With three back to back films on the troika of troubling contemporary issues -- religion, caste and gender -- director Anubhav Sinha, who seems to have hit a purple patch, says he is an angry man and will continue to vent his ire through his cinema.
Fresh from the success of his latest film "Thappad", a nuanced look at domestic violence and male entitlement, Sinha said this is his "most fertile" period.
"I'm jumping between stories. As soon as I finish one, I start my next. I want to address everything... I'm still an angry man. I'll keep venting my anger through my films," the director told PTI in an interview.
Patriarchy, in his view, "is in our blood, in our bones". "It has been for centuries and we don't even realise that we have it," Sinha said. Before "Thappad", which released on February 28, Sinha made "Article 15" on the caste divide in 2019 and "Mulk" on religious polarisation in 2018.
"Perhaps this is the most fertile time for me. I keep finding good stories so I don't see a reason not to work. I'm a workaholic and there is no other engagement in my life. I'm meeting good writers, some are one or two films old, some are new. Things are falling into place organically," he said. The 54-year-old, who began his career in 2001 with the romantic drama "Tum Bin" and went on to make commercial potboilers such as "Cash", "Dus" and "Ra.One" before changing gears to more meaningful cinema, said he works on two scripts simultaneously.
That is why he is able to come up with at least one film a year. So, while he was making "Article 15" with co-writer Gaurav Solanki, he was also working on the script of "Thappad" with Mrunmayee Lagoo.
"Similarly, while Mrunmayee and I were busy with 'Thappad', two other writers were writing my next two," he said. "I spend time with my writers, meet them at 8 in the morning to discuss what we have written. I am always working on two scripts. It takes more time between two films when you don't have a ready script," he added. Sinha credits the women in his team for "Thappad", hailed as a landmark film by many critics. The Taapsee Pannu-starrer is about a homemaker whose life falls apart when her corporate executive husband slaps her at a party. According to Sinha, the women in his crew ensured he didn't make mistakes while telling the story of "just a slap".
"After the #MeToo movement, I told my team to hire as many women as possible. So there are always a lot of women in my team. I talk to them and they read the script and come up with their own suggestions.
"While constructing a shot, if I have some confusion or a question, I discuss with them and try to find a solution. The only credit I take is that I'm receptive to their ideas."
His late mother did not connect with his earlier films but would have loved "Thappad", he said.
In 2010, he started cooking as a hobby. But it took his mother to make him realise that cooking can be a chore if you have to do it four times a day, everyday.
"I realised this woman wakes up when we are fast asleep to cook for us and then leave for her school. She was a teacher. This affected me even as a child. Thankfully, I never saw any kind of violence, physical or otherwise, but yes, we are all misogynists.
"My father would carry his own plate from the table and made the morning cup of tea... There were no words like 'feminists' and 'chivalry' in our lives then... but it must have subliminally affected me that my father was like that. Still the cooking chores were done by my mother," he said.
Though the director does not mention it, the protagonist Amrita's father, played by Kumud Mishra, may have something to do with Sinha's personal experience. He is gentle and large hearted, quotes poetry, makes his own tea, loves his family and has a special corner in his heart for his daughter.
"The film talks about 'anupayukt' (unsuitable) men but that doesn't mean there are no good men around. I wanted to have one good man in the middle but realised that he was too sweet... That is why, I wanted to say that even he made a mistake."
A revealing conversation between Mishra's character and his wife, played by Ratna Pathak Shah, tells the audience how he overlooked her musical aspirations even while being the caring husband.
Sinha said "Mulk", "Article 15" and "Thappad" are not a trilogy, but the success of the first two gave him the confidence to tackle the latest. "When I made 'Mulk', a courtroom drama, it was a little verbose because there were things I had to say. So it ended up speaking more. Its box office success gave me a certain degree of confidence. I truly believe my films should do well at the box office," he said.
"Article 15" made Rs 65 crore at the box office and "Mulk" almost Rs 30 crore. "Thappad" is also on a healthy profit track with Rs 21 crore in its first week.Sinha is happy. "It is not on a blockbuster point because this is not a Rs 100 crore film. It has its own loyal audience and the reaction has been really strong."
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