Director Anurag Basu is known for working outside the Bollywood mainstream. Films like Gangster: A Love Story and Life in A Metro combined an honest look at life with the soulfulness of classic Bollywood. With Kites, Anurag is taking his realness and applying it to the big budget magic of a Rakesh Roshan production. He was in New York City to talk about his work and Bollyspice was there at the roundtable discussion to get all the news firsthand!
After a few jokes about the whereabouts of Kangana (“Actually, she’s shooting today”), the dapper director settled in to talk Kites. Anurag speaks quickly and with great enthusiasm, often tripping over his words in an attempt to get his thoughts out.
He started off speaking about making his first big budget film, “I don’t think it was a huge challenge. Smaller films are more difficult because when you have a shoestring budget, you have to manage in that budget and make your film look good. Most of the time when I was writing small films, I was doing my production, too. ‘I should write this scene – no it will cost you money chuck it out and write some other scene.’ But this time I had a free hand. I just started to write and Rakesh-ji told me, ‘Don’t think about the budget, just write.’ So I just wrote the film.”
Fear didn’t enter the equation. Anurag added, “I knew Mr. Rakesh Roshan is an experienced producer at making huge movies, so I was very relaxed. I know nothing will go wrong when he’s there.”
Working with a superstar like Hrithik was much easier than Anurag had expected. He didn’t need to change his style at all. “I was doing the same, [Hrithik] had to change, actually. I was the same person I was writing the same way. And last interview, Barbara complained about me, that I was messy, so I think I was the same person.” He continues. “You know sometimes our Bollywood acting becomes little loud and over the top, so now to be very real and organic that’s what we did in the film. When you’re working with a superstar in a movie you see that superstar from the first frame to last frame, you don’t a character in it. But in this film, in 5 minutes you forget Hrithik Roshan and you start seeing the character and I think that is a good thing.”
Anurag adds, “Now, with any story, any script I can see Hrithik in it because he’s such a versatile actor. Any story, any script, any character you can see Hrithik in it. I was very apprehensive working with a big star. I always avoided it because I think you lose your independence as a filmmaker and I heard stories about superstar behavior. But Hrithik is completely different. He’s a complete team man and he knows his medium very well. There’s a bit of director inside of him a bit of cameraman. He has a film brain.”
That’s high praise, indeed, from the award winning director.
The Roshans wanted an entire new direction for Kites, which is where Brett Ratner and the English remix version came in, but Brett wasn’t involved in the film from the beginning. Anurag explains, “No, the film came to [Ratner] much later. In fact, when we started making the film we never knew it was going to go this big although there was a hidden agenda. We knew that if we make [it] good, this film will cross boundaries but we never knew it was going to become so big.”
While they may have trusted in the film, Western audiences expect something different. “See when we write the screenplay of Indian movies we structure it differently because there is this pre-interval/post-interval. Everywhere else in the world they follow a different structure of writing. So [for Indian movies] you have to do an interval and they will go, get disconnected with your film. They come back in and again you have to start from zero.”
Brett Ratner helped transition from this way of thinking to an international one, explains Anurag. “Brett was right that you have to edit it differently for an English version. He was given the job and the fact that he was doing it – he is a busy man – he must have genuinely felt passionate about the film.” He continues, “I’ve enjoyed his films, I’ll not list them as my favorites but I’ve loved all his films.”
With Brett Ratner editing a separate version, it would be understandable if Anurag felt that he the international version was no longer his, but that isn’t the case. “It’s still my film, I shot it. Most of the [Ratner] edited version of the film is my version.” But he does have one complaint. “Some places, I think the background music … it’s very subjective. The background music is what I didn’t like in the English version, that’s it. Everything else is perfect.”
Music has always been one of the touchstones of Anurag’s films and Kites is no different. “I always write the film with iPod on and the music happening simultaneously. So, when you are hearing a certain kind of music and you are recreating it, just taking it out of your head becomes difficult. That’s what happened. You know I have been living with those background pieces while shooting, while writing and while watching.”
He continues, “You can’t do away with the music, music is a very special part of our movies, you have to use music differently every time and that’s a challenge how you use it differently.”
The dancing in Kites is something new for him, too, although Anurag isn’t opposed to dancing in films in theory. “I’m not saying it’s bad. I really love watching those kinds of dance but when I have to direct it, I can’t do it.” Song and dance is an integral part of Bollywood and even a global oriented film will keep them in. And make no mistake, Anurag wants to go global.
He says, “So why not? In India everything else is becoming global, why not cinema? And we can do it, why not? For example China and Korea – we make ten times more movies than them, but they make ten times more money than us because their audiences are global audiences. Not in our case. We are concentrating too much on our own market making movies and satisfying and making money on business. It’s a very difficult thing to crack. I’m not saying Kites will change everything but if it works then it will be a step towards that so next time when we make a movie it will be a more aggressive approach towards pushing envelope towards global market.”
And the global market is ready for Kites. The film releases May 21st.