Film Education

“Shirin Farhad Ki Toh Nikal Padi” – Film Review by Oorvazi Irani

“Shirin Farhad Ki Toh Nikal Padi”

First published on
Directed by Bela Bhansali Sehgal
Produced by Sanjay Leela Bhansali and Sunil A Lulla
Starring Boman Irani as Farhad Pastakia and Farah Khan as Shirin Fugawala and co-starring Daisy Irani,Shammi, Kavin Dave etc.

MAM brings to you an exclusive video review for the first time of the movie Shirin Farhad Ki Toh Nikal Padiby Oorvazi Irani and her thoughts on the same.


My Journey teaching film at the SVKM IB School (Batch 2010 – 2012)

My Journey teaching film at the SVKM IB School (Batch 2010 – 2012)
Oorvazi Irani

This is probably the only IB school in Mumbai that offers film as a subject

Introduction – What is IB
Before I talk about the subject of film and my journey I would like to share with you what is IB. The International Baccalaureate® (IB) was founded in Geneva, Switzerland in 1968 as a non-profit educational foundation. The IB works with 3,458 schools in 143 countries to offer the three IB programmes to approximately 1,043,000 students. And you would ask, how does this compare with the current system ? Of course, the current systems empower the child with sound knowledge, understanding and skills in all required fields, but their rote system of assessments pay larger emphasis on left brain usage. On the other hand, International curricula aim at developing and sharpening higher order thinking skills from an early age by involving all the functional areas of the brain. IB encourages the student to be a global citizen and understand and respect various cultures from all over the world. Being creative and original is greatly encouraged and to sum it up in the words of the president of SVKM( Shri Vile Parle Kelavani Mandal) Amrish Patel – “Where “education” goes beyond the mere cramming of pre-discovered facts and theorems and enters a realm where young minds, are designed to become inquirers, thinkers, achievers, communicators and above all Global Citizens with a conscious rooted deep in the Indian value system.
This kind of learning is exactly what I identified with and given an opportunity to teach the subject I immersed myself into it. For me as an artist and practicing filmmaker this was an exciting journey to be able to guide and mentor another young artist and keen student of cinema.

IBDP (International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme) Film:

So I started my journey with a young group of 4 students in the age group of 16 – 19 years who had chosen film as one of their subjects. I had a challenging task before me, but looking back it feels very satisfying to see them all succeed and enjoy the subject, Above all I am proud of their final student film “ “Takbir” which is sensitive and mature and is the pride of our school. The film was also projected by the school on various formal and informal platforms as a showcase which reflects all the values of IB and it felt really nice that the two years came to such a lovely conclusion. But making of a short film is just one of the projects that the students undertake and an important part of the project is the Written Commentary which includes the observations, experiences and reflections of the process of making the film itself which I think is very nice (but often neglected by students and has to be repeatedly drummed into their heads). Its as simple as maintaining a diary of records right from the day you started brainstorming about the idea to the day your film was complete but ofcourse in a format that is specified in which it gets submitted has to be adhered too,.

Film Syllabus Outline:
Given below are the three projects that the students undertake, however the making of the film along with the Written Commentary is 50% of the marks and is internally marked (moderated after that by IB) and the other projects are externally marked and moderated. The subject of film is offered as SL (Standard Level) and HL (Higher Level) (The differentials between SL and HL are both quantitative and qualitative. All my students took Film HL.

So as a teacher I had to guide them through all the projects, yet not spoon feed them. Discover the artists in them and also make them thorough with the history of cinema and understand the art and craft of filmmaking. Each class could not be theory but each class could not be just fun either and slowly we both – student and teacher found a meeting ground. But what was most important as a journey as a teacher was to be able to gain the trust of each student and the process was a learning curve for me too. Also each project helps them understand and execute the other projects, there is a learning that beautiful blends into each other.

Below is a brief discussion on each project:

Textual Analysis
The detailed study of film sequences

This project encourages the student to find the entire essence of the ocean in one drop, exploring the macrocosm in the microcosm. To be more specific a 5 minute extract is explored to discover the entire gamut of film theory and history and the language of cinema ofcourse in relation to the film and its specifications. I will not go into the details of the project but it was a nice way to engage the students directly with cinema and make them realize the importance of each scene in a film and that each part contains the essence of the whole. The presentation of this project was a audio recording where the student discusses the scene with a few prescribed areas but the student is not allowed to read the notes and thus it’ encourages an understanding and reflection rather than a mere cut paste attitude which many projects give way too like in school. Infact how many projects in school have been done by parents, neighbours, sibblings and not the student themselves, I feel this approach helps to engage with the topic and make the student personally participate.

Film theory and history
The study of films and film-making traditions from more than one country.

More than any other project it is here that students are encouraged to explore and understand various cultures from different parts of the world. Sensitizing them to different ways of experience and living. Here the format of presentation is an audio visual script with film clips from different cultures but under a topic that allows this exploration in film history/theory and cinematic language. The challenge in IB is always to be able to discover the area of interest of the student and then develop his exploration in a related field of cinematics. As doing a project should not be a mere exercise but something that excites the student to want to know more about. So if one of my students loved the western genre he probed deeper into it, keeping the language of cinema as a strong base to the study, another student was a sports enthusiast and no wonder the sports genre excited him, while yet another student loved literature and Shakespeare and thus that came to be part of her project topic, last but not the least was a student who loved the horror genre so I encouraged him to understand it deeper and was a beautiful medium to look at horror from the cultural viewpoint of different countries.

Creative Process (Film production)
The development of creative, analytical and production skills within film-making

This project is the most challenging and at the same time satisfying. It is the project that is the one main component that showcases to the outside world the 2 years gone past and if its good, its like a trophy in itself for the students and the teacher.
The film project can be made individually or in a group. They were a group of 4 students and thus since one wanted to be a director the others chose the relevant key areas of interest – script, sound, editing and the process began.

