Anurag Kashyap’s passion for cinema inspires you a lot
As soon as Anurag Kashyap’s magnum opus Gangs of Wasseypur – 1 and 2 released, Zeishan Quadri became the talk of the town. It was a good start to his career. In a short span, Quadri has showcased a number of avatars. From a writer to an actor followed by being a producer to now making his directorial debut with Meeruthiya Gangsters, Quadri doesn’t come across as your typical Bollywood guy. When you talk to him, he leaves an impression of an ardent observer that also reflects in the many hats he wears. Here are excerpts from our conversation with him.
Alike your previous films, is Meeruthiya Gangsters also based on real life events?
Around three years ago I met a few of my college friends who told me about real incidents of kidnapping and extortion that took place in Meerut. The cases were very interesting and what really drew me was the fact that we have hardly seen something like this on screen. I started researching about it and added some fictional elements to the story and finally came up with the script. Meeruthiya Gangsters has a dark humor. Anyone who watches the movie will leave with a smile on their face.
What process did you follow in terms of casting? Were the roles written keeping particular actors in mind?
Jaideep Ahlawat and Aakash Dahiya were in my mind for their respective roles. But we followed a casting process for the roles played by other characters. From Jatin Sarna to Chandrachoor Rai, Shadab Kamal to Vansh Bhardwaj and even Sanjay Mishra, everybody has acted very well in the film. Mukul Dev is the surprise element.
Anurag Kashyap said that Meeruthiya Gangster highlights the origin of the ‘strange characters’ of GOW that were part of your growing up years. What lead to the formation of these strange characters?
I observe people a lot. Whenever I meet someone who is strange or unique, they always leave a mark on my mind. Those characters stay in my subconscious mind, which is probably visible in my work.
How challenging was this new role of being a director?
It was not very challenging as the story was clear in my mind. It gets challenging when one has to show something that they have never come across in real life. But as a first-time director things such as getting the best performances out of the actors does get difficult. But the cast was so talented that I didn’t have to worry about it. I enjoyed working with them.
The film’s trailer is full of madness. Was a similar madness witnessed during the shoot as well?
We did a 15-day workshop initially. I was quite keen on doing so because it helps in breaking the ice, and shows the comfort between the characters on screen as well. Everyone immediately became friends. All of them would sit in the same vanity van. The cast was more of a family and the same friendly atmosphere remained throughout.
Without any cinematic education, what has helped you to successfully dabble in the field of writing, acting and direction?
After doing my BBA from Meerut, I came to Mumbai. I had given myself six months here, thinking that if I didn’t land anything I would return back. But luckily I met the right kind of people. Only hard work and passion have brought me so far. I knew that I had to excel. My learning involved observing others and watching films.
When you shift to Mumbai, how does the place treat you?
At times, Mumbai doesn’t treat even its own people very well. It only treats those well who work hard, respect the time and the city. It gives you the chance to grow only if you are willing to work.
Anurag Kashyap wants you to write and direct Gangs of Wasseypur 3. Tell us more about it?
I will have to do something different for Gangs of Wasseypur 3. I will have to come with a different story by remaining in the same zone. Gangs of Wasseypur is a brand and the third part will be an extension of it.
What kind of role has Anurag Kashyap played in your life?
Anurag Kashyap’s passion for cinema inspires you a lot. The kind of films he watches and the way he observes things is something to learn from. I observe him a lot. People like him don’t understand business, they know just one thing – filmmaking. It’s a great feeling to see his honesty towards his work and the films he makes.
Do you cut yourself from the world while writing any project?
There is no choice but switching off from other things. Otherwise, your mind will keep getting diverted with the endless things that take place in Mumbai. When you switch off your mobile, you enter a different world. Though it is not important to leave Mumbai or move to some other city. But there is no point if you move out but are still connected through your phone. For GOW 3 I will have to go to Wasseypur for a lot of research work.
What kind of cinema do you like?
I like to watch realistic cinema which is entertaining at the same time. By realistic I don’t mean that it has to be boring or slow. In Bollywood, I love watching films such as Black Friday, Paan Singh Tomar, Gangs of Wasseypur etc. If you talk about world cinema, then any Martin Scorsese film is brilliant. I love watching films by Quentin Tarantino, Majid Majidi, Fateh Akim etc. There are also some films that are fictional but their treatment is very good. For instance, Pulp Fiction has its own lure.
When were you introduced to such cinema?
I was properly introduced to world cinema in 2009. My friends in Mumbai told me about world cinema and I explored more about these films on the Internet. Earlier when I’d seen films like Black Friday or New Delhi, I was impressed. I was shocked to see that New Delhi didn’t have a single song because Bollywood films are normally all about songs.
What made you launch your production house Friday to Friday Entertainers?
I launched it in 2013 when Prague, a friend’s film was struggling to get a release. I spoke to some distributors about it and they advised me to become part of it by coming on board as a producer. It led to the formation of this company. Friday to Friday Entertainers has also released Meeruthiya Gangsters in association wwith Prateek Group. We also plan to produce a film based on sports, tentatively titled Fighter, which will have 3-4 parts. As of now I have just read the script and kept it aside because I really liked it.
To see yourself acting in a film, you thought of writing a film (Gangs of Wasseypur) and then acted in it (by playing the character Definite). Is the urge of seeing yourself as an actor still there?
I have recently done some films as an actor. One of them is Banana directed by Imtiaz Ali’s brother Sajid Ali’s and the other one is called Akki, Vikky te Nikki where I play the lead. I play the main villain in Banana that is produced by John Abraham. In Akki, Vikky te Nikki I’m playing a struggling actor named Vikky. It is a fun story of three strugglers.
I will surely grow as an actor, but maybe it is not the right time for me. Perhaps I need to explore more things behind the camera. I have 2-3 films to be directed and will be producing around 10-12 films.
What about films such as Madamji, O Womaniya, the biopic on Sarabjit Singh and Firauti?
A biopic on Sarabjit Singh that I will be producing will go on floors by the end of this year. Other films that I have written are in a different zone. As a writer, you don’t have the right to ask why haven’t the films been made so far. Being a writer, you just write the film. I wrote Firauti for Fardeen Khan Productions, but I think he is in the UK these days so the film will be released by the end of this year. Madamji was written for Madhur Bhandarkar and Oh Womaniya for Anu Menon. Every film has its own destiny. It happens only when it has to happen.
How do you nourish your love for writing and acting?
By watching lot of films. But due to the hectic schedules of Meeruthiya Gangsters, I haven’t managed to watch any film lately.
If you could tell us one reason why people should watch Meeruthiya Gangsters, what would it be?
I’d say because Meeruthiya Gansgters is an entertainer with dark humor at its best.
Definitely GOW 3. I’m sure that I’ll do a good job with GOW 3 but besides that there are different things that keep revolving in your mind. In Bollywood, creative people don’t have much of a say. Here creativity is a business. I’m learning all these aspects at the moment. I don’t think much about my life but in the next five years, I’m sure I’ll achieve a name for myself.