TEDxESPM - Anurag Kashyap - Black Friday

Uploaded by TEDxTalks on 16.04.2012

It’s a great honor to be here. It’s my first time, not just in São Paulo, not just
in Brazil. It’s my first time in South America. So… I… I don’t know where to start…
I… hearing everybody talk, mine is a very selfish little story, of my own little struggle.
I guess you all know bollywood. And bollywood is this film industry where we make more films
than Hollywood does, where… I… in India, there’s almost no literature, there’s
a lot of cinema, and we make more than thousand films a year… and we don’t make documentaries,
we don’t make anything. We only make fiction entertainment love stories, songs and dance.
And I was born in a very small town, which had no cinema theater, and I never thought
that I would want to be part of the films of cinema… I was studying to be a scientist,
I was studying into actualities, I was studying with honors... and there was a time when I
was 18, 19... I was… not interested in anything because of the girl that I broke up with.
She had left me. There was a film festival and then I went and saw a lot of films. And
I had never seen cinema like that. It opened up my eyes completely, and I for the first
time realized cinema is not just love stories and songs and dance. It can be much more!
And that’s what I wanted to do. And my family was very unhappy about my choice. Cause I
come from a family of engineers and mathematicians. So they said: “Why do you want to go and
do cinema?”, because… you know… it was an industry back twenty years ago controlled
by film families. All… it was… almost like… few families controlled the whole
industry and they decided what cinema was going to be. And I was an 18-year-old confused…
a complete impressionable boy who one day was a communist, next day would become a capitalist…
you know… it depended on… who was the one talking to me. So… and I just knew that
I wanted to do something with cinema, and I also wanted to be an actor, I also wanted
to be a writer, I wanted to be everything. So like happens at the age of 18. And I left
home. I went to Bombay… and… that was the time where we did not write scripts before
making films. And I had these ideas and I was… I would read books that people in the
film industry would not read, and I was influenced by people that were considered suicidal because
they would not make enough money if you made films, so why then you would make films that
wouldn’t make enough money. To make my space at that young age and industry was very difficult.
And slowly what happened was that whole lot of idealism… when you go over that for one
year, two years, you slowly realize that you need to survive, you need to eat food, you
need to find a place to live. And slowly you give in to… I started doing television,
and I forgot why I wanted to make films. And then, something happened to me out of the
blue: My dad came looking for me to Mumbai. I had left home. I’d run away from Mumbai,
I had not seen my father. And he got worried and then came looking for me. And my father
had this very strange philosophy in life: he never saved anything for the children.
In India, in Hindi you say: (speaking Hindi) it means that: “why do you need to save
money? If your son is a good son, he’ll make his own. If he’s not he’ll blow it
all away…”, so… and he was quite a stubborn man. And he said that: “you came here to
do something and now everybody at my small town that I come from looks at me and say…
laughs at me and smiles at me… so he was such a prodigal child, let me see what he’s
doing… he wants to make cinema. And now you are doing television and you are embarrassing
yourself and you are embarrassing me. So at least try to do what you came here to do…”…
And I went on a journey… and I got corrupted by a person there’s a man I met and we needed
to film together, one of the first films that I wrote at the age of 22, which became my
new film, of last decade in India. It was my first film as a writer, it had… everything
about the film was wrong… in the sense that… it was about everything you are not supposed
to do with cinema. It had no stars, it had a kind of a remote love story, but it was real.
It was not shot in studios, it was shot in actual locations. Locations which was slums.
It was almost like the… say…“Pixote” of India. Or say… “The city of god”
of India. It was a film that was real, with new romance and the film that changed a lot
of things. And in the process of doing that film or the two years when no one believed
in the success of that film, kind of corrupted me. I suddenly… I remembered all those things,
from which… that the domination with which I had gone to Bombay. And, I don’t know
how much of what I say make sense to you because, in the context of Indian cinema where everything
is about superstar and box offices and stars are really larger than life. It’s like a
legion in Indian cinema. There’s a journey that started and I decided that I really wanted
to make films. The two kinds of films that existed, one was the mainstream commercial
film, that just made a lot of money made you happy, and the other kind of artistic cinema
which was meant to go to the festivals and never released on screens and only came on television.
