The Alternative Auteur
Anurag Kashyap could well be a character out of his own films.Fascinated with cinema from age five, he could routinely be found watching movies like Aandhi and Kora Kaagaz at an open-air theatre near his home. His passion for the arts lay dormant till he started college in New Delhi — ironically, studying science — and got involved with the Jana Natya Manch, performing street plays. He went through a period of severe depression, getting involved with drugs and alcohol, pushing himself to the brink of destruction.
From there to being the award-winning screenplay writer of Satya and the Academyaward nominated Water, and director of the critically acclaimed Black Friday could be a fictional plot worthy of a film. A couple of friends introduced him to world cinema, urging him to “see a retrospective of de Sica films at the International Film Festival of India”. It changed his life. He watched 55 films in 10 days but it was de Sica’s Bicycle Thieves that influenced him most. “It was an epiphany,” he later said. “Five months later, I was in Mumbai.”
What followed is a struggle that would be trite if it were on film. He slept on lofts, on the beach, in the boys’ hostel at St Xavier’s College, wherever he could find space. He wrote plays and stories. He read Kafka and Ibsen and watched Scorsese. He joined Makrand Deshpande’s theatre group but quit soon after, because he “could not face life”. And eventually, after being, at different times, a struggling writer, actor, director, he found his voice in every genre.
He recently acted in indie film I Am, playing a sexual abuser, later confessing the role meant something to him because he was sexually abused as a child. But it is as writer and director of the dark, moody Dev D, the latest interpretation of Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyaya’s classic Devdas, though, that Anurag made his most potent statement yet about his brand of filmmaking.