In 2010, Neeraj Ghaywan took a leap of faith by quitting his well-paying corporate job to join Anurag Kashyap as assistant director in Gangs Of Wasseypur. They had bonded through their conversations about cinema on a blog, Passion For Cinema. Then, Ghaywan was Kashyap’s youngest assistant director ever. Now, as they sit together to talk about the second season of Sacred Games that they co-directed, Kashyap cannot be prouder of Ghaywan. Between them, there is a lot of camaraderie, leg-pulling and fondness. “He cares and worries about me,” says Kashyap. “Most of the people I work with do that. I think I put myself out there a lot and they all get worried about me.”
According to Ghaywan, that is a result of the atmosphere that Kashyap has created for many of the younger filmmakers. “We get so protective [of him] because he has nurtured so many people around him,” he says. “It is kind of generational. He learnt a lot from Ram Gopal Varma and he has that allegiance to him. I would also have that to him (Kashyap) because, when I quit my corporate life, he became my second parent. My own parents were not talking to me [at the time]. I was new to Mumbai and had nowhere to go. And he was there.”
But that does not stop them from critiquing each other’s work. “We used to always criticise his work, and I still do,” says Ghaywan. “We have the biggest fights about work. I have told him that I am not going to keep from arguing with him because he himself has groomed us that way.” Ghaywan is taking over from Vikramaditya Motwane, the show-runner, who directed the Sartaj Singh (Saif Ali Khan) segment in the first season. Kashyap will continue to direct the Ganesh Gaitonde (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) segment.
Ghaywan was excited and nervous about being part of a show helmed by his mentor. “To have around you the comfort and camaraderie of people whom you really respect and admire [is great],” he says. “But then you also have to live up to the expectations. There was that kind of dichotomy. It took some time to let it go and come into my own.” There was also the pressure of not disappointing the audiences after the global acclaim that the first season received. “I was bogged down,” he says. “But I deliberately took up the challenge. I wanted to get out of my comfort zone, do something that was totally not me. I loved every bit of it. It was extremely difficult and extremely satisfying.”
Kashyap, however, has stopped being burdened by expectations. “You have to stop thinking about it,” he says. “I just like to be in the moment, do my best and get out.” In the last few months, however, he has been very vocal about the socio-political issues of India, especially on Twitter. “I am not angry,” he says. “I am frustrated and confused. I am looking at the way things are happening across the world. We are going back in time and it is very disappointing.” He talks about his parents’ worry for him and his own for his daughter, who is often targeted by trolls on Twitter. No wonder he quit Twitter the day after this interview. “I jump from work to work because I don’t think I can engage with what is going on,” he says.
Last year, ahead of the release of the first season of Sacred Games, he had spoken to me about addressing sociopolitical issues through his work in a light-hearted way. He still wants to do this, but it is not easy. “It is never going to be easy,” he says. “The world is like that. You have to find your ground. And you have to find the courage to stand your ground. Or not find the courage and just give in,” he says, almost in a resigned tone.
For now, the second season of Sacred Games has a lot to offer. It takes forward the stories of Sartaj and Ganesh, who are rediscovering themselves through certain belief systems. Many religious ideas and philosophies are explored in the show. “It deals with the idea of a new world,” says Kashyap. “How people find religion when there is nothing left and they don’t know where to go. And then, how it becomes a tool for power and politics.”