But the creative process could begin only when they knew their own voices. Very early in the course I started my small efforts in trying to discover the personal and creative world of the students as I had to discover with them their unique individual creative voice. It was during one simple autobiographical exercise session in class in which I discovered a very important aspect of the director student. I just knew without pushing it that this was a breakthrough that will come to use. When we latter had the brainstorming sessions I reminded him of this special incident and he acknowledged it but it was not really completely accepted. It was my duty to bring it to light and then see If the idea grows in him. The idea took birth and then died a silent death and then came back to life again now to be made into a reality. What is special about the student film “Takbir” is that’s it’s a film by an auteur. To confess, I was a bit nervous if all will go well and I did not believe it would turn out as good as it did, as I felt there could be more time dedicated by the students to the film preparation, but then it being another subject in school I could not be very hard on them. And I was always emotionally blackmailed for more time to complete an exercise due to heavy homework and deadlines from other subjects. But they proved to be more competent than I imagined and did a great job of working together inspite of the small quarrels off and on, in which I sometimes had to intervene. Interestingly film as a subject in IB, knows the nature of the artform being a collaborative process and therefore stresses that a healthy working relationship is very important and how as a team they achieve their film project and go through the entire process from making an idea into a reality.

I was clear that the choice of actors would be very important to make their film look and feel professional and saw to it that they got actors who with their presence and basic knowledge of theatre or cinema bring a touch of class and not make it look like an amateur student film. I helped with some key characters and I give them credit to be able to source the others themselves who were very effective too.

As usual the deadlines were close and they were still editing their film due to unavoidable circumstances and it was like a nail biting climax to a journey that was fun, challenging, and rewarding.

EE (Extended Essay)
One of the integral aspects and requirement of an IB syllabus is EE (Extended Essay) which is like a mini thesis according to me, as the stress is on originality and in-depth research. A student can select to take the subject of film for his EE and this was done by one of my students who was very sincere and dedicated and took up the study of an Auteur director. This project he says helped him immensely as a director too and for the first time he really understood the nuances of an auteur and what it meant as the essay is focused on specific films which are analyzed apart of the topic selected. It was though initially to come upon an original focus to his topic but we soon reached there and then all fell into place.

The assessment of all the projects are based on specific criteria which values research, originality, discipline, and a global outlook and understanding.

The Graduation Day:

That was the moment to take pride in – all our hardwork that we had done for the past 2 years was now coming to a conclusion. The struggle and ecstasy that we faced with each film class would now be no more but I promised to be in touch with them lifelong through my blog and thus this article is special and dedicated to each moment that we spent together.

Its said that the greatest way to learn is to teach and I too learnt a great deal ! And finally I graduated.

Infact its interesting that in my personal life I was not in a position to attend the graduation ceremony at the university and this indeed in literal terms therefore completes my education but in a very different context.

And the post is not complete without feedback from my loving students

Altamash Jaleel:

Altamash, could not find words to express the film course and is waiting for inspiration, but in the meanwhile it suffices to share an experience from our Graduation Day. Altamash had been given the privilege to share his experience of IB and I was invited part of the faculty to witness the graduation ceremony. To my pleasant surprise Altamash spoke about the subject of film and me as a teacher with such warmth and respect that I was touched. In his speech he paused, located me with his gaze in the audience and publicly thanked me for making him a director. This pause and special attention was a mark of respect and love that I will always cherish as a special moment. And as I say that respect cannot be demanded, you need to earn it. And that made me feel rich !

Anmol Sachar
Anmol has always been the first to submit all his assignments and projects and so with his feedback !
When IB began, one of the worst feelings was experienced on Wednesday mornings. Why? Because I had to sit through a long, boring class of film which, made no sense to me. In my teacher, Miss Oorvazi’s eyes I probably was one of the worst student she could have got – always yawning, staring at the ceiling or sleeping with open eyes.

But a few weeks into the course and I began to get gravitated toward the subject. Gradually, the yawns turned into smiles, the staring into attentive nods and the sleep into intriguing questions. Soon I started to make sense of horrifying terms like ‘expressionism,’ ‘dollying,’ ‘auteur’ and so on, thanks to our teacher who was more of a friend who adapted a very amiable style of teaching.
As time went by, hours, days, months and a whole two years, I realized that I had transformed from just another boy who liked to shoot videos to a boy who has made a film which is already receiving a great response from the viewers. This journey has been a truly memorable and fruitful one and has certainly left an indelible mark on my mind.

I worked with a great group. Altamash tu toh apna Aamir khan nikla…kya perfectionist hai…couldn’t have had a better director than you. Kajri khuda zaalimo ka sath de na de mera toh saath deta hai ki tujh jaisi mahaan script writer ko humaare film ke liye assign kiya…u were too gud! Shrey buddy really imprssive work with the sound yaar…like the music really helps the viewer teleport into the world of ‘Takbir.’

Oorvazi Ma’am we certainly couldn’t have found a teacher matching your stature and class. The way you instilled within me the will to learn this subject, I doubt anyone could ever do. Thank you ma’am for your unparalleled guidance and support throughout this demanding course.
All in all it was a fabulous experience. Three words… WE KILLED IT!!! ;]

ANMOL THANKYOU DEAR FOR TRUSTING ME AND BEING THE GREAT STUDENT YOU TURNED OUT TO BE ! And thanks for submitting the feedback in time to upload as usual you are well in time for the deadline.

Kajri Babbar:
Her feedback was a beautiful sms and inspite of promising a further writeup, ( she is also finding the inspiration to do the same) I am sharing the sms.

“ You were more like a friend than a teacher and your classes were so warm, filled with love that you never made us really realize that you are a teacher and we need to be discreet. Mwah !
Actually I would chose you to be my bridesmaid ”
To gain the trust of a student to become a friend is a great achievement to value and you belong to their inner circle, what more can you want.

