‘Impressing NRIs doesn’t make Bollywood global’ – Anurag Basu

His magic touch is enough to set the cash registers ringing at the box-office. Be it Murder, Gangster or Metro, director Anurag Basu has always hit the bull’s eye. Not only is his style of filmmaking popular, even the music of his films is a rage.

Currently basking in the success of his last release – Life in a… Metro, which has so far grossed more than Rs 400 million at the box office and the recent three film deal he has inked with UTV Motion Pictures, the director took some time off to discuss his future plans and more.

Excerpts from a tete-tete with Businessofcinema.com’s Ruhail Amin:

So, how’s it being in the big league of Bollywood?
(Smiles) People keep telling me this. But, to tell you my gut feeling, I believe I need two more hits to be counted in that league. There is still a long way to go.

After Metro’s success at the box-office, what have you been up to?
I’m on a break right now. But, at the same time I’m thinking about my next films, which means a lot of meetings. In fact, I have been through an ordeal of saying ‘NO’ to people I always wanted to work with because I don’t want to make such kind of cinema. As a filmmaker, I strive to bring alive stories that are close to my heart. I don’t believe in working only for money.

What kind of subject are you looking for in your next film?
Actually, I’m still grappling with a couple of ideas. My waste bin is proof of how many ideas I have tried to put down but all in vain. My next film has to be better than Gangster and Metro. There are many options and offers that I’m still evaluating.

You have a reputation of not working with big stars. Comment.
I won’t deny that. It’s not because I don’t believe in working with big stars but purely because they have problems with giving you dates. When I was writing Gangster, I approached Sanjay Dutt, but his dates were blocked. So, I decided to go on with the film with a different cast rather than wait for a long time. I believe if you have a great script your film will succeed anyway.

Is it a fact that the Bhatts turned down Metro when you narrated it to them?
Yes, it’s a fact. But, what’s wrong about that? Vishesh Films has its own flavour of cinema and Metro did not fit in that style. When Mukesh Bhatt refused to produce Metro, it never came as a shock to me.< Page Break >

How’s your relationship with Vishesh Films?
The Bhatts are like my extended family. They have always stood by me whenever I needed them. In fact, whenever I complete writing my film, I make it a point to narrate it first to Bhatt Saab (Mahesh Bhatt) to get his feedback.

Did Yash Raj films approach you with any offer?
No, they haven’t approached me so far.

Are you open to working with them?
I have never closed myself to anyone. My only yardstick is non-interference with my projects. Years back, I walked out of Ekta Kapoor’s film Kucch To Hai owing to the same reason.

According to you is there a lot of competition in the Hindi film industry today?
(Laughs) Not at all. Tell me how many good directors are in the industry today? I think not more than 10. So where’s the competition? What the film industry is facing right now is the bankruptcy of fresh narratives. It’s a challenge for directors to pull off hits in such a situation. I believe that I can write intelligent scripts and that’s why I’m still around.

Who are your favourite Indian directors?
I’m a huge fan of Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s cinema. I also love Rajkumar Hirani’s style of storytelling, he’s fabulous. Among other directors, I like Vishal Bhardwaj and Mohit Suri’s films too.

What’s the biggest challenge our film industry is facing today?
Apart from the narrative crisis that I spoke about, I think the brand Bollywood needs to be marketed more aggressively abroad. It’s disheartening to know that despite producing so many films, we are unable to garner or impact the audiences abroad in a manner in which the East Asian cinema does. Look at Hong Kong, Korea and Taiwan; the films made in these countries are reproduced in Hollywood and other places. Why can’t we do that?

But there is a lucrative NRI market that looks very promising…
I agree, but impressing the NRIs alone doesn’t make Bollywood quite global. If we have to make an impact globally, we have to tap a broader audience base by making films, which are technically and thematically advanced. Since most of our NRI audiences are trapped in old times, it poses a new challenge to cater to these varied sensibilities.

Tell us something about yourself which people don’t know?
I’m quite superstitious about the place where I write my script. There are cetain spaces where the idea just flows non-stop, like my parents bedroom. When I was writing Gangster, like any other writer I faced the writer’s block. But as soon as I sat in my parent’s bedroom, I just couldn’t stop writing. Same thing happened when I was in Korea; I found my hotel room a great writing place for Metro.