Indian Filmmaker Anurag Kashyap: 'Piracy Helps Deliver The Filmmaker's Message To The Masses'

from the Kashyap-has-never-seen-a-half-empty-glass-in-his-life dept

There have been plenty of artists inside and outside the system recognizing that, yeah, it sucks to not get paid for every copy of your work, but on the bright side, at least people are watching/listening/reading. Hit children's book Go The F**k to Sleep built buzz with unpaid copies roaming the internet. A former WB record exec claims "File sharing leads to more sales." Canadian rap star Drake leaking tracks all over the internet to get fans listening and talking. Why? Because the more people you can expose to your art, the better. But if you ask Hollywood about file sharing you get the alphabet in response: SOPA, PIPA, E-PARASITE, TPP, ACTA. Piracy is killing the motion picture industry, full stop.

Contrast that with this statement from Indian filmmaker Anurag Kashyap, who works in a country where piracy is omnipresent, rather than just an over-inflated set of numbers to wave at easily impressed Congressmen:
While chatting about his experiences in Kanpur, where he's spent some part of his life while he was studying for the IIT entrance test, the topic veers to the menace of piracy in Indian cinema. But surprisingly, Anurag is one of the few filmmakers who feel that piracy is justified. "Main aaj jo kuch hoon, piracy ki wajah se hi hoon. It was through pirated versions of my movies that people got to see my work," he says and goes on to elaborate, "I feel that cinema is something that should reach the maximum number of people. If the audience does not get to see affordable cinema, it will turn to cheaper, pirated entertainment."
Unlike the hysteria we're used to, often conflated with knockoff fire extinguishers and child pornography, Anurag views piracy as more than simply a necessary evil, but an actual necessity. That is, if your aim is to have your work seen by as many people as possible. Obviously, if your aim instead is to do everything in your power to make sure that every set of eyeballs that come in contact with your work have paid upfront, then you'll take a much dimmer view of file sharing.

Anurag's not done yet, either:
"If we want to see a successful Hollywood today, often we have to take the help of piracy because it's not necessary that that film is legally available in your city. That's why filmmakers need to understand that their work should reach more and more people, because today cinema is not all about entertainment. In fact, I feel that we filmmakers should use cinema as a tool to make a strong impact on society. And if people are watching such meaningful cinema through piracy, I believe it only helps to deliver the filmmaker's message to the masses."
All very good points. First and foremost: sometimes you don't have a legal option because of licensing issues, regional blocking, "you people are all pirates," GEMA wants its cut, etc. But beyond the logistics is the fact that if you're an artist and you want to have an impact on people, it behooves you to get your creations in front of as many people as possible.

Here's a filmmaker working in a country where piracy is an absolute given, so much so that the government has taken some very surprising steps in an effort to curb it, including blocking file lockers and video sites at the ISP level. And yet, despite massive infringement, all he sees is the upside. He's doing this for a living and yet he's not loudly wondering where his boom mike operator will get his next meal or saying something asinine about a future full of cat videos, all the while attempting to recast record box office receipts as the Fifth Horseman of the Creative Apocalypse.

And before you write off Kashyap as just some dude you've never heard of from somewhere else, here's a brief recap of his work (via the Wiki):
As a filmmaker, he is known for Black Friday (2004), a controversial and award-winning Hindi film about the 1993 Bombay bombings, followed by No Smoking (2007), Dev D (2009) Gulaal (2009) That Girl in Yellow Boots (2011) and Gangs of Wasseypur (2012).

As a screenwriter, he wrote the scripts for the Filmfare Award-winning Satya (1998) and the Academy Award-nominated Canadian film Water (2005).

In 1999, Kashyap won the Best Screenplay award for Satya at the Star Screen Awards. The next year, his short film Last Train to Mahakali won the Special Jury Award at the same awards. His feature film debut Black Friday won the Grand Jury Prize at the 3rd Annual Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles (2005), and was a nominee for the "Golden Leopard" (Best Film) at the 57th Locarno International Film Festival (2004).

He was listed on the The DNA power list: Top 50 influentials, a list of 50 most influential Indians in 2011. Kashyap currently serves on the board of Mumbai-based NGO, Aangan Trust, which helps protect vulnerable children around India.
It seems that those who value their own work as art over commerce are the ones who see how file sharing can pay dividends in the long run. Those who tend to view their work as a P&L sheet can only see the negative. You don't have to like or condone piracy to see the possible upside. Kashyap almost seems to view it as a distribution system that reaches places he can't, free of charge. Hollywood, however, seems to be too busy playing the victim to draw that same conclusion.

Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread

  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 6 Aug 2012 @ 1:48pm

    Hollywood will never portray themselves as anything except the victim. even after being told countless times to change their business model, give customers what they ask for, they remain steadfast in their resolve. even with their dying breath, their last sales sheet, will they for ever maintain that no other industry tried so hard to adapt but was beaten by the future!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. icon
    Zakida Paul (profile), 6 Aug 2012 @ 1:52pm

    It has been said on here many times

    The real enemy of content creators is obscurity. Thankfully they are waking up (slowly) to the world of possibilities that the Internet brings. If only the gatekeepers would realise this.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 6 Aug 2012 @ 2:21pm

    Gatekeepers don't want to realize because it makes them obsolete.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Happy Reader, 6 Aug 2012 @ 2:22pm

    Piracy and all kinds of free watching, including TV, is how US culture has spread so widely in the world so far. Inducing and fueling a kind of cultural world domination. It's kind of ironic how the Hollywood studios are working against US cultural proeminence and trying to work that into international treaties. Talk about the rise and fall of a dominant nation's cultural model? I do hope american citizens come to their senses on their cultural assets. And "assets" is intentional and far more important that "property" intellectual works are being reduced to by an overgressive trade and lawerly culture.