Shrey Sheth:
Last but not the least (and still waiting for inspiration like the others to write his experiences). Infact he was a student who was bright but was lagging behind on the projects and submissions but he surprised us all towards the end of the course when he decided to take things in control and gave it that final push. On the IB orientation for the new batch where parents were invited for a special event in school Shrey spoke about the subject of film and I would like to share that here. He did not say much but that one line was very special as I feel this was something that would be valuable to him the rest of his life and went beyond film as a subject and that I was instrumental in being able to make him realize that, it feels precious.

“ Oorvazi Mam always told me to think deeper and when I did I realized how important it was and what power it can unleash”

“Ganesa” – A 30 minute documentary on Lord Ganesh (1998)

“Ganesa” (1998) – Directed and Produced by Sorab Irani

The Ganesh festival is world famous and synonymous with Mumbai. Yet while millions of us Mumbaikars take part in the festivities probably a few of us understand the iconography, the mythology and the political compulsions that has made this iconic festival come to become what it is.

I want to share with you a well researched half hour film directed and produced by my dad Sorab Irani, and me as the associate director in the year 1998. It is immensely entertaining yet informative and we see that the character of Bombay has not changed really so much in regards its common citizens even if its name is now Mumbai.


Produced by SBI Impresario Pvt Ltd. in the year 1998
Directed and Produced by Sorab Irani
Associate Director Oorvazi Irani

Copyrights and all Rights Reserved SBI Impresario Pvt. Ltd.

“Anurag Kashyap: An Auteur Demystified” An Indepth Essay By Oorvazi Irani

“Anurag Kashyap: An Auteur Demystified” An Indepth Essay By Oorvazi Irani


Auteur‘is a French word which translated in English means ‘author’,  the creator of the work. Having said that, cinema unlike the other arts like poetry, painting etc. is a collective art and includes contributions from other artists to make it a completed film and is not the work of a sole artist. However, the ‘Auteur Theory’ suggests that there is one prime force that leads to the creation of the film and that individual guides all the processes of filmmaking. It is the vision and worldview of this individual who makes the film special and thus a work of art. The ‘Auteur Theory’ was born out of the French New Wave movement in cinema pioneered by the critic and filmmaker Francoise Truffaut ( he wrote an important article ‘ a certain tendency in French Cinema’ for the Cahiers du Cinema magazine in 1954)which was a protest to liberate the medium of cinema from its old conventions, asking for freedom for the director to express himself beyond the reliance on literature and demanded respect for the director who is to be  treated as an independent artist in the medium of cinema enabling him to create a body of work, like any other artist, dwelling on themes and developing his distinctive style.

Why do I regard Anurag Kashyap as an auteur and chose to analyze his body of work because I feel there is a struggle –  there is a creative voice that wants to rebel and a heart full of  feelings. His films contain a personal vision and a distinctive style which as an artist interests me to observe and examine.

What is the place, in the history of cinema, of this young filmmaker? He is not revolutionary but belongs to the rebels, he is not radical but belongs to the non formula, he is not the first artist but belongs to the world of artists, and he is not extraordinary but does not belong to the ordinary either.

In India after 1950 there was a parallel cinema movement which was literally created as a force opposed to the popular mainstream film industry with higher ideals and broke the conventional rules set out by popular cinema like happy endings, songs etc.  Anurag Kashyap belongs to that alternate cinema movement in India today. It has evolved to not necessarily being opposed to mainstream cinema but seems to be seeking if it can maintain its soul and yet remain mainstream.  It’s interesting to note that Anurag started his film career with his feature film Black Friday(2007)  financed by Midday Multimedia (with a mere budget of Rs 4.5 Crores)who were new to filmmaking and with his latest film Gangs of Wasseypur(2012) has the support and backing of a major Corporate  – Viacom 18 Motion Pictures, produced by Sunil Bohra (with an app budget of Rs 9.20 Crores for GOW Part One and a collection of Rs. 10 Crores in the opening weekend). History and common sense both suggest ‘Less money is more freedom’ for an independent filmmaker or a director in a studio system (rather corporate setup in today’s terms), so what interestingly remains to be seen is will all the bigger budget trappings compromise the ‘spirit’ of  films in the near future for an auteur like Anurag.

For an Auteur to enter the system and yet retain his personal freedom and smuggle the ‘soul’ into it (as Martin Scorsese puts it) is an interesting challenge. Also till now he has largely been opposed to the star system and has not used big stars even for his recent film Gangs of Wasseypur  – will he venture, in the near future making bigger budget films and using stars, if he does what will be the price he pays is the big question. Best summed up in Anurag’s own words on the release of his first film Black Friday(2007).

“Every rebel becomes a real insecurity begins now” ( Feb 13th 2007 )

The Auteur and his influence of his own life

Every Auteur consciously or otherwise is exploring certain pet themes and thus his body of work reflects his thought process and insights on the subject. The personal life of an auteur cannot be divorced from his films. This interplay is different every time, sometimes more subtle, sometimes more overbearing, which can include premise, locations, character or any or everything. If the filmmaker does not involve himself  its the work of a craftsman and not an artist.

I feel the starting point for a true artist is that he/she is sensitive to life unfolding and also aware of their inner self. There is a constant process of questioning and probing for the truth.

Anurag was a sensitive child – as a young boy in school he wrote a poetry on suicide but it was not seen as an expression of pain by a sensitive artist but rather misunderstood and perceived wrongly as a state of depression and was recommended treatment. His keen sense of observation, his originality and creativeness in his schoolwork were never understood or encouraged in his childhood instead his voice was drowned in the routine and security of a conformist existence. He felt like an outcast in a prestigious school where he did not know English and was teased by others. He always had a voice but nobody heard him. This continued even with his films as one film after another was banned (starting with Paanch, Black Friday,Gulaal) but, as he himself says, that was a very important part of his life, those failures really shaped him and in fact interestingly entered and become part of his artistic world of exploration.

