He has been a struggler, saviour and a snob, an outsider, recruiter and an auteur, a cult, crusader and a film-school. In a career spanning over two decades, Anurag Kashyap has gone from revitalizing the Hindi film industry to representing it. Unlike his one-time mentor Ram Gopal Varma, though, Kashyap has stopped short of defying it. Most of all, he has come to symbolize the mentality of making films rather than assembling them – a system that fundamentally hinges on seeking out hidden talent instead of recycling old ones.
But his career is a double-edged sword. The man has been so consistent at introducing a generation to different facets of an inherently collaborative craft – editors, cinematographers, writers, producers, casting directors and musicians of repute today descend from his stable of technical orientation – that his pedigree is in danger of being overshadowed by his legacy. There is a perpetual tug-of-war between his name and his voice.
At some point, every Kashyap release acquires the exclusivity of an edgy underground movement – a fight club that aggressively hinges on its participants’ cinema literacy to battle the evils of commercial Bollywood. He has been both an enabler and victim of this underdog culture. In this sense, he is a genre onto himself. Sometimes his work tends to be judged in context of what he stands for rather than the movie it tries to be. The artist often transcends the art. But it’s hard to begrudge him his kingdom. A simple face-to-face with him even today reveals a restless child-like enthusiasm – one that signifies the spirit of a fanboy who has earned the right to emulate his idols.
Perhaps it’s only appropriate then that his thirteenth feature-length film is named “Manmarziyaan”: a word that suitably describes his cinematic pathway so far. The title sounds most uncharacteristic – soft, almost. It somewhat suggests a desire to stop being Anurag Kashyap…and simply doing as the heart pleases.
Ahead of its release then, I rank his twelve films from worst to best (not including his anthology shorts and Sacred Games):
12. NO SMOKING (2007)
They will argue it was too radical, too far “ahead of its time.” But a film has to be understood to be misunderstood. The part-wicked, mostly arrogant No Smoking was a film-school-style rush of blood for the maker who, perhaps reeling from the joy of finally having secured a theatrical release (Black Friday), went ‘full retard’ on unsuspecting viewers with the psychological tomfoolery of this John Abraham starrer. It might be about a man put through random hell to quit smoking. But it was largely about a filmmaker defiantly expressing a decade-long nightmare of random roadblocks and shelved projects.