Anurag Kashyap is undoubtedly the most interesting Bollywood filmmaker of present times. His films are gritty, realistic, thought-provoking, funny, and entertaining at the same time. However, his movies can also be frustrating at times as they appear overstuffed and could have been better in terms of quality.
But one thing which has always eluded Anurag and even best of his films is the box office success. Though he has a cult following among cinema lovers and some real worshippers as well (including me), his movies struggle to reach out to a wider audience. Let’s take the example of ‘Gulaal’, a multilayered tale of casteism, campus politics and greed. The film is considered to be one of the most accomplished works of Kashyap, but it also struggled to make any splash at the box office mainly because of a complex plot and lack of ‘star’ value. It was a challenging film for the general audience, and that’s why it failed at the box office. Other films like ‘Black Friday’ (Anurag’s personal favourite) also failed at Box office due to piracy and docu-drama style of making. Then comes his cinematic masterpiece ‘Gangs of Wasseypur’ which made money. The second part of the movie could have made more money had Salman Khan-starrer ‘Ek Tha Tiger’ not released in the following week.
When Anurag tried to make something conventional (Bombay Velvet), he stumbled big time as it proved to be one of the biggest flops of Bollywood history. His recent releases ‘Mukkabaaz’ and ‘Manmarziyan’, (both released this year) impressed the audiences and critics but still couldn’t get a wider reach in terms of box office success. ‘Mukkabaaz’, his finest films in recent times, was also his most audience-friendly movie, while ‘Manmarziyan’, a typical Bollywood love triangle story with realistic characters was a great watch as well.
So why didn’t these films work commercially? The answer is simple. Even the simplest of Anurag’s movies (plot-wise) has something more profound on a character level which may alienate the audience as they may not relate with the characters and their actions. This is what happened with ‘Manmarziyan’ as from outside, and plot-wise it seemed like a regular love triangle, but it’s characters were not relatable at times and made choices which were not necessarily right. But this is how real people are. They are not always right, they make mistakes and sometimes instead of learning they repeat the mistakes. And also as mentioned earlier, Kashyap’s films overflow with interesting ideas but he struggles to end his films, and they end up being a bit overstretched and overlong at times.
But this is where Anurag Kashyap also scored his biggest victory. His Netflix series ‘Sacred Games’, turned out to be his biggest success. There was no need to hurry, no pressure of box office and complete creative freedom. Without compromising his voice, he delivered beautifully and also had the largest amount of audience watching his work (due credits to Vikram Aditya Motwane and Varun Grover who were the series creator, co-director and head writer respectively). Hope we see similar success for him at the cinemas as well.