October 13, 2001


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I'll fight to the finish

Down, but not out. For this 29-year-old, the fight has only just begun. And he is sure he will deliver the knockout punch.

Writer-turned-director Anurag Kashyap is not ready to give up on his directorial debut venture Paanch. Not without a full-fledged fight.

The film has been refused a clearance certificate by the censor board. Twice.

But Kashyap won't take it lying down and he's willing to go as far as the Supreme Court. That's before he'll ask the Indian President to intervene.

Govind Nihalani
Govind Nihalani

Saurabh Shukla
Saurabh Shukla

Farhan Akhtar
Farhan Akhtar

Saeed Mirza
Saeed Mirza

The censor board had refused a certificate to the film when it first came up for viewing on July 26. The film was then sent to a revising committee, which saw the film on September 19 and upheld the board's earlier decision.

Both these refusals were made on six grounds -- the film glorifies violence; it shows the modus operandi of a crime (killing of a police officer); it shows excessive use of drugs; it has double meaning dialogues; it has no positive characters; it does not carry a social message.

However, this has not dampened Kashyap's spirit. In an exclusive interview, he spoke to Anjum N on the issues involved.

On the Censor Board's refusal to clear Paanch.

The censor board officials are not willing to accept that people's sensibilities have changed, their language and tastes have changed. They tell me that, while other films have characters speaking chaste Urdu or Hindi, the protagonists of my film speak abusive language.

These officials refuse to hear the language of today's youth. Where on the streets do you hear people speaking Urdu? Do young roommates in Bombay speak to each other in Urdu?

The board says my film has suggestive dialogues... sexual undertones. My stand is that my film's characters mean what they say. There is no double meaning -- the sexual connotation is the only thing the dialogues are meant to convey.

When youngsters make a pass at a girl or when they pull a friend's leg over his crush on someone, why should there be any non-sexual meanings to it? The board officials simply fail to accept that times have changed.

While refusing certification, the officials also said the film does not have any positive characters. But they don't seem to understand that there are grey areas in all people. The character of Pondy (played by Vijay Maurya), one of the five protagonists, is definitely positive. You can say the same about Murgi (Aditya Srivastava).

On the long fight ahead

I'll fight for the release of my film till the very end. My future as a filmmaker depends on it. If I let go now, I'll never be able to make the kind of films I believe in. People won't see me as a responsible director, and won't respect my views on how a film should be made.

I have to fight, whatever amount of time it may take. I'm tired already, but I'm hopeful. In fact, I'm positive that the film will be released. It's only a matter of time. And I'm prepared to wait.

On why he is confident of victory

I know the film will have to be cleared. If the tribunal refuses to grant a certificate, we will move the Supreme Court. And we will get justice there.

The courts can ban a film only if it is anti-national, if it is anti-India. But Paanch has nothing to with nationalism. It's a crime thriller.

On his initial reaction when the film was denied a certificate

I became very cynical, said a lot of things I didn't mean to. I was frustrated and felt that I was being singled out for such treatment. I let go of my emotions without checking my words.

It hurt a lot of people, who weren't to blame. They did not realise that I was saying these things out of cynicism. Now I'm more restrained.

On life ever since Paanch got stuck

Ever since my film was refused certification, I have not been able to do anything else. I haven't written anything. I haven't earned a rupee in the last four months. I have been living off my wife. *laughs*

I went into a state of complete depression when it happened. I've picked myself up now, but I still cannot concentrate on writing. I'm spending some time with the theatre groups to keep myself occupied.

On the film industry's reaction to his film

All those who have seen the film, are surprised it has been refused a certificate. People have been congratulating me on the film's realistic approach. Directors like Ram Gopal Varma, Govind Nihalani, Sudhir Mishra, Kundan Shah, Ketan Mehta, Aziz Mirza and Farhan Akhtar have liked my film.

Only Ashutosh Gowariker said that he saw why the censor board was refusing it a certificate. It is really disturbing, he said. But the film is meant to disturb. People are shocked at the happenings, especially in the second half. They find the thought -- that ordinary people like us can turn so violent and cold-blooded -- very discomforting. But that's what the film is about.

I've had over 30 trial shows and the audience at each one of them has left the theatre supporting the film. They have been shocked, disturbed and shaken, but they have enjoyed every moment of it.

On their support

The people who have seen the film have supported it. Many have gone public with their views. They are speaking their mind before the media. That's a big advantage. People realise that Paanch is not a bad product, as the censor board would like people to believe.

On the comparisons with Satya

I'd written the script of Paanch much before I wrote Satya for Ram Gopal Varma. The two are totally different films. While Satya was based on the underworld, Paanch does not have any gangster in the storyline. It is the story of five wannabe rock stars, and their merciless pursuit of success.

Satya, though realistic and hardhitting, was based in a world we don't really feel we live in. It's like, say, Bandit Queen. We know the story is true, but we think the characters are far away from us. Paanch is about something that could be happening in your neighbour's home.

I once told this to a film magazine editor. And the next issue said that Anurag Kashyap felt that Satya was a fairytale compared to Paanch. That soured my relations with Ram Gopal Varma.

On his team in Paanch

I wanted to make Paanch four years ago, with Manoj Bajpai and Raveena Tandon among the lead actors. But things didn't work out.

Then, when Pradeep 'Tutu' Sharma agreed to produce the film, I decided to cast Kay Kay Menon and Tejaswini Kolhapure instead. We completed shooting the film in 40 days. I lived with the script for four years, so I knew every detail. I knew each scene.

Kay Kay is excellent. He's given Luke his all. No one could have done it better. That would apply to all the others in the film too.

On his other films

I wrote the screenplay and dialogues for Ram Gopal Varma's Satya and Kaun and E Niwas' Shool. I also wrote the dialogues for Shankar's Nayak and Deepa Mehta's shelved film Water.

I also worked with Vidhu Vinod Chopra on Mission Kashmir, but left the project mid-way. Hrithik Roshan had become a big star by then and the filmmakers wanted to incorporate changes in the script to suit his new-found status. I did not agree so I left. But they did give me a credit.

I was also credited in the titles of Sanjay Gupta's Jung, which was actually written by my brother Abhinav. I was supposed to do Raj Kumar Santoshi's film with Aamir Khan and Shah Rukh Khan. But the film was scrapped. I'm doing Sudhir Mishra's film with Sunjay Dutt.

On his hopes for Paanch

I'm sure people will like my film. But they should have the chance to see it first. After that, I don't mind if they reject it.

I'll accept the audience's verdict if they feel the film does not constitute healthy entertainment. But this decision cannot come from the censor board. They cannot be the final judge.