Who would know the road to evolution better than filmmaker Anubhav Sinha? A mechanical engineer from Aligarh Muslim University, Anubhav, bit by the film bug, moved on to Mumbai, to direct television series, Sea Hawks was his most memorable one. In the nineties, he even dabbled with the most in-thing back then, Music Albums, Sonu Nigam and Bipasha Basu’s Tu gave him instant fame in the music album industry, which eventually paved the path for something that he always aspired – Bollywood. Anubhav’s debut film Tum Bin, a musical love story revolving Non-Resident Indians is a stark contrast to his murky, dark socio-political brand of filmmaking today. In an exclusive interview with eNewsroom, Anubhav bares his heart about his brand of filmmaking, his shift of genre, need for more voices and the degenerating quality of television journalism and more. Following are excerpts from the interview:
eNewsroom: You made your debut as a filmmaker with a romantic film like Tum Bin in 2001. A decade later, you are making films like Thappad, Article 15 and Mulk. Is this shift of genre intentional?
Anubhav: Well, not really. The shift has been more organic, I would say. Or rather in these many years, I have just decided to not make films that we believe the masses will like, but to make films that I want to make, tell stories that I want to narrate.
eNewsroom: What do you have to say about the media circus surrounding the sudden unnatural death of actor Sushant Singh Rajput?
Anubhav: The entire film industry was trying to cope up with the lockdown when this happened. And then what followed was theories, counter-theories, conspiracy theories and more. Soon most of the news channels were doing nothing but presenting theories, stories and reaction related to this the death of this actor. So, amid the pandemic, his death somehow gave these television channels a topic to produce news content.
eNewsroom: What’s your take on the entire drugs angle being dragged into this case? Do you think Bollywood is being vilified?
Anubhav: Yes, of course, it is being vilified. Drugs angle is being investigated by the authorised agencies and they are yet to make any statement. But then you have news channels coming up with new details and theories as if they are a witness themselves. If the ones being slandered are proven to be guilty then they will be punished by the agencies. Right?
And to be honest, this is not about Bollywood, it’s about the new low that news channels are hitting these days.
eNewsroom: Do you think this will affect the film industry?
Anubhav: It will be forgotten even before we realise. The pandemic has made us all consume such news as there is not much to do. Remember, how IPL-drug case was dragged, how reporters chased the cricketers to these nightclubs for the IPL parties? Has that affected the popularity or business of IPL?
eNewsroom: Now, that you mentioned about the lockdown, what has it been like for the film industry since it was announced?
Anubhav: Well, to be honest like all industries, Bollywood have also been hit badly. The extent of the damage is yet to be assessed. I was supposed to shoot for my next film, but I guess, we won’t be able to resume shooting for the film, till December.
eNewsroom: During this period, you have been pretty active on social media. Given the fact, vocal celebs are often trolled, don’t you feel hesitant every time you tweet?
Anubhav: Well, it doesn’t come to mind. But then, I am still trying to be as active as I can. I am trying to be as vocal as I can be on issues that need to be highlighted. Many of my friends have chosen to be silent. I am often advised to not be vocal.
eNewsroom: Do you think that Anurag Kashyap was cornered because of his tweets that many consider as anti-establishment comments?
Anubhav: It would be very unfair to term Anurag Kashyap as anti-establishment. He is a person who always speaks his mind. This is about being able to speak or say things that you feel like. In today’s environment, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to speak against the government (state/centre) even when they are not doing their job. The moment you say things that the government is not comfortable with, you will witness the troll attack. So, people fearing slander have chosen to keep quiet.
eNewsroom: You have been pretty actively tweeting about the Hatras case. It has reminded many of your film Article 15?
Anubhav: Unfortunately, it is the same story. A girl from a low caste family is raped and murdered. And the way new narratives, counter-narratives and claims of the girl not being raped or mutilated, all I can say is that it is all so nauseating. I have been to those villages to shoot for Article 15 and I am not being able to watch the news on television.
You know what? This case might just go the way Badaun rape case went, where the suspects were released after a CBI investigation. The CBI report claimed that the two girls had not been gang-raped and had hinted it to be a case of honour killing.
eNewsroom: After the Nirbhaya gang-rape case, several laws were amended. But that in no way seems to have had a positive effect…
Anubhav: I sometimes wonder where the crowd that had camped at Jantar Mantar for days, to force the Delhi government to take action against the rapists, to amend laws, has disappeared today. They all seem to be nowhere. Do, they no longer want justice for the victims of Hatras, Unnao, Balarampur rape cases or as a matter of fact in any other rape case?
It’s time that we hit the streets and demand for justice to be delivered.
eNewsroom: Do you think more voices are needed?
Anubhav: Yes, the more the voices the better it will be. But given the scenario of today, not many are open to raising their voice. So, it’s their choice to keep quiet. Like it’s my choice to keep voicing my opinion and saying what I feel needs to be said.
eNewsroom: You did your engineering from AMU. What was it like to see the chaos and controversy surrounding it earlier this year?
Anubhav: Well, it was not just Aligarh Muslim University, but also Jawaharlal Nehru University, Jamia Millia Islamia and Jadavpur University are constantly being attacked, with the sole intention of creating a bad reputation for them. When I was studying AMU, a similar phenomenon was observed, when a concerted attempt was made to malign the institution. It’s sad to see such premium institutions being attacked.
eNewsroom: Do you think India is witnessing an era that can be termed dark?
Anubhav: Well, it’s not just India that is having to face this scenario. I think it is a global phenomenon, the entire world is witnessing this. I hope it changes and things get better.
eNewsroom: On a lighter note, what’s the next film of yours going to be all about?
Anubhav: It’s a thriller with Ayushman Khurana.
eNewsroom: Well, he has been listed in the 100 most influential people in the world by the Times magazine…
Anubhav: (Laughs) Yes, yes. But let me be honest, Ayushman is not just a good actor but a person too. I would rather say, despite his achievements, Ayushman is still very middle-class at heart. So is Shah Rukh.
eNewsroom: Speaking of Shah Rukh Khan, you had worked with him in Ra-One. During that time, both of you had expressed the desire to make a sequel. Do you people still intend to?
Well, both Shah Rukh and I keep talking about making it. But to be honest, at present I don’t have a story for the sequel. The day, I have it, we will make it for sure.