Dabangg had its pair of competitive brothers. Its creator Abhinav Kashyap has his own story of fraternal influences, says Poorva Rajaram
THE FIRST SLIVER of Dabangg’s story came to Abhinav Kashyap with the image of a child bitter about being overlooked by his stepfather in favour of his brother. This child would grow into a cop determined to win back what he lost, even stealing toys from children to redress his past. Fittingly, when asked how he got interested in films, he replied, “my brother Anurag”.
Fraternal bonds, or their absence, are a recurring theme in a conversation with Kashyap. “Anurag is not the intellectual he claims to be, he is just a fun-loving guy. It’s just these days he goes abroad and gets exposure to intellectual films while I am stuck with pulp,” says Abhinav jokingly. “I watched the 1980s Manmohan Desai masala films and Salim-Javed movies of the 1970s with a Trishul, a Deewar, a brother and a classic villain out to torture the family. Drama is my favourite genre. This is what I watch, this is what I make.”
He speaks with levity about all things Dabangg, without the faintest whiff of self-praise. Stories of the two years he spent on the script have to be coaxed out of him. First, there were the drafts. All 14 of them. “There is no limit to improving a script. I did 50 to 60 narrations and got feedback on all.” One aspect of the script that underwent drastic change was the presentation of the central theme. “Initially, there was a whole spiritual layer about being fearless explicitly discussed in the dialogue. I soon learnt that nobody likes a lecture, so instead of encasing it in words, I put it in the character’s attitude.” Kashyap also refined his approach to heroism. “Chulbul Pandey was abusive about things he didn’t approve of. I had to tone down the language and be politically correct. Ever since my public school days, it was cool to be uncool and swear.”
The box-office success of the film has ensured that Abhinav breathes a sigh of relief. “The film has been a growing up process, so I’m convinced that as long as I am open to ideas, I can do better than this. Good filmmakers fail when they stop being sensitive to change.”
The raves are pouring in for Abhinav. “A producer who had refused to pay me for earlier television work, whom I nearly had a fistfight with, had the cheek to approach me post-Dabangg,” says the man who spent 16 years doing mostly writing jobs in the film and television industries. He also wrote dialogues for Manorama Six Feet Under. “Dabangg has given me much more money, opportunities, fame. But I want to remain adventurous.”
There is already a building mythology about Dabangg — Salman’s dancing, hysterically funny dialogues, yesteryear action sequences. Grand narratives about the film’s swashbuckling success will forget the procedural intricacy and forethought that laced Kashyap’s work. Dabangg did not happen because of battles fought between uncompromising artistic visionaries and money-making pragmatists. It came out of Kashyap digging deep into a genre, resolving holes in the script and enjoying the adventure that followed. It’s a film with a story and a backstory.
Photo: Abhinav Kashyap