Anurag Kashyap, Rahul Bhat Talk Cannes Selection ‘Kennedy’

Indian auteur Anurag Kashyap is back in Cannes with thriller “Kennedy,” starring Rahul Bhat in the title role.

The film, which also stars Sunny Leone, will play in the Midnight Screenings strand of the festival. Several films directed by Kashyap have played at Cannes, including “Psycho Raman” (2016), “Ugly” (2013), “Bombay Talkies” (2013) and “Gangs of Wasseypur” (2012). In addition, several films produced by him have made it to the Croisette, including “Masaan” (2015), “The Lunchbox” (2013), “Monsoon Shootout” (2013), “The Congress” (2013) and “Udaan” (2010).

The plot of “Kennedy” is being kept under wraps at the moment. “Kennedy is a ghost in the system looking for redemption,” is how Kashyap describes the film to Variety.

The filmmaker says that the character of Kennedy has been an obsession with him for years and was born when fellow Indian filmmaker Sudhir Mishra hired him to write a cop story set in the 1980s. That film never got made but the character stayed with Kashyap. “Then there’s an actual incident that happened in the lockdown which suddenly triggered an idea. Suppose if that kind of a character existed in that lockdown around that incident, and a fictional story came out set around things that happened in the lockdown,” Kashyap said.

Kashyap also discovered the police noir novels of Jean-Patrick Manchette and his comics created in collaboration with Jacques Tardi, and the films of Jean-Pierre Melville, all of which were “massive influences” on the world seen in “Kennedy,” he said. “The idea was to create a character-driven dark nightmare thriller about redemption,” he added.

After a few years of working across genres, “Kennedy” is a return to the dark noir themes Kashyap is celebrated for. “I’ve liked everything that I’ve done. For me personally, I will not do what I don’t want to do. But sometimes in between, after ‘Psycho Raman’ came a phase where this whole Phantom [the company set up by Kashyap and his partners that shuttered] fiasco that happened, the lockdown that happened, there were a lot of things going on,” Kashyap said.

“I worked a lot on other people’s scripts. I wrote a lot of other people’s scripts and only one that I wrote was ‘Almost Pyaar with DJ Mohabbat,’ which was an idea that originated out of nowhere and I wanted to explore that because I was bored of people always expecting me to go back and create another gangster movie,” Kashyap added. “Unless you get something new and exciting that happens why would I do it?”

“Kennedy” “poured out” organically, Kashyap said, adding that returning to the genre felt like “coming home.” The Cannes selection feels like a “certain kind of validation,” the filmmaker said. “One is doing your film of the kind that people have come to expect from me, but still doing something new so it’s not repetitive.”

Meanwhile, Bhat reunites with Kashyap after starring in abduction drama “Ugly” as an actor and “Dobaaraa” (2022) where he played a philandering husband. “Three years ago, my life fell apart and just when I felt I couldn’t plunge deeper into an abyss, there came along Anurag Kashyap who showed me facets of darkness that I didn’t even know existed within me,” Bhat told Variety. “Kennedy is a character that both ripped me apart and stitched me back again. The film’s official selection to Cannes is further validation to the genius of Anurag and I will be forever indebted to him for making me his Kennedy.”

“I think that role in ‘Dobaaraa’ did something which got him thinking. He has a commendable perception and surely knows how to extract the best from actors,” Bhat added.

Kashyap says that the first poster of “Kennedy” is an acknowledgment of the Giallo genre on the film and also Manchette’s neo-polar genre of novels.

“Kennedy” is produced by Zee Studios and Ranjan Singh and Kabir Ahuja for Good Bad Films.

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