No Smoking mirrors my struggle in the industry. That’s why it’s most dear to me and it’ll always remain so, more than Dev. D and more than Black Friday.” (Interview with Bikas Mishra – Dear Cinema Feb 8th 2009).

An important layer of the film is Kafka’s Trial and this takes us back to an early influence on Anurag in his initial struggling days in Mumbai. He had written a play and showed it to Govind Nihalani, who appreciated the work and asked him to read Isben and gave him Kafka’s Trial to read and adapt to film. At that point in time all this confounded Anurag’s confusion as he was going through a tough time in his life and as a result Anurag stopped taking Govind’s calls and meeting him. But its interesting to note how this finds itself later in a film that he makes.

And Anurag says about the film at the India Habitat Centre, New Delhi “The first book that I read in English was Kafka’s Trial (Anurag could not read English till the age of 17 years)  I never could understand it but it never left me.  If you work in any system its very Kafkaesque, you don’t know what is going on, you cannot figure it out. And you don’t know what is wrong with you. I could not understand why Black Friday was banned. I could not understand if a book could exist why the film could not come out. I could not understand why Paanch was banned. I could not understand why I could not make Gulaal….what is wrong with speaking up.”

“Just smoking becoming a metaphor it became a very personal movie. And the end portion where the things are not explained is also because I never could understand what was going on with my life so I felt let the audience also feel the same thing.”

The motif of smoking however as a metaphor for freedom is introduced in his first short film Last Train to Mahakali (1999) which the filmmaker later takes on to make it a major aspect in his film No Smoking(2007).

However the film No Smoking was marketed by an item number by Bipasa Basu, where I feel the target market seemed to be all wrong. An audience who would be lured to a theatre with an item number is not the deserving viewer for a film like No Smoking.

Another very personal film is That Girl in Yellow Boots(2010). Anurag seems to be confronting his painful past of sexual child abuse which he experienced for 11 years. “ I came to Mumbai brimming with angst, bitterness and a sense of violation and isolation. Thanks to the love of my life, Kalki Koechlin, I am completely cured of my acrimony.”(TOI Subhash K Jha, Nov 11, 2009, 10.51 am IST) These words of Anurag are revealing that as a young man when he came to Mumbai  to make films he had a lot of pain inside him and a voice that wanted to be heard. The film has as its theme child abuse and incest, which we realize only at the end of the film when the protagonist is confronted with a bitter truth that the father she was so desperately searching for was a pervert, a child abuser and had sexually violated her sister and caused her death. The film leaves the character and the audience in a state of shock and deep pain which are not expressed with tears, not taken to the level of sentimentality but to a much deeper level.

The film is not limited to the pain of a personal experience; it reveals the underbelly of society and provides a glimpse of the darker side of life at close quarters. Above all the film is interested in the journey of the inner self and reflects on how so many of us are living a delusion. The film prompts us to see the need to confront reality and find our true selves.

The film uses as the title track a doha by Kabir which speaks about this search for oneself.

Hear me, says Kabir, seek and you shall find

Hear me, says Kabir, seek and you shall find

In this world tangled in delusion,

The self cannot be seen.

In this world tangled in delusion,

The self cannot be seen.

The self cannot be seen.

The self cannot be seen.

In fact the metaphor of the ‘mirror’ and the character looking at herself/himself in Last Train to Mahakali,  That Girl in Yellow Boots, and Gangs of Wasseypur,  and in a lot of his films seem to hint at the director’s examination of self delusion by the characters, a sort self examination, a self exploration, a contemplative introspection.

The  Auteur and his themes

One way of looking at an auteur is that at a certain level ‘he is making the same movie again and again with slight modifications’. He has pet themes that he is exploring. If we look at Anurag’s body of work we find that this is probably true. Anurag goes from the micro to the macro, from the self to the nation and back again. And at a deeper level from the outside world into the inside world.

Revenge seems to be an important part of the dramatic hook of many of his films including Black Friday, Gulaal and his recent Gangs of Wasseypur. Revenge is a crucial element of popular genre storytelling and in fact was one of the main themes for the ‘western’ genre in Hollywood. So many Hindi formula films are based on revenge. But ‘revenge’ here may also be looked at with more depth besides being a popular formula to tell a story. Not to make a simplistic reading of personal life and its relationship to his films but Anurag has been the underdog and a lot of his films have the spirit of revolt as a rebel an involute revenge may be of sort. However, his films are not a glorification of revenge but mostly rise above to question its very existence.

The filmmaker is not self indulgent but concerned, raise pertinent questions about the world around him and as a true artist should, is searching for the truth. His first feature film Black Friday made in 2004 but released in 2007 three years later due to censorship trouble is a film based on Mumbai’s Black Friday – The True Story of the Bombay Bomb Blasts, based on a book by S. Hussain Zaidi about the 1993 Bombay bombings.

Realism and social, political concerns take centre stage in this film and begins the career of this filmmaker but the concerns and issues raised in this film never really seems to leave him but only get reinvented on his journey.

The film begins and ends with a quote by Mahatma Gandhi  “ An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind”.

The film ends with the bomb blast recreation and then text title cards.

The Bombay Blasts became India’s largest criminal case

    The designated court took 13 years to deliver justice

    100 out of the final 122 found guilty

    29 still absconding including Tiger Menon

    And Bombay is now called Mumbai.

Anurag wanted to make an honest film and raise questions about the state of politics and the legal system and our society at large.

