He has defied both critics and commercial box office to rake in success. He doesn't break the rules just to break the rules. He backs it up because he thinks he can. That's how level headed he is when it comes to direction. He is the new school in the age where old fools still exist in movie making. It is difficult to capture Anurag Basu's presence in print. The last time I met him was at the red carpet world premiere in London's Odeon Leicester Square where his highly acclaimed film Life In A Metro was screened starring the celebrity big brother winner that year, Shilpa Shetty. Almost the who's who of the British Film Industry graced the red carpet. And there was Basu in his loosened denims and a plain black shirt. He doesn't look like those lost out guys who make cinema. He looks like an active and sometimes I guess hyperactive middle aged film geek. Having made some diverse cinema which put him on the ladder of success, Anurag is now on the verge of the most difficult phase in movie making - a phase of path breaking cinema, a phase where he needs to prove his mental strength as a director and a phase that will boost a lot of aspiring filmmakers to make stories where language is no barrier. In short, a phase where Bollywood will be re-written. With a lot of expectations riding high on Kites, this correspondent met the super talented director over some delicious lunch at TGIF in Andheri to gauge where and at what distance will his most ambitious film Kites reach. Whatever the verdict, Basu is flying high already.
Will the Kites fly high come May 21?
I am a little nervous guy. I am scared to be confident and a bit over confident. I am always apprehensive before the release of any of my films. The film is just a few weeks away. There is a lot of honesty which has gone in the film. So let's see how high our audiences can take the film when it releases in May.
Is the use of Spanish, Hindi and English language in the film makes Kites path breaking?
The film just took shape naturally. Initially we thought that the film is targeted to the west but then we found out that love, as the subject in the film, speaks no language. It is universal. There was this Spanish girl, Barbara Mori, who didn't know Hindi and there was Hrithik Roshan who didn't know Spanish. So we didn't force any language on anybody. After seeing seventy percent of the film, my producers, Reliance Big Pictures and Rakesh Roshan thought that the film is path breaking because it will appeal to everybody across the globe.
Why did a director and producer like Rakesh Roshan opt you to direct Kites when he could've directed the film himself?
Till today I have a question in my mind as to why did he take me as a director for Kites? Rakesh Roshan had seen my film Gangster. During that time, Life In A Metro wasn't released. He called me and said, "I've got a story for Hrithik in mind. I want you to direct it." At that time, I said, "No." Knowing Hrithik's star status, I always wondered why would Hrithik do my film. I was a small director who was busy with an ensemble cast film titled Life In A Metro. Plus, I had also heard that he is doing a Rajkumar Hirani film, Aditya Chopra's film, etc. But Rakesh gave me an idea to work on. Then when I met him at the 2007, IIFA Awards in Yorkshire, he told me, "Have you done something about the idea Anurag?" That's when on the way back to India on the flight I started writing the script. Kites isn't the usual Film Kraft films which we're used to seeing. Hrithik took a walk around his hall and instantly said, 'yes' to the film.
What about your like mindedness?
Rakesh Roshan and Anurag Basu are two different people. Our tastes, likes and dislikes are different but we shared one thing in common - to make a good and an honest film. I will not say that we had any issues on and off the sets. But we did have arguments regarding the film and arguments are a part of any creative process. That's what makes a good cinema.
Are we going to see a different Hrithik Roshan emerge out of Kites?
Yes you are. As an actor, Hrithik has always played difficult characters. He is very natural. He prepares a lot, reads his script, does his rehearsals and then comes on the sets. For this film, I didn't want that. I wanted to throw him in the middle of the sea this time with no preparations. I wanted to see what happens if Hrithik is unprepared. It was very difficult. I wanted an imperfect Hrithik in Kites, and he is very good in that. We had a ball. You'll see a completely new Hrithik in Kites.
And why a title like Kites for a romantic love story?
In the film, I needed some metaphor. The title Kites isn't forced in. There is a saying that kites fly high in the sky, not with the wind but against the wind. Hrithik and Barbara are the kites who are flying high. Their love is unstoppable and they go against the world but there is someone who is controlling these kites. And when they fly too close, there is a risk of losing one. We took the title Kites from one of the dialogues in our film.
Are you a changed director after directing Kites?
I never change my approach on filmmaking. The budget of Kites is no way nearer the budget of the films I have directed in the past. Kites is a biggie. As far as technology is concerned, yes, I have learnt many things from the film. Like the action sequences and all. I wanted to do such scenes. Also, thanks to Rakesh Roshan, there were no budget constraints in Kites. I am a little spoiled after making Kites (laughs).
More than the audiences and the critics, it's the film fraternity who has a huge expectation from Kites. Are you and the cast of your film chewing your finger nails?
Everyone associated with the film is tensed right now. We have all challenged ourselves. I have challenged myself by directing a film like Kites, Hrithik has done the same by selecting a different approach to acting, Rakesh Roshan has taken a challenge producing this film and Barbara Mori has taken a huge challenge doing an Indian film. It's a big risk but taken with confidence and courage. Our comfort level is uncomfortable at the moment (laughs).
Brief us something about the beautiful Barbara Mori
I tell all my actors not to act. I want them to be themselves and their characters in the film. Barbara Mori doesn't act either. She is so natural that you will fall in love with her. She doesn't do any scene or shot if she isn't convinced. She isn't a fake.
How difficult was it to converse with Barbara Mori?
People from the West have their agents and all coming in the way of narration. So when I went to narrate Barbara the script in Los Angeles, I wanted to do it in the traditional Bollywood way. I narrated her the story with my bad Hindi accent mixed with English. But her English was worse than mine (laughs). While looking at her while narrating, I thought she is the best choice for Kites and she said a 'yes' immediately after the narration was complete. She had seen my film Gangster before our narration.
How does Hrithik communicate with his director? We want to know.
He comes to the set and hands over himself to the director. Nobody knows this but there is a director in Hrithik's mind. He can sense the whole film. Most of our actors in the industry have got a selfish approach. But Hrithik thinks about the film as a whole. On the second day of the shoot, I briefed Hrithik on how he should act in that scene but missed out small details. When I took the shot, I noticed that he had done exactly what I had missed out while briefing him. That is Hrithik Roshan for you.
And we hear that you are a sound person too?
(Laughs) Yes. I write with a sense of music in my mind. I have all my temporary tracks with me when I go to shoot. I can't write or function if my I-Pod isn't glued to my ears. I can never do without songs. I hate lip-syncs songs.