An year ago, at this time of the year, I was involved in an experiment to gauge viewer response to an unconventional cinematic experience. At a preview screening of the award-winning, The Lives of Others, Anurag Kashyap (AK) had been invited among other select film-makers to preview the film and help promote this niche cinema. Ours was a minimalist marketing campaign compared to a YashRaj campaign and every bit of support was commendable. He had seen the film long before, nevertheless he agreed to come and give his vie on the film.
So there was him in front of us 10 minutes before the screening. He definitely looked like the champion of world cinema even thought there were others who had spoken about world cinema for long. As the handsome film-maker with a maverick image he struck me more than anyone else for a simple act which he did. As he entered the set-up we had created, he picked up a write-up on Florian Henckel Von Donnersmarck, the writer-director and co-producer of the film. We had put up a few press-release kits on the registration desk which was manned by a PR guy we had hired. As the chap tried and hand over one to him he refused but went straight for this write-up which was kept near one of the edges of the furniture. He went aside to smoke and began reading this one-page write-up. What struck me most and has since remained is the image of AK as a craftsman with an eye for detail. This image will define AK for the rest of my life. He was a sight of pure concentration unfazed by the small chat which surrounded him. It conveyed what he stood for; that he didn’t care what the media thought of him and that he was never going to play to the galleries.
How as a master craftsman he had noticed and observed every element of that stage-show we had put up and how as an actor he was determined to play his part right putting in interesting tid-bits from the knowledge base we had created for the event. There it was the persona of the next-generation, visionary film-maker which media calls maverick and critics find arrogant, occasionally brash and unwavering in criticism.
My friends have already branded me as one suffering from ‘Kashyap-attyachaar’ as they may wish to call it. I have been following the film’s marketing efforts, ever since the first news and the trailer hit in mid-november or so. However what has struck me is the belief ever crew member has in this project and how he is willing to go an extra mile in achieving it. The blogs on PFC, the viral being put up and how the effort which went in making the film is being documented is simply amazing. In a world of wiki, the director choosing to share his vision, his inspiration for the Emosional Attyachar song and the entire process which crafted the first draft of the film puts me in an inspirational mode. I am sure through this exercise he has planted the ambition of being a film-maker in so many souls who read everything up on the film.
For AK’s followers it is an exam which they all want to clear with a distinction. They pray for this film’s success because they see a hope for themselves if this experimentation works. AK though is no stranger to the acid-test. He has braved it all, and as you can see in the coverage, only emerged stronger, be his failing to accept that No Smoking was a bad film to his choice of projects he has undertaken since then. After all after RGV’s debacle of remaking Sholay, we haven’t seen many trying to experiment with a near perfect script.
As one of the first review in ToI mentions, “Dev D is like that heady cocktail which has the vodka pitched perfectly with the tang. ” Any mention of AK is bound to be explosive like the man himself. With a penchant for the choicest expletives in person, he does not mince words. But with the eccentricity associated with the craft is one of the most well-read and passionate film-maker insiders would agree.
What makes him a success is that he is a perfectionist and can hold his own no matter the odds. He defines his own standards (till now) which can be readily seen in the preview of Chanda’s sets and leaving his own mark without even concerning himself with the viewpoint of his stakeholders. A film-maker I had met once, mentioned how Mani Ratnam simply gave up the idea of gauging audience response when Yuva was trashed in the opening week. He had said that a true film-maker makes cinema for himself and not for others. AK states the same in his fiery blog writings and criticism of the existing structure within the industry. There are instances where his writings seem to convey his childish wish of achieving utopia in this world.
Dev D is going to define how receptive we can be to new cinema. We have shown interest in seeking a change in the present order. Yet we do not substantiate the need for change by giving thumbs down to a lot of films. I wish Dev D be a success. For this would mean a refreshing change and reward to all those who are working hard to change the cliché that Bollywood has termed itself to be.
(Dev D released in theatres today and has received a 5-star review from ToI and a one star from Taran Adarsh, the veteran story-teller-cum-reviewer. I found the film extremely satisfying and do plan to write a review. Keep watching this space for more info.)