An important scene dealing with revenge, seems to be critical, in regards to what the filmmaker wants to convey to the audience as a message or an insight on same. The scene is – where we see the jail cell through a red filter and one of the bombers, Badshah who is now captured and is being interrogated by the cop. Badshah Khan very proudly takes credit for the bombings and says  Muslims have taken the revenge for the atrocities done to their Muslim brothers. That’s when Kay Kay Menon  who plays the cop says and speaks in the voice of the director “ …Allah was not on your side, on your side was Tiger Menon . He saw your rage and manipulated you. He was gone before the first bomb was even planted. ..he fucked you over. you know why ? Because you were begging for it. All in the name of religion. You are a fucking idiot. You are an idiot and so is every Hindu, who murders one of you. Everyone who has nothing better to do…but to fight in the name of religion is a fucking idiot.”

The end credits appear with the Indian Ocean Song ‘Bandeh’ which ends the film on a poetic note of lament but never pessimistic rather urging the audience to wake up.  It’s a film where there is anger and he wants the audience to acknowledge that justice is not done and wants the audience to question the state of justice in our country.

With his film Gulaal (2009) where the canvas is now the state of Rajasthan he continues his lament of the nation and urges us ‘to save India’ and at a larger level to save this world. Production on Gulaal began in 2001, when Anurag Kashyap was listening to songs from Pyaasa and his film Paanch was struggling with the censors. The film is inspired (and gives credit to) by the song ‘Yeh Mahlon, YehTakhton, Ye Tajon ki Duniya’ By Sahir Ludhanvi from the film Pyaasa

The film is set in present day Rajasthan, a state in western India. The plot is provided by student politics of the university and a fictitious secessionist movement consisting of former Rajput leaders who have become the present day elite.

Also revisiting the title card at the beginning of the film sums up the intent and tone of the film which I would like to reproduce here below:

The first text card:

The film is a work of fiction, dedicated to all

Those poets of per-independent India

Who wrote songs of freedom and had a vision of

Free India, which we could not put together.

If Black Friday was more of an angry voice which was symbolized by Anurag then Gulaal is now more grief and lament which seems stronger, but there is still the use of the strong red color which is symbolic of power and danger. Also the characters of Prithvi Bana and Ardhanareshwar take the film to mythical realms.

Returning to the Theme of Revenge with the film Gangs of Wasseypur (Part 1), the film speaks about revenge at various levels and in its very existence laments the current state of our country and contemporary society. What now hits you hard with this film is that ‘revenge’ a primordial emotion is so strongly still prevalent in our society today and the film seems to be questioning our evolution as a species. The filmmaker like in his earlier films here more than ever is drawing on newsreel and documentary footage and attempting to weave the story of India’s independence with the story of this personal epic saga spanning generations which succeed in revealing, the fact  that free India is not really free even today and shows us that prevalent level of lawlessness and bloodshed is so paradoxical in an apparently democratic India. ‘Might is Right’ which is something of the cave man era is still so prevalent in our 21st century, Kashyap does not spare the viewer from confronting this brutal truth nor does he dilute harsh reality with candy floss.

Violence and revenge are intertwined and thus become a very important part of his cinematic vocabulary, violence being mostly external and visceral but also speaks about internal violence specially in one of his more personal films That Girl in Yellow Boots and No Smoking. Dev D also at one level is about revenge where Devdas is on a mission of self destruction.

The Auteur and Realism as a treatment

Anurag says that he makes films about things as he sees it. In fact the appeal of a lot of Anurag’s films are his realism which seems raw to a lot of viewers. Here raw for me refers to the unadulterated truth and not a work that does not treat the raw reality. As art and an artist does not present to you life as experienced in real life as raw and personal but by the process of his art and craft he makes your experience richer, makes you reflect and offers you a space to experience the apparently raw reality which he has treated with the processes of filmmaking. Also an interesting observation of a lot of viewers after seeing a Kashyap film is that they could not emotionally identify with the characters and that I would say is revealing as it seems that the filmmaker does not passively want you to get sucked into the emotional life of the story but remain detached enough to be an active viewer and participate in its unfolding. Also what makes Anurag’s films special is the Realism in them. But what I mean by realism is like what you would feel in a film by Satyajit Ray who has observed life and character’s closely and brings them alive in each scene nuances, uniqueness and an authentic truth which connects with the viewer (however I am not suggesting here that the experience of an Anurag film is close to the experience of a Ray film, far from that).

The Auteur and the writer

A very important aspect of an Auteur would be a director who is part of the conception and script of the film and in this regard Anurag is very closely involved in the creation of his work. In fact he started his career as a writer writing scripts in Mumbai (he wrote the script of Auto Shankar overnight which was loved by Sriram Raghavan and Shivam Nair) and got famous and recognized with his script Satya which he wrote for Ram Gopal Verma. Black Friday, his first feature film, was based on a book but the screenplay was by none other than Anurag. Now another dynamic sets into play, Anurag as an Auteur is not (or is not supposed)to be the sole originator of his work, it has in fact always been a practice that auteur directors including Truffaut have associated with other writers for the script and screenplay, sometimes to keep away from personal  indulgence and many times because the idea or story is initiated or bought to the director by someone else who then with that merit being the best person who knows the world of the story should be present to be a partner in scripting the project. The film Gulaal has Raj Singh Chaudhury as a co scriptwriter. It was Raj Singh Chaudhury who bought the story to Anurag based on his experiences of college ‘ragging’ and its consequences. Raj says the story idea was his ( and he also suggested the film be set in Rajasthan) but the script and screenplay was by Anurag. No doubt Anurag connected with the story as he recalls in an interview to Tehelka in 2005 ” Scindia (school in Gwalior) was hell for me. The sexual abuse continued there for years. I hated myself. I couldn’t understand why it was happening to me. I was often picked out, beaten, then taken to the toilets. To save myself from the beatings, I’d give in to the abuse,” . Another fascinating aspect of Anurag’s script collaborators is that all of them are actors. Raj Chaudhury was also an actor and had in fact written the story keeping himself in mind. Anurag felt he would fit the character perfectly and in spite of other popular actors keen to play the role he cast Raj as one of the lead actors, Raj says he also helped in the scripting of No Smoking.

