Anurag Kashyap is involved in more movie than any other filmmaker at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. The French are so enamoured by him that they awarded him the Order of Arts and Letters for his efforts in the promotion of Indian cinema across the globe. The Indian filmmaker has helmed one segment of Bombay Talkies, produced two films – Lunchbox and Monsoon Shootout – and made a new feature, Ugly.
Playing in the Directors’ Fortnight section, Ugly is an edge-of-the seat thriller revolving around the kidnapping of a young girl. She is taken when her divorced father, the actor Rahul (Rahul Bhatt), leaves her alone in a car for five minutes while he attends an audition. The mother of the girl, Shalini (Tejaswini Kolhapure), has remarried a no-nonsense, patriarchal cop, Bose (Ronit Roy), who is in charge of the case. Bose is certain that Rahul has kidnapped his own daughter to gain greater access to the child and tries to force a confession out of the -father.
The Gangs of Wasseypur director Anurag Kashyap takes a hard-hitting look at the spate of child kidnappings in his homeland. “In India, in 85 per cent of cases where a child goes missing, there are no ransom calls and the kids just disappear,” Kashyap said in Cannes. “It could be sexual predators, many things. Also kids are disappearing because India is becoming a big hub for foreigners to come and adopt children. Even Indians are adopting children. Everything is a possibility as to why these kids disappear and I wanted to use all those possibilities to make a whodunit.”
The director used real-life incidents as the basis for the script. “The film is based on three different true cases,” he says. “In most cases, whenever these children disappear, there are a lot of fox callers who are within the extended family or friends and they try to take advantage of the situation. They are almost impossible to trace because kidnappers use online calling services to make ransom calls. It takes six weeks to trace the calls when they are made online and put through several countries. This gives a lot of leeway to the kidnapper.”
To create authenticity to the piece, Kashyap worked with the police to find out how they respond in child abduction cases. “It was a tough film to make. I had real-life cases as a reference point and that helped me because some of the phone conversations that I heard and read – the kidnappers were really bizarre. They made Fargo look like the only honest kidnapping film. People are really bizarre and you don’t know why they do what they do. When I read the actual cases, it was like a crazy scriptwriter on drugs wrote those scenarios.”
Kashyap first started writing the film in 2006, but bringing it to the screen has been a difficult task because no one wanted to fund such a violent and controversial film.
“I think I got to make this film because Gangs of Wasseypur was very successful. That gave me space to do whatever I wanted to, provided it didn’t cost too much.”
Two other Indian films
at Cannes that should not be missed
The first-time feature film director Amit Kumar has had the central “what if?” premise of Monsoon Shootout in his mind for a long time. “There’s this visual I’ve had in my mind for years,” he says. “A man with a gun, standing in the rain at night trying to decide whether to shoot someone or not. The moment is almost frozen in time. The pouring rain is the only thing that indicates a passage of time.”
Kumar, an Indian national film school graduate, has developed this idea into an intricate gangsters and cops thriller. He essays three possible outcomes when the police cadet Adi (Vijay Varma) has to decide whether or not to shoot a criminal he has cornered in an alley. An extra layer is added to the story by the incorporation of a buddy-buddy cop dynamic in which a young, naive cop is being introduced into the ways of the police force by a shoot-first-ask-questions-later hard-nosed veteran (Neeraj Kabi). Also caught up in the consequences of Adi’s decision is his girlfriend Anu (Geetanjali Thapa). The result is a mix of Colors and Sliding Doors that marks Kumar out as a talent to watch.
Irrfan Khan was one of the first actors to sign up for Ritesh Batra’s debut Lunchbox. He loved the premise in which he plays the accountant Saajan, who is about to retire from his job in an insurance claims department. However, the widower’s gloomy deportment is transformed when he mistakenly receives a lunch box sent by Ila to her husband in a last-ditch effort to save their marriage. The erroneous delivery changes their lives as Saajan and Ila begin a written correspondence using the lunch box as the conduit.
Cast opposite Khan as the frustrated wife Ila is Nimrat Kaur. Khan revealed to The National while walking along the Croisette that the choice of co-star was the biggest decision of the production. “I wanted to feel like I’m in love when I made this film. I was very much concerned with who was doing the girl’s role. That was my major concern. They were trying to cast different actors, but for me it was very important who the girl is so that it is able to trigger emotions in me. When I saw Nimrat, I knew she was the girl.”
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