“Anand L Rai and Anurag Kashyap. Two different worlds step into the ring this November. ‘Mukkabaaz‘ on November 10,” read a post on the official Twitter handle of the production banner. (This was tweeted when the release date was not confirmed. The film is now being released on 12 January)
It’s a collaboration of two different sensibilities, and Rai says that this was exactly the reason they have joined hands. “What interested me about the script was Anurag Kashyap. I have always loved Anurag’s cinema and the way he tells his stories. I knew that as a director, I wouldn’t have pick up something like Mukkabaaz. I heard out his story and I wanted an opportunity to see him closely, how passionately hemakes his films,” says Rai, further adding, “Though we make different kinds of cinema, there is a common thing about the intention behind a film, and it matched perfectly. He always comes with pure intentions and I love the originality that he brings.”
Rai is known for directing films like Tanu Weds Manu and Raanjhanaa. Kashyap, meanwhile, is best known for movies like Gangs of Wasseypur, Dev D, Ugly, Black Friday and Raman Raghav 2.0.
Mukkabaaz is about a boxer who has to take on a ruthless local boxing association member who is hell-bent on destroying his career. It’s the protagonist’s battle for victory over the forces of prejudice and corruption. Mukkabaaz was screened in the Special Presentations’ section at the Toronto International Film Festival and the Mumbai Film Festival (MAMI) where it had seen a standing ovation.
Kashyap says that Mukaabaaz, starring Vineet Kumar Singh, Jimmy Shergill and Zoya Hussain, is a socio-political love story.
“I would define the film as a socio-political love story about a sportsman, a boxer, in contemporary India. I wanted to make a film about sports which talked honestly about that sport. What is the status of boxing in India? That has to be portrayed with honesty. If the film was about cricket, it would be a different story. But the film is about boxing. And while making a film like this, the economic strata of people who get into boxing, and why they get into boxing, should come in,” explains Kashyap, who has himself pursued sports like hockey, swimming and marathon in his early days.
Kashyap cast Vineet Kumar Singh, who had worked with him in Gangs of Wasseypur (2012) and Ugly (2014), in the lead role as the doughty boxer Shravan. “Initially, when Vineet came to me, he weighed 95 kilos and I asked him to lose 10 kilos in a month and only then I would cast him in Gangs Of Wasseypur. From thereon his journey of exercising and losing weight started, and in seven years he has become a boxer. He lived and trained with boxers for one year in Punjab,” informs Kashyap, adding, “I didn’t see this as a big hero film. It was not about the hero, but I needed a boxer in the film.”
Meanwhile, Rai says that he believes in giving complete freedom to his directors.
“The best part about Anurag as director is that he is very fearless in his expression. He was very clear that he wanted to see Mukkabaaz happen. I wanted him to make it the way he wanted to and gave him complete freedom on cast, music. I know how it works because when I was trying to make films, people used to ask me, ‘Who is the hero?’ So this is the last question I ask directors who are coming to me now when I am producing films. Instead, my first question is: ‘What story are you going to narrate?’ I don’t believe in casting big names just for the sake of it,” says Rai.
Rai will produce Kashyap’s next film as well, Manmarziyan, which will go on floors in January-end. Southern superstar Dulquer Salmaan has been selected by Kashyap to complete the leading trio of this love-triangle, starring Vicky Kaushal and Taapsee Pannu. “I won’t stop now. I have lot of scripts,” says Kashyap excitedly.
It’s a well-known fact that Kashyap has faced the wrath of the censor board ever since he made his first movie, Paanch (2003). The film was denied certification on the ground that it glorified violence and the film has still not been released. Phantom Films’ Udta Punjab (2016) was eventually released after the filmmakers approached the Bombay High Court.
We’re curious to know his views on censorship in India, especially related to his upcoming film. “I don’t anticipate any problem with this film. But what gives me the power to fight a problem is the fact that I have no political agenda, I don’t do propaganda. I am just making a film and I am honest towards it. I am neither part of nor against any political party. My only fight is that I should be given my right,” says Kashyap.