    Dev. D is a collaborative effort too. The film was developed from a concept that Abhay Deol( who plays Dev, the main protagonist in the film) narrated to Anurag. “Core idea came from Abay, Abhay told me this idea of a boy lost in a strip bar  in LA and this triggered off a lot of ideas I had in mind and showed the possibility of adapting Devdas.” “ …. The idea was to try and explore that adjective(Devdas) that it has become and through which I wanted to talk about the youth , I wanted to talk about how they look at love, life, relationships, in today’s day and age, the age of fast cars, fast cash, fast food, instant gratification. Does it really happen that people are longing for one woman for the rest of their lives because  I don’t see that happening today. It has changed . So it was trying to explore all that by using Devdas as a medium.”  Vikramaditya Motwane(assistant director of Sanjay Leela Bhansali and latter Anurag produced and co-wrote his debut film Udaan)  was asked to write the first draft of the script and Anurag said he would take his draft and add his bits to it (From Eros extra features). Also what would be an important touch to the film would be that Anurag understands very well and has experienced being depressed and lost like the character Dev, of course for other reasons, a young boy who enters science and takes up zoology at the University of Delhi, dissatisfied with his choice, confused and depressed he takes to drugs and alcohol.

How do you measure popular mainstream cinema – its by the stereotypes and clichés that it adopts in its telling.

Dev D is backed by a major corporate house, who is encouraging alternate cinema catering mainly to the multiplex audience but not limited to them. Dev D is a modern reinterpretation to the classic Devdas (which has 12 film versions made of the Bengali novel written by Sarat Chandra  Chattopadhyay). So the first rule that Anurag breaks from the popular cinema standard is ‘romanticizing’ the hero Devdas and he makes him into a very real practical contemporary youth of today. He also breaks the backbone of the character who epitomizes self pity to giving up drinking, discovering that love is not romantic ideas and does not die for Paro but chooses Chandramukhi instead and starts  a new life. This is in fact one of Anurag’s rare films which has a positive, if we can call it, a happy ending, but never the less, seems real and not romanticized.

The sexual frankness given to the characters including the female characters is unlike popular formula films and the women are strong and determined not passive and docile. And the self-sacrificing Chandramukhi (played by Kalki Koechlin) that became the epitome of the character mold of the prostitute with a golden heart in Hindi cinema over the years was also broken, in fact her past life is also contemporary in its origin and is taken from a real incident and inspired from newspaper headlines.

Another important collaborator with Anurag has been Kalki Koechlin, she had been invited by Anurag to co-write the script of That Girl In Yellow Boots primarily because he knew that she would be able to give insights about the world that the film portrayed and also she is the key protagonist of the film. Where like other instances we have the actor-scriptwriter collaboration merging into itself.

Also this being a sensitive subject and theme close to Anurag’s heart and Kalki being his life partner who he credits to have rid him of his past pain adds another dimension to the film itself.

His recent film Gangs of Wasseypur (Part One) seems to  have a long list of writers Zeishan Quadri, Akhilesh, SachinLadia, AnuragKashyap. But it was Quadri who bought the story to Anurag. Quadri’s deal was simple. He’ll write the script and play the character Definite, a key character in the second part of the two-part film.

“Though I was born in small town in northern India, I migrated to the city to make films, the city got to me and I went deeper in exploring it’s effect on me through my films until I met Zeishan. Zeishan was from Wasseypur and a few things that he told me about this place dragged me back to my roots, my backyard, my growing up and my tryst with Bollywood and the politics of my region.The few anecdotes that Zeishan shared with me of this place then went on to be retelling and an analysis of the history of the place explaining it’s evolution as a burning inferno and it’s fight for coal to the way battles were fought. From digging coal to killing someone over an innocuous brawl to vengeance being inherited. Part One of the film gets to the roots of the people and explains why they are the way they are.”(Anurag’s own words –  GOW official website)

The Auteur and his style (visual)

Style or treatment of the film by a director is not necessarily consistent or easy to catch but some directors do have a distinctive style that can be recognized as a signature style of the artist in his body of work. Anurag Kashyap according to me has a characteristic way of using colour in his films and that becomes an integral part of his signature style which began from his first short film and continues till this day. In his visual palette we see the use of the three primary colours Red, Green, Blue and their combinations at various points. Besides being three primary colours we have the added dimension of the colours mostly appearing either desaturated or as part of the noir vocabulary of neon lights reminding us of the underbelly of society that we are exposed to in the films.

Below is a brief observation and analysis of Anurag’s colour palette in his films.

Anurag’s first short film Last Train to Mahakali  (1999) ( a short film 45 minutes made for the television series ‘Star Best Sellers’) starts the film with a green desaturated tint while we are introduced to the main protagonist of the film a prisoner who is on death row. His present world in the prison seems to represent this colour. In fact green is repeated in No Smoking(2007)  – In the film an important set or world of existence is the rehabiliatiton centre and the world of Baba Bengali who runs the rehabilitation centre (which is symbolic of the establishment) is presented in a desaturated green tint.

The film The Last Train to Mahakali does fleetingly play with blue and red but it is the end of the film which is red mixing with yellow, like a kind of an orange (which in fact is the common space occupied by the journalist and the prisoner) there seems to be a surreal (artificial) sunshine that fills the room on the chilling note that the film leaves you with.

