Here’s the full interview I did with Anurag Kashyap when working on this profile of Prithviraj last week:
When and how did you get involved with this project?
I pushed Sachin to write it and make a feature out of it three years back, he’s been working on it since then. Sachin approached Prithviraj two years ago when he was shooting near Pune for the film he did with Santosh Sivan (Urumi).
What does being a producer for Aiyyaa mean – what have you been doing?
I saw myself as more of an enabler than a producer. I don’t know about production or distribution, I just try to get films made, to put all the people together.
I know you’re very conversant in cinema from all over the world, but what about Indian film itself? Do you watch many Tamil, or Telugu, or Malayalam films?
I’ve been watching a lot of Tamil and Marathi films, but not Malayalam or Telugu. The problem in India is you can’t get regional films with English subtitles. To find them, you have to get them from the US or UK – it’s a strange country. I watch Tamil films regularly. For me, Gangs of Wasseypur was inspired by a lot of Tamil filmmakers: Bala, Sasikumar. All these films like Angadi Theru, Mynaa, Aadukalam, and Kumararaja’s film….. Aaranya Kaandam. That’s one of the best films to come out of India in a long time.
It’s a sin that it was not given a proper release in India and overseas, and now you can’t even buy a DVD of it.
As usual, what we do with our films is we kill a good thing.
When you talk movies with people in Bombay, will many mention specific Tamil/Telugu/etc. films they’ve seen?
In Bollywood, people only watch regional films if they’re hit films. If it’s broken lots of records, they’ll see it, buy it, and remake it. They only watch successful films.
Tell me about the music for Aiyyaa?
That was Sachin and Amit and Amitav. I was giving an idea like playing with sounds…
Do you get some sense that – for some people – “crossing over” from southern films to Hindi movies is something that many actors and directors aspire to?
People aspire to it because when you make a film in Hindi it’s got a much wider audience. I think that southern India is much more liberated than us, and they think Hindi is more liberated than southern cinema. I guess the grass always seems greener… it’s a constant argument we have.
We’re talking to two or three Tamil filmmakers to get them to make Hindi movies or whatever kind of films they want to make in whatever language.
What do you love about Aiyyaa?
It’s just so quirky and doesn’t follow any of the rules. It’s just so …. A film made on a whim by an extremely creative person. It’s so superb, it just laughs at everything. It doesn’t take anything seriously. It’s subversive and it’s so playful throughout the film, it just twists everything. It’s completely new language, I absolutely love this film, this strange world that has come out of Sachin’s head.
Was Sachin obsessed with Tamil movies?
No, see Sachin has been making lots of art house movies in Marathi. He’s made three Marathi films, he’s won two National Awards, but his films have never got released. Whenever I met him, he’s such an incredible guy. He’s very urban. He’s a Maharashtrian urban filmmaker – Maharashtrian film is mostly rural, it’s not urban, so urban Maharashtrian film doesn’t have much audience, rural Maharashtrian film has. He was struggling, he didn’t know where he belonged, he was also writing plays.
On the humor and quirkiness – do you have any concern about how Tamils and other south Indians will react to the film?
No, no, once they see the film, they won’t say that, the film makes a parody of ourselves. It takes a look at all kind of clichés, and the very clichéd way we look at south Indians and their cinema – it makes fun of that. She’s learning Tamil because she thinks he speaks that, but when she meets him, he speaks Hindi. It’s a whole lot of fun. And the man has been objectified, not the woman, unlike all the other Hindi films.
What stands out about Prithviraj to you?
First thing, he’s just very intelligent, unlike a lot of actors. He’s extremely aware of himself an cinema – extremely well versed in that. He straddles both worlds, he does a lot of mainstream films and uses his success to produce and constantly reinvent cinema. That’s what’s so special about him.
Did you see Veettilekkulla Vazhi?
No, I’ve heard about it. And that’s what I like about him – he keeps doing these small indie movies, he keeps using his success to create things. He’s extremely non-fussy. He’ll just come and do what’s expected of him.
What will audiences be surprised by when they see the film on Friday?
I don’t know. I’m actually anxious to see how they react because this is not like anything they’ve seen before. I really don’t know. They definitely are going to be completely surprised. Let’s see…