And I didn’t feel that I fit in anywhere. I didn’t feel I could fit anywhere
and we had our own independent minds and we were young and we wanted to do things nobody
wanted us to do. And after a lot of manipulations and things I realized that I wanted to make
a film and that I wanted to make a statement. I was young, I was arrogant. I wanted to make
a statement, I wanted to make a film without anybody, without any superstars, in my own
way, and we got manipulated, we got the money, we made the film. It was a film that everybody
liked very much. And I felt that I had made my statement and the government of India banned the film
So that was the start of another kind of journey. That’s when I realized
that I was naive. And people allowed me to do things at that time because I felt, because
they didn’t feel threatened by me. It was, annoyingly I was doing those things. I just
wanted to be in a position to keep doing things. I didn’t care whether I was getting any
money or not, I was getting any kind of credit for it or not. And people found it very easy
to deal with me. So they gave me a lot of space to do things. And because of that, this
film that I made, it got banned, I got even more angrier. I was like: they… it has my
statement and nobody is allowing me to show it on screens, and my fight went on with the
sensible… that’s when I was realizing that… ok, even though we live in a democracy,
we can’t really say everything. And it… I almost felt abused, by… you know… why
can’t I say what I feel? It doesn’t have to sometimes make sense. I don’t really…
you know… cinema does not always have a social message. If something doesn’t have
a social message, they thought it should not be in the Indian constitution. In the Indian
constitution, cinema is defined as healthy entertainment. And my film was banned on the
grounds as neither healthy nor entertaining. So, that’s what I was fighting against and
then this film happened: Black Friday… Black Friday came when nobody wanted to do it, because
in India we have no made films about real situation using real names. We fictionize
everything. And then was this film about an actual case, which used names of people which
or who are alive, and I made this film. And nobody understood how can this be called cinema.
The question that was raised was what is it? Are you making a documentary or is it a film?
If it’s not a documentary, and if it is a film, then why is it using real names? And
if it is a film, why it does not have songs? So, you know… it was difficult for me to
explain those things. The court put a stay order in the movie, and the film got pirated.
The film did not release and got pirated. It spread the whole world and a lot of people
saw the film. And I started do a third film that got stopped in the middle of it, a fourth
film that got shared two days before the shooting was supposed to be. It was a seven year long
traumatic period, where I was trying to figure out where do I stand, because every time I
would take the film out of India, they would think that I am too… I have music… you
know… I am maybe more bollywood and not more European, not more universal. And when
I went back home, they said that I was too European, I was not too bollywood. So you
know… it was a confusing period, not knowing where I stood. And that was the time when,
by chance, a judge, a supreme court judge saw the film in Dubai, on a pirate disk. And
he was surprised of which film is this… It’s a film from your country. So why is
it not releasing? He said: This film should come out! And he came back to India and he
actually… the case was reopened and the film was passed and finally released in 2007.
So, seven years without release, struggling. In that seven years it was a period where
I was confused. I almost… I became an alcoholic. I was… my marriage broke up. I didn’t
know how to deal with anything at all. And the film came out. And in spite of the film
coming out, because by then everybody had seen it, it did not work at the box office.
Everybody loved the film, but it did not work at the box office because everybody had their
own pirated dvds. So then… about my years of confusion, I made another film. That film
nobody understood because it just didn’t fit into the way anybody thought about cinema.
And there’s a lot more we wanted to do. And I didn’t see myself as somebody who
wanted to make a certain kind of an art… art cinema which only… for me… there was
an independent heart. And I felt an independent heart from an independent mind. And… today
it could be something and tomorrow it could be something else. It didn’t have to be
packed into one definition. And that was very difficult for us to explain. One good thing
that happened by then was a lot of public funds and corporate studios came into the
industry. It really became a industry. It was not family owned business. But they also
hired people from within those family owned business. So the good side was that we had
multiplex studios. The bad side was that we were still being run by the same people. And
unless any of the things that I was doing, not made money for them, they were not going
to allow me to make films. And I got incredible reviews, people loved the films, but I was
not being allowed to make films and that’s when Slumdog Millionaire happened. And Slumdog
Millionaire, Denny Boyle came to India. He saw Black Friday, he was happy. He made Slumdog
Millionaire and he talked about Black Friday and how it inspired Slumdog. And he’s a
man who actually put me out there. Can we have the footage from Black Friday, please?