In the film Black Friday (2004)the colour red seems to dominate which symbolizes anger to me besides the bloodshed and pain that it contains within itself as a colour not to forget the element of danger that the colour stands for and that at one level the filmmaker is alerting us about. Red is an important part of its title and credits and a red filter is used in significant scenes of the jail torture which enclose an important message of the film by the director. Anurag is said to have referred to those scenes saying that he wanted a green filter but since that was not available he went for the red filter instead. The filter was to reduce the realistic goriness of the scene but  I feel it does more than that and fortunately since the green filter was not possible the red palette by default  comes into play.The film has a special use of blue, rather in its de-saturated form, for the flashback sections specially where Dawood is shown and also to portray the treatment of the recreation of the pain and loss of the actual bomb blast which ends the film.

So if Black Friday begins with red and is about protest then so is the case with Gulaal(2009) where the chief color seems to be red. This film primarily uses red as an integral colour in the film right from the gulaal which is red in colour to certain sections of the inner haveli which are bathed in red light or a filter where there is a clash between characters who revolt. In this film red is also part of the costume palette  which infact is part of many of his films but here they become symbolic, Prithvi Bana played by Piyush Mishra is dressed in red and his mythic Ardhanareshwar  who follows him around is in blue (his body is painted in blue). The film has scenes where green and blue light are visible but red stands out as a primary symbolic colour of this film.

The film That Girl In Yellow Boots has yellow as one significant colour in its colour palette which is related to the boots which the protagonist wears on this journey in the film (it also appears in the title and credits titles). Yellow could represent hope for a brighter future, a joy the protagonist is searching for. But the film also has blue which is the other important colour and the note on which the film ends . To quickly glance though the world of the film – the massage parlour is predominantly green, Ruth the protagonist of the film has an apron which is green in colour. The last scene the client who we realize is her father has a blue towel ( however the towel is always blue for all clients)also we saw earlier the room where she discovered her father’s pictures (when she visited his home)  also predominantly had  blue walls. The film reaches its climax when Ruth confronts her client who she discovers is her father and his reaction to her truth shatters her into a state of shock and grief. It’s the end of the film which this sequence leads to which has an important use of the colour blue as symbolic yet part of the realistic setting of the film. After the confrontation with her father she walks into the corridor with a green light, then enters the streets which are yellow and when she sits in the taxi, her face is bathed with blue light (which is the light in the taxi as planned I assume) and the world outside which she leaves behind has a tinge of yellow and green. The last scene is the taxi ride, a minute long in duration where the camera remains with Ruth as a mid shot followed by a kind of jump cut mid close, and the audience remains focused on Ruth’s  face bathed in blue light, she then shuts her eyes and the film fades to black.

The film Dev D is sprinkled with many colours starting primarily with green and yellow and then moving on to red, blue and most importantly pink that enters into this film with the character of Chandramukhi played by Kalki( Red + Green = Pink).  Pink represents a very feminine colour at the same time is very punk . The film travels into the drug world of clubs and underbelly of Delhi and gives the makers to exploit the neon filled streets and existence of the colour that seems real, at times gaudy but symbolic. The concluding scenes have  Dev and Chandramukhi bathed in a tint of a combination of red and yellow with a hint of pink( being the colour of the bathtub in which Dev is seated and the loffah with which Chandramukhi is gently scrubbing him). But the last scene however is natural colours with the sun shining through on the couple riding a bike.This film The Gangs of Wasseypur – Part One (2012) is subtle in its colour palette and merges with the real world but on keen observation it is prevalent. He chooses a palette for its production design to be predominantly green and blue. With a brief small scene in red and continuing the desaturated blue at many points. But at the end of the film which is the death of Sultan brilliantly played by Manoj Bajpai is the use of the colour yellow or rather the yellow of the sun going into white which with the death of the protagonist is symbolic of the fiery revenge which finally turns to nothingness. White is the combination of the three primary colours (Red +Blue +Green = White) and thus in his colour palette he is now critically poised already combined and merged all his colours. I do not suggest that this is necessarily consciously done but for me it plays out brilliantly. What next …

The Auteur and his collaborators

Since Anurag’s films have a distinct colour palette and the visual impact of the film being strong requires a special mention of Wasiq Khan as a Production Designer(responsible for the visual look of the film) and his two key cinematographers till date being Natrajan Subramanium (Last Train to Mahakali – Paanch – Black Friday)and Rajeev Ravi (No Smoking – Gulaal – Dev D – That Girl in Yellow Boots- Gangs of Wasseypur) who have contributed significantly to bring his vision to life.

‘Song and dance’ form a very integral grammar of popular Indian cinema and starting with Dev D Kashyap with the music director Amit Trivedi has reinvented the music soundtrack specially with the song ‘Emotional Atyachar’ (one of the important sources of reference for the song was Om Dar Ba Dar – an avant garde Indian film in the year 1988). Over the years a very distinct quality of an Anurag Kashyap film is his soundtrack that he has developed and this film is an important juncture for it to take off which reaches a new high in his latest film Gangs of Wasseypur(Part One)  with the title track  ‘kehke Longa’ and ‘Womaniya’ besides others . In this film Sneha Khanwalkar who has designed the music and song for the film ( besides the background score which is by G V Prakash Kumar) has added a special touch by including folk singers and tunes mixed with modern sophistication to give a vibrant dose of chatpatta music that brings alive the landscape of the story and characters. Song and dance is a powerful tool to enhance the emotional experience of the viewer which has its roots in ancient Indian arts and aesthetics and most of Indian popular cinema uses this to transform the viewer into a realm which is not imitating reality but experiencing emotional  truth( what an item number does , can be another essay in itself ). However  most of the songs in Anurag’s  films are not limited to the emotional realm of realism but many times the songs are a commentary on the film’s theme, its plot, or its characters. The songs are rooted in Indian culture but yet are funky and reinterpreted in a postmodern vein. In this regard Piyush Mishra is also an important close collaborator in his films who wrote the lyrics for Black Friday and Gulaal, also being the music director for Gulaal. He also wrote some lyrics for Gangs of Wasseypur along with Varun Grover. (Piyush has also acted in many of Anurag’s films besides being a reputed actor himself, he played some memorable characters like Prithvi Bana in Gulaal and an important character role in GOW Part One). Each film having a unique identity and original soundtrack  Black Friday had the special quality of the music of band Indian Ocean and with the film No Smoking Vishal Bharadwaj interpreted the surreal world on the soundtrack as an artist.

