Director Abhishek Kapoor on why the cause of rapes runs deeper than we think, and whyBollywood needs an overhaul
One month on from the gang-rape that brought Delhi out on the streets, the situation
, many say, is exactly the same. But it's not as simple as executing the death penalty to solve the problem; it runs deeper, and somewhere even Bollywood is to blame - is what National Award-winning director Abhishek Kapoor told us when he was in Delhi to promote his next, Kai Po Che
. It was a day when cops had shut down central Delhi and had turned on the demonstrators, but the determined were finding their way to India Gate despite this. So, many things led to the discussion being more than just filmi gupshup
- that anyone who was using Central Delhi's roads was talking about what was happening, that the film is from the makers of Rang De Basanti
, which made India Gate the Mecca of the protestor, and that Kapoor, who belongs to that renegade set of directors that is finally wielding some serious muscle, was not afraid to speak his mind. He did need a little goading ("It's so serious, that to promote anything would be, not cool"), but it set the tone for the rest
of the conversation, which went from what is wrong with us as a society to what's wrong with the film industry.What's your interpretation of the angst and dilemmas of the youth, given that your film is about the non-privileged youngster, and the people on the streets are the same?
This whole rape incident is so serious, so intense, that to promote anything other than talk about that particular incident, would be, not cool. It's just too sensitive a matter - it's not like corruption.But the debate has gone beyond the act. It is now about the political system that never really steps out for common people.
It's terrible, what has happened. But you're thinking, how does an incident like that happen? I'm sure the guys who're in the bus don't mean any good. But to commit such a crime, you think, have they planned that they're going to do something this heinous, or it's something that just flares up on the spur of the moment? Because if it is the latter, then I think it is very much possible that there are a lot more people with that kind of ticking bomb in their head. It's a matter of few of these things coming together to detonate a moment like this, which can happen again. It's not like if you give the death penalty, it will not happen again; it's not going to scare. Because it's not something that someone plans out, it happens on the spur of the moment. Then there is such repression in today's youth. They do not know what is wrong with them but they can just feel anger and frustration, and lack of a vision of a better future. And somewhere that is simmering inside them. Then, at the same time, their sexualities are really confused, these are really confused people with a lot of anger within. And that moment, when it does come, it blows up. And that's when we have cases of such manic incidences. This is not the action of a rational mind; no one can plan it. It's possible for this to happen again even if you put down a death penalty. So, it's very scary; what is the frame of mind of our youth, somewhere deep? Someone has to address this. I don't know where it is, how deep-rooted it is, but it's much more than just an individual being a bad person. It's running right through the youth of this country.What exactly do you mean by confused sexuality?
This comes from so many years of - I don't know, female infanticide - all of this is connected. I don't think death penalty is the answer. It may make you feel better today, but it'll not solve your problem. And somewhere... Indian cinema has a big influence on today's youth. The way we treat our women
in films, somewhere could be leading an uneducated youth out there to treat a woman slightly badly. Like when you talk about item numbers, and the way the woman is paraded - but we sell it, in our Bollywood, saying that, arre yeh toh masses ko achha lagta hai. Jab aapko suit karta hai toh masses ko achha lagta hai, jab masses ko kuch zyada hi achha lagta hai tab aapko suit nahi karta.
But on some level, you are titillating the audience, and putting these things in their head that it's OK. Indians love their films. But there are a lot of uneducated people out there, and jobless, they do not know right from wrong, and sometimes they emulate what they see on screen. Not that this particular incident is from a film, but somewhere, the psychology is all muddled up. It's very scary to be on the street and be a girl in North India. It's a ticking time bomb. I don't think the death penalty is the solution, education is.Where did you disappear after Rock On!?
I was writing Kai Po Che
, it took me two-and-a-half-years to adapt this book. And I've never worked with a finer set of actors. I didn't want to do it with stars. Initially, I did try to bring in a star, to 'package' it, but then I realized I was making a mistake. This film is about three friends
, it's not about a hero and two flunkeys. If I take a star, I'll have to adapt it to him. So, I got a guy likeSushant Singh Rajput, who's really popular on TV, and I said, why can't I repackage this boy, deserving to be on celluloid? In Bollywood, they say television ke ladke nahi chalte yaar, stars hi chalte hain. Phir kahaan se aayega naya ladka? Kisi star ka beta hoga ya bhanja hoga ya bhatija hoga, tab aayega.The strength of Rock On! was its script, which you co-wrote. Why'd you go for an adaptation next?