This was a film about the bomb blast that happened in Bombay. And the other is one sequence
in Black Friday, which Danny Boyle’s opening sequence of Slumdog reattribute when he talked
about it. And how it always happens in India is because people from outside India give
credit to someone. Sadly, within India they allowed me to make films because credit was
given to me by somebody from outside who won an academy award and people talked about that.
And then, in spite of that credit that allowed us to make films, also came conditions. So
on one side we had all the money and all the support to make films but they also were telling
me what films to make. So that went on for some time and within that fight what we did
we started borrowing money, we started going digital. I discovered the internet. I did
not know anything about the internet. And I discovered the internet and there was a
discussion going on the internet about what kind of film I am doing and I started participating
in that discussion, and those people invited me to start blogging about it. And suddenly
I found an outlet where I started just letting out everything. I started letting out everything,
my angst against the system, about the industry, everyone… and that blog, which was called
“Passion for Cinema”, it doesn’t exist anymore, but all those… if you go search
for it, you might find articles… that blog became a kind of a rage and suddenly I realized…
I’m not alone! I just connected with a lot of Indian film makers, engineers, doctors,
people not belonging to film families. And within a year that blog had become a movement.
And I was writing every day. The industry on one side started… they could not stand
me because I was saying things that so far were not being said. Nobody dared to say those
things. Suddenly the whole myth in all of film stars was gone because there was an insider
who was saying everything. And with which a lot of people started connecting, a lot
of young people started coming over, working for free, and we started making films. At
the lowest cost films. And it became a kind of a thing where we start… our film started
representing Indian’s various festivals from Venice to Cannes. From Venice, Toronto…
everywhere… all made at extremely low cost, with the support of lot of people who started
collecting together. We formed an office. We didn’t have enough money to pay anyone,
but the youth, the young people refused to leave the office, so we made a kitchen. So
anybody they wanted to sleep, they could sleep in the office and get food, but we had no
salary to pay anyone. And suddenly a work force just rent twice the size of any big
studio in Bombay, and people who were working with us were being offered highest amount
of salaries and they would not leave. And they would work for free in this office. We
started making short films, and all this has happened in the last three years. We started
making short films which would go out, win awards. And the fundings that started coming
out of it, suddenly from outside people telling us: “do what you want to make!”. We started
doing international cooperation. And our whole office running even today, we have zero money
in our bank account. We still make breakeven films, we don’t lose money, but we have
three international co-productions, three films in production, two films that were already
released this year, and two ready films. And it is all done in a way, with a lot of faith,
from a lot of people with the kind of work we have been doing. We don’t fit into mainstream,
we don’t fit into art house, but it’s in a very organic way, it’s just been going
on…and I don’t know, it might just snowball into something bigger but still now it’s
still a breakeven structure, where we have the freedom to do what we want to do. And
we are doing all kinds of films and we are not answering to anyone. And at the time that
tedx invited me, also they have put together a bunch of my friends that are showing in sometime.
But it’s being a very intense journey, it’s been 19 years, but the last
three years feels like the earlier 16 years didn’t exist. And it’s just that we don’t
have that kind of time anymore and we are constantly making films. And we have a shooting
starting and we don’t have money for it today. But the unit has left and people have
gone on their own and the shooting is going to start. There’s another shooting that
starts on the 5th of October in Bombay, and we are sitting and drinking and saying where
are you? We are missing you! So that’s how we are doing things, in the last three years
we have not just been breaking even at the box office, we have also… our team has been
winning awards all over, the popular awards of the country, and it’s been a great journey!
Thank you so much!