If something comes a close second to his love for filmmaking, it’s his love for film festivals. Since May, Anurag Kashyap has been doing the festival rounds with Kennedy, the latest being at the Indian Film Festival of Melbourne. For someone whose latest movie got a standing ovation at the Cannes Film Festival, does he harbour fears as a filmmaker? “My producers feel the pressure because my movies don’t make enough money for them. I do what I want to do. I work with people who are available. I don’t have access to stars. Also, there’s a persistent fear that I may make a Bombay Velvet  again. When you don’t have stars, the resources are limited and you get a free hand with the story,” smiles Kashyap.
It’s true for Kennedy. The noir thriller was originally written for Tamil superstar Vikram, even borrowing the title from his nickname. But things didn’t work out, and Kashyap went on to cast his Ugly (2014) actor Rahul Bhat. “I can’t chase stars. I don’t want to pressure anyone to do a film, I want them to joyfully submit to it. I reach out to stars, but if they say, ‘Pata nahin,’ I don’t pester them. Rahul did Kennedy because he trusts me. Vikram keeps changing his number. When he was shooting for Ponniyin Selvan 1, Sobhita [Dhulipala] told him that I reached out to him. [That’s when] we figured out that I texted him on a number that was three years old. My cast was locked by the time Vikram reached out to us, but he gave his blessings.”
Vikram was the original choice for the film; (right) Anurag Kashyap
Another quality that is common to most Kashyap films is their political undertones, his last offering Almost Pyaar with DJ Mohabbat being a prime example. “All my films factor in the social context of its milieu. Almost Pyaar has strong social undertones. But I am not deliberately trying to make a political film. Politics will seep in naturally, given the setting. Kennedy is set during COVID-19, so it reflects its times.”
It has been a rich 25-year run at the movies for Kashyap. As an artiste, how does he view the current stage of his career? “I’m at a stage where I don’t feel the need to compete with anyone. People want to box me, but I like every genre. I loved Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani. I loved Barbie more than Oppenheimer. Christopher Nolan delivered what’s expected out of a film, but Greta Gerwig delivered something novel with a doll! I fight to keep creativity soaring in filmmaking.”