Another important collaborator is the editor -editor Aarti Bajaj edited many of Kashyap’s films including Last Train to Mahakali ,Paanch (unreleased), Black Friday, Dev D, Gulaal, No Smoking and shaped the films to a powerful experience. But from the film That Girl in Yellow Boots and his recent film Gangs of Wasseypur,  Anurag has worked with Shweta Venkat Matthew (as I assume his personal life came in the way of the professional world and this collaboration broke up).  Each of the two editors try to keep up with Anurag’s pace and rhythm for his films and the result is a highly charged film.

But I would say that like a true auteur he maintained his style in all departments of filmmaking irrespective of changes that took place and found the right individuals to fit his vision. Also at any given time there are many young aspiring filmmakers in his office wanting to learn and be part of the exciting world of filmmaking that Anurag represents to the Indian  youth.

The Auteur and his influences from cinema

What has been the influences on Anuarg as an auteur besides his personal experiences, and here cinema itself plays a very important role. In his recent film Gangs of Wasseypur he mentions the influence of Tamil cinema, infact dedicates the film to ‘the 3 musketeers Ameer, Bala and Sasikumar, the sons of Madurai’ as he calls them. He says “I realized that these filmmakers are making their films in a milieu that’s so much familiar to them. This made me feel that even I have lots of stories to tell which belong to the place I belong to.” (Interview by Sethumadhavan.N featuring on the website

But it was in 1993 in a film festival (which he was urged to attend by his friends) when he witnessed ‘A Retrospect of Vitterio De Sica Films’ (Bicycle Thieves is the film that influences him the most among the 55 films of De Sica), it was “an epiphany” he says which changed his life and he runs away from home with Rs 5,000 in his pocket and decides he wants to make films. The Screening of the film Taxi Driver by Martin Scorsese (on a tv screen in the office of Shivam Nair, Shriram Raghavan during his struggling years in Mumbai) was the beginning of another interesting phase. Pic Posters of Bicycle Thieves and Taxi Driver

Seeing films like Fun ,De Sica’s Films, Taxi Driver he says gave him confidence to make cinema as his voice was similar and other hindi films he saw he could not relate to, they were films not about him but some other people. Also the attraction to noir is that its about him too. Anurag says “Noir might mean different things to different people, but for me its an environment and a story of the underdog. We don’t pay attention to the people on the streets and just pass them by.” He thought cinema could be about that too. “I wanted to tell those kind of stories and these films gave me confidence.”

However Anurag ‘s work includes the influence of Bollywood, and in a post modern sense. Gulaal has for its inspiration a song from the Hindi classic film Pyaasa but the film builds on the original and adds a new dimension to it. In Gangs of Wasseypur Bollywood referencing is integral to its plot and characters – the film explores this revenge saga through the socio-political dynamic in erstwhile Bihar (North India), in the coal and scrap trade mafia of Wasseypur, through the imprudence of a place obsessed with mainstream ‘Bollywood’ cinema. This has a direct link to his childhood, when as a young boy in UP he was attracted to Hindi cinema from a very young age and repeatedly saw films (often visited  the open air theatre or the Government theatre next to his house)like Kora Kagaazand Aandh iand latter Do Badaan in his college days.

The Auteur and acting

Another influence as a director is that Kashyap was an actor before being a director and a distinct quality of his film is strong and powerful performances which bring the film to life and seem real and truthful. Acting was something that he did while he was struggling to find his voice, he joins a theatre group Jana Natya Manch and performs street plays. This also helped him to meet people and its not therefore a coincidence that a lot of his collaborators specially his scriptwriters are actors who are attracted to work with him. He says “Instead of the actor performing for the camera, I let the camera capture the people….” A little known fact is that Manoj Bajpai was responsible for suggesting Anurag’s name to Ram Gopal Verma as a young scriptwriter for the film Satya (which got him a lot of fame) and Anurag does not forget to return the favour by casting Manoj in his recent big budget film Gangs of Wasseypur (which has helped Manoj bring back his acting career to the top after a low phase). Anurag like the rest of his team has been quite loyal to many of his characters like Kay KayMenon and Kalki but without compromising the film at any cost.


Where does Anurag Kashyap go from here – the real world and the world of cinema meet in his films, will one dominate the other – and how  – and to what effect ? What form will his colour palette take on now, are the three primary colours going to be repetitive and boring or are they going to help telling a story and increasing its complexity of  visual vocabulary ? Will the distinctive style of the songs in his films take on newer dimensions and reinvent themselves or will its novelty die out? Will the plot of revenge be a continuing fascination and lead to deeper insights ? Will the commentary of Indian politics and society be allowed to freely express itself, will it continue to cause a stir in the conscience of the youth ? What will Anurag Kashyap discover about himself and the world around him is what we the audience will have to wait and watch to see!

Anurag’s films are like a silent scream – real yet not raw, disturbing yet not deafening, shocking yet not depressing, violent yet not ugly, a hope hidden in a lamenting.

© Copyright Oorvazi Irani

First published on

Govind Nihalani’s response to my recent short films
I am humbled and touched by the response of the veteran filmmaker – Govind Nihalani for my films
The message was sent to my dad, Sorab Irani who is the Producer of the films.

“Your daughter(Oorvazi Irani) is a very neat storyteller and her film(“The K File”) has a surprising sting in its

    tail…very impressive !
,,, nd I loved her film on her grandmother (“Mamaiji”)…very beautiful n very
    poetic…She seems to be headed in the right direction …My very best wishes to both of you. Govind”