My first film was Aaryan
, which I wrote myself. It took me five years to make, I had no money, and it took the life out of me. Then I wrote Rock On!, and then I wanted to try out something different. When I read The Three Mistakes Of My Life
, and Chetan Bhagat, he's a very popular writer, but he doesn't get too much respect from his community of writers. That is really unfair. Because he doesn't stand for his eloquence or his articulation. He's a creative person. He's putting together an idea, and he's communicating with the common guy. And the common Indian speaks half English-half Hindi, and a very simple language. He's not trying to impress the literate community, he's trying to connect with the masses by telling them a story. I found the book to be so simply written, like, as compared to an Arundhati Roy
- with due respect to her - but I find such indulgence and such great control over the language, and artistry of a different kind, that I don't feel excited to put that onto celluloid. It's great to read, I appreciate her artistic talent, but I'm not inspired to put that onto celluloid because she's done full justice to it in words. But where Chetan's work is concerned, he's telling me a story, and it's got such a big backdrop - the earthquake, an India-Australia Test match, and the riots, all of which hit Gujarat really hard. And it's a story of three friends, and how they get affected by these three events. I found it to be an epic story. The fact that he writes it so simply, I could add some kind of cinematic style to it for celluloid. But I think I bit off much more than I could chew, 'coz it took me two years to put it into a screenplay.After a film based in urban Mumbai, this one's about the small town. For you, where you come from, which was easier to translate on screen?
I didn't have to work at understanding it, I could feel it. Do I understand who you are, where you come from, what have you studied, how much money have you had in your pocket, what are your needs? If you ask all the right questions, I'll understand. I found it very interesting to be in the real India. People said Rock On! chhote sheheron mein nahi chalegi.
But it did well everywhere, because it wasn't about rock music, it was about people, their connect. This film is going to connect to a much wider audience because it is about them. It's about middle-class people but it's not a small film. My dream is to put a film not on a Bollywood platform, but on an international platform. It should be an 'Indian' film. So if I take this to Cannes, or if I put it in Berlin, it should get recognized (and now, it has been recognised) - for communicating with an international audience. No point making a Bollywood film which just Indians are watching.What do you think about the fascination with 100 crore?Yeh bol bol ke humne sab ko bewakoof bana ke rakha hai. Yeh 100 crore... piddoo number hai.
Such terrible films, doing a 100-crore business. And if that same star is in a really good film with a good performance, he should be making 300-400 crore. Aamir Khan
did it three years ago, it's not that it's an extraordinary genius film, it's a good film that did 300 crore. Have we not made a good film since then?The problem is that a good film with a star is the aberration. People make good films with newcomers...
Yeah, but they are rejected! The system in Bollywood is to reject it, is to not even try and do anything because usme shayad mehnat zyaada lag jaaegi, din zyada lagenge, fatafat nahi hoga yaar. Jo fatafat ban raha hai, pak raha hai, proposal banaao aur becho. Aur aur kisiko mat karne do.
Everybody makes money. It's not about money; do you want to be the richest man in the grave? Because they are not competing with each other in the standard of the film - I should try and make a better movie than the other - they're saying, I should just make more money than the other actor. Why? Are you a stockbroker? Are you a baniya in a redi ka dukaan?
You're not part of a stock market, you're a creative person. Your aspiration should be to make a better film. Our business has never seen a better time. If I was trying to make this movie five-seven years ago, I'd never have this opportunity. But today if I have this opportunity, and I still leave it and run after a star to make a Bollywood film, I'd be a fool.The 18 crore that you got for this film, 15 saal pehle kaun daalta in films pe?Kaun dalta? Aur yeh
film ka chalna itna zaroori hoga, agar iss
of a regular Bollywood potboiler, means times have changed. See, I can understand if the film doesn't do well. Then we're back to square one and the system is right, I am wrong, maybe I'm too early for my space. But if it does the same kind of business as any other masala film, we have a changed business here. Now you can't say ki yeh chalta nahi hai. Chalta hai
, but you choose not to work hard.Jaise Paan Singh Tomar bhi chali...Chali, but yeh jo figures hain,
50 crore, 70 crore, none of these films have hit those numbers. The key is that one of these films has to hit those numbers that a Bollywood star-cast film does. This film fits into the space of art house, but the content... like, sometimes an art house film can become very indulgent, you know.We have been thinking about creating a category called the 'art house mainstream'...
Something like that. It would be great if someone could give it a name, that this is what the future should be, and define it. That you make money, you make better films, something that will work with the masses, with the classes, with the youth.Roughly one decade of life, and three movies...
Yeah, it's been rough.One would expect you to be a far more cynical guy. Your degree of angst is too low...
I'm not angry because I'm very happy with the work I've done. If I'd not managed to make good films, I would be very angry because I would be blaming someone for the f**k up. There is no f**k up. The f**kup is only that I've wasted time. I'm looking at a good future. I've got 8-10 scripts lying on my table, but this time around I'm not going to take so much time.
Kai Po Che to premiere at Berlin Film Festival
Kai Po Che will have its world premiere at the 63rd Berlin Film Festival in February. It has been selected for the Panorama section, where it is the only Indian film among 31 world cinema productions from 23 countries. Panorama, as Berlinale's website states, "provides insight on new directions in art house cinema. Traditionally, Auteur Films - movies with an individual signature - form the heart of the programme." Predictably, Abhishek is elated. "I feel fantastic," summed up his sentiments. "We've made this movie with a lot of hardship and the team have put a lot of effort behind it." Of course, what he had told us earlier, about wanting to take his film to the world and not just the Indian audience, is taking form now. "It's an 'Indian' film, and how I see my India. And I would want this movie to be screened all over the world," he said, again clarifying, "It's not a Bollywood film. It's not an art house film. It's an Indian film. And I would want the world to see it."