having an enormous budget, seldom spend the correct amount of time on the story and storytelling. It’s just like fitting boxes in a set formula and manufacturing it. Cinema, at times, can become just a mass-producing factory making the same kind of films based on what has worked in the past. And such cinematic exploitation leads to a decline of the artform. After all, money is necessary to make a film. And just like too much money utilized on a single film allows only a certain kind of story to be told, having fewer resources forces the maker to make certain decisions that go on creating new types of aesthetics. Starting out in the early 2000s in India, Anurag Kashyap did exactly the same with his booming new independent cinema.
Taking a camera to the streets is something that isn’t new in the history of cinema, and Kashyap was heavily influenced by the French New Wave and the Italian Neo-realists. What is applaudable about him is the sheer rigor and passion with which he has practiced guerrilla filmmaking over the years and made entire cities come to life on the screen. He has reiterated with his work almost all the time that money is not the only thing one needs to make a film, and that new aesthetics can be created with just a proper vision and outlook towards the world. His style is revered in minimalism, with the actors lit by natural light, shot in real locations, and most of the time, working with new faces. These are just the formal aspects that pave the way to making his films look different. But on a fundamental level as well, they don’t have a defined structure. He takes you to new places through his characters’ visits, both physically and mentally. In “Ugly,” which is a story of a father searching for his kidnapped daughter, Kashyap speaks of morality and of the deeply embedded evil that exists in the human psyche. This is his world. A world of gangsters, of violence, and redemption. The places which he shows and the manner in which he incorporates them are something that is seldom seen on the big screen in the Hindi film industry. The chase sequences in “Black Friday” and “Gangs of Wasseypur” are a testimony to his unflinching, improvised indie filmmaking.
“That Girl in Yellow Boots,” his 2011 film, was shot in just 13 days! Over the years, his body of work has created a certain style that people identify with him. The visceral rawness in his camera, the dark humor in unusual circumstances, and his use of music in certain films is strikingly distinct. One can see the influence of Scorsese, Tarantino, and others, but Kashyap Indianizes all of these troupes and weaves new meaning into the already existing aesthetics. Again, in “Ugly,” in what has to be the best dark humor sequence, we see a policeman talking in reluctance to a man who has come to lodge a complaint regarding his missing daughter. The conversation goes on for 10 minutes, revealing the sorry state of the police in the country. The arrogant officer and his indifference over the disappearance of a kid, coupled with an absurd staging, goes on to show the state of affairs. It’s a long scene that doesn’t seem staged at all, which again is one more attribute to his filmmaking where the actors are explained the scene beforehand, and the rest is all improvised. A lot of actors share their experience of his unorthodox approach while on set. He makes use of whatever modest resources are at hand to create a minimalistic image that forces you to engage. In one of the interrogation scenes of “Black Friday,” a simple lighting change to red creates an altogether tense atmosphere. The frames in themselves evoke more torture than what is actually shown, terrorizing us even more. Such examples are abundant in his large body of work.
Anurag Kashyap has now become a culturally important person in the history of cinema. His films will be known for breaking boundaries and showing the grittiness that was not so prevalent in Hindi cinema. His approach to cinema that invoked a certain kind of independent spirit has inspired a new batch of filmmakers who want to tell their stories in their own way. In recent years, he has broken into the mainstream, giving space to new voices from all regions of India. He shows us how a film can be made even through all sorts of constraints and still be a good film. “Gangs of Wasseypur” becomes a vengeful fist in the sky against the capitalistic tendencies prevalent in Hindi cinema. It came like a storm in 2012, bringing new faces who have now gone on to become actors and directors who make meaningful cinema. Through Faizal, it feels like he is speaking about all the years of struggle and giving it back to all in style. And in doing so, he deposited a layer of originality on Indian cinema, changing its course forever.