    And happy to see this angle also appear on Techdirt.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. icon
    gorehound (profile), 6 Aug 2012 @ 2:22pm

    Re: It has been said on here many times

    Gatekeepers never will wake up..............they are gatekeepers.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. icon
    SujaOfJauhnral (profile), 6 Aug 2012 @ 2:26pm

    Re: It has been said on here many times

    Unfortunately, if your work contains any sort of copyrighted work you are most likely doomed to obscurity unless you can either find a host who doesn't give a fuck about laws OR you managed to get the power of Streisand effect on your side.

    Certain creators such as Nina have already been through this, however not everyone can be as lucky as her.

    There's something I've learned and that is "Put someone into a situation that nulls their strengths and all they have left is their weaknesses". Copyright takes away the strength from remix artists (Creative freedom) and leaves us trying to climb a mountain with one hand.

    While we often can get away with what we do we can only do so if we remain obscure. Sadly, it is obscurity that weakens us further leaving in this catch 22 situation where we just don't really know what the fuck to do.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. icon
    Mason Wheeler (profile), 6 Aug 2012 @ 2:27pm



    "It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it."
    -- Upton Sinclair

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. icon
    skinny poppy (profile), 6 Aug 2012 @ 2:27pm

    Let our media go! As for gatekeepers, I prefer Cerberus, not to be confused with Kerberos.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. icon
    SujaOfJauhnral (profile), 6 Aug 2012 @ 2:32pm


    Actually I think they do realize they are obsolete that's why they are fighting so hard, they don't want to accept change because they are scared of it. They are scared they will lose power and no longer be able to dictate people's creative lives, that's something they can't deal with.

    They are slaves to their own greed, egos and over inflated sense of entitlement. They're own worst enemy.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. icon
    SujaOfJauhnral (profile), 6 Aug 2012 @ 2:34pm

    Re: Re:

    If his salary depends on it then it is not real misunderstanding, he is doing it the same way a dog begs for food. This makes it even worse, they know what they do is screwing people over and they don't care.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 6 Aug 2012 @ 2:40pm

    Re: Re:

    Yes they are. If gatekeepers don't gatekeep what do they do then? honestly the answer would be empower the artist but they can't throw laws at it and sit back so it scares them senseless.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 6 Aug 2012 @ 4:35pm

    Yes, in a country where the vast majority of the people don't have two cents to rub together, piracy is the only way they would get to see the movies.

    It isn't that piracy is good. It's that a stupid caste system allows people to be born into poverty, live in poverty, and die in poverty with no chance of getting ahead.

    They pirate because there are no other economically viable options. The US doesn't have this issue, does it?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 6 Aug 2012 @ 4:42pm

    Hollywood, however, seems to be too busy playing the victim to draw that same conclusion.

    Well, of course. Piracy only helps content producers. Hollywood hasn't actually produced content in years.

    Keep in mind the Hollywood business model:
    1. Select a piece of intellectual property they own by throwing a dart at a very large dartboard.
    2. Open the Vault of One Thousand and One Generic Scripts and pick out one that more or less fits.
    3. Record the film. Use CGI effects to make it look interesting at first glance.
    4. Spend a fortune on advertising. Put all the interesting bits of the film in the ads.
    5. Try to keep people from warning their friends that the movie is actually horrible. (Confiscate cameraphones, sue prereleasers, etc.)
    6. Set new profit records every year.
    7. Use Hollywood Accounting (tm) so that the film technically makes $0, to avoid having to pay actors.
    8. Throw some cash at the current crop of politicians so the business model stays legal.

    So piracy does hurt Hollywood, in the same way that "50% Sawdust" stickers would hurt a bread company that employed cellulose additives.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 6 Aug 2012 @ 10:17pm


    Not necessarily, but the issues of copyright are international. How else would O'Dwyer be extradited and Megaupload remotely taken down by a SWAT team?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 6 Aug 2012 @ 11:52pm


    Lots of people are very keen on getting victim status. Victims get allowances for bad behaviour plus power over whoever is alleged to be victimizing them.

    Hollywood is making record revenues. Yet the studios still claim to be terribly victimized by pirates. It is amazing that anybody believes them. Why is there so little scepticism? Why aren't people saying, "Hang on, the studios are making out like bandits. Meanwhile, the alleged pirates are getting their lives wrecked. Exactly who is the victim here? How come these studios are so mean to their fans?"

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. icon
    Mesonoxian Eve (profile), 7 Aug 2012 @ 3:26am

    Dear Indie developers, whether it be books, movies, music, or games: PLEASE STOP USING THE WORD PIRACY.

    You're deflating your own cause. If one side is using "theft", you should be using "share".

    Thank you.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Use markdown for basic formatting. HTML is no longer supported.
  Save me a cookie
Follow Techdirt
Techdirt Gear
Shop Now: Copying Is Not Theft
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads


Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.