Anurag Kashyap has not only brought a necessary change in Hindi cinema but also has given it a new identity that we can all be proud of. He is one of the faces of the new wave in Indian cinema, along with Ram Gopal Verma, Vishal Bhardwaj, Dibaker Banerjee, and Tigmanshu Dhulia. Anurag Kashyap delivered some of the best Bollywood movies of this century. He is perhaps the only modern-day director in India who makes realistic films with high entertainment value.

Anurag Kashyap movies are known for their Tarantino-esque violence and humor. It is the ability to make people laugh during the bloodiest of scenes that Kashyap has mastered over the years. Anurag Kashyap has tried his hands at acting as well. His recent performance in the Tamil movie ‘Imaikkaa Nodigal‘ directed by R. Ajay Gnanamuthu, has been raved about by critics and audiences alike.  

As we are psyched for Anurag Kashyap’s new venture, ‘Kennedy’, which will be screened at the Cannes Film Festival this year, in the Midnight Screening section, we thought of revisiting his body of work and ranking Anurag Kashyap’s movies from the least likable to his best:

16. Almost Pyaar with DJ Mohabbat (2023)

Runtime: 2h 1m | Genre: Drama, Romance

Almost Pyaar with DJ Mohabbat

High On Films in collaboration with Avanté

Love is the most potent of all forces. It has started wars, changed civilizations, and shaped cultures. Love is fodder for revolution. This has to be recognized and reiterated time and again, for in our society marked by hate, love is the only antidote. Anurag Kashyap’s ‘Almost Pyaar with DJ Mohabbat’ treads on the radical sentiment of love’s supremacy above all features of existence, and it wishes to establish how our conventions, politics of hate, and communal insecurities are suffocating love. It is indeed true that we, as a collective, are fearful of love.

We are fearful of its ability to erase boundaries, transcend identities and reveal the faux homogeneity we have imposed on our society. Therefore, we do not want love to exist. We may like myths about lovers and find entertainment in their tragedy. But we do not want it to happen. Kashyap is trying to correct the Hindi cinema convention of the hero winning the heroine at all costs (a heteronormative convention gone stale) by situating love in the local context, which kills those who dare. However, you can champion a film’s intent only to the extent that it is complementary to the narrative. Just like an idea is not a product in itself that generates value, a film is not solely its intent.

‘Almost Pyaar with DJ Mohabbat’ cannot be considered a good film. It is an exercise in understanding what modern love looks and functions like by someone who’s in his fifties now. It is incoherent and disconnected to every choice it makes with the screenplay. No moment of association is established with any incident or character while watching the film. In its obsessive portrayal of the new age romance, it ends up propagating really old and aesthetic but hollow ideas of love. At the same time, it ends up borderline glorifying the toxic behavioral patterns that characters show in their relationships. Without many redeeming factors except for having its heart in the right place, ‘Almost Pyaar with DJ Mohabbat’ merges as Kashyap’s weakest film.

15. Return of Hanuman (2007)

Runtime: 1h 50m  | Genre: Animation, Action, Adventure

Anurag kashyap 3

One of the most unusual Anurag Kashyap movies on the list. As Kashyap sat down to roll a blunt with the best possible hash available, someone told him to make a film for kids. Lazing around, he goes through children’s channels as he comes across the newest sensation, i.e., Hanuman. He takes a piece of paper laying around, looks around for a pen before borrowing one, and writes down his own playful version of the so-called desi-superhuman.

His characters are cheekier than Kanti Shah’s Gunda, where Hanuman can easily manipulate Prabhu, a chimp who is deliberately made to sound like Shah Rukh, and some more unearthly characters who refer to gods and their sleeping habits. Return Of Hanuman is a totally bonkers film and to be completely honest, it is a mess. But why not smoke some doobies and have fun?

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14. Bombay Velvet (2015)

Runtime: 2h 29m  | Genre: Action, Crime, Drama

Anurag kashyap 10

Bombay Velvet is a wreck, but it is a grand wreck. Even the worst movie by Anurag Kashyap is alluring to an extent. In his ambition to create a jazzy Bombay, AK overlooked the most important aspect of a movie – the story. While his command over the camera is splendid, his mastery over storytelling is severely jolted here.

Set in the 1960s, Bombay Velvet is a noir-ish gangster drama. Johnny Balraj (Ranbir Kapoor), a street scamp, dreams of becoming a ‘BIG SHOT’ while watching ‘The Roaring Twenties’. His infatuation for Rosie (Anushka Sharma) stirs a war between two powerful political ideologies. Khambatta (Karan Johar), a crooked man with power, builds an establishment called ‘Bombay Velvet’, where funky jazz plays on stage only to conceal the screams behind its back door. The growing ambition of Johnny turns him against his own patron, Khambatta.

With Bombay Velvet, Anurag Kashyap has proved that sometimes, standing in the arena is all that matters; applause and aspersions are secondary.

Also Read: La La Land and The Artist: Bringing It Back

13. That Girl in Yellow Boots (2010)

Runtime: 1h 43m  | Genre: Crime, Drama, Mystery

Anurag kashyap 4

Sometimes the darkest secrets hide in plain sight. Anurag Kashyap’s ‘That Girl In Yellow Boots’ is the story of Ruth, a girl searching for her long-lost father. The boots are a metaphor for struggle and survival. The yellow refers to the shadiness her job (a shadier massage parlor) has brought upon her life. She gives ‘handshakes’ as she finds it hard to get a work permit along the endless lines of paperwork she has to file. “I love India,” she says, so that her struggles along those visa offices come to an end. Only, it never does.

High On Films in collaboration with Avanté

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The conclusion of Ruth’s tale will leave you speechless. It made me respect Anurag Kashyap and Kalki (who also co-wrote the film) for having balls made of steel. Only people like them can have the audacity to go through a film that everyone would not appreciate. The climax of ‘That Girl In Yellow Boots’ reminds you of the Korean thriller ‘Oldboy’ in a strange way, and comparing this film to ‘Oldboy’ is saying a lot.

But when you see the film again, you will realize that the conclusion was not what Anurag Kashyap was aiming for. It was all about the character of Ruth, also about her solo stride through all the filth that sticks to something that’s not similar to everything else. Kashyap has portrayed a woman who is sadder than she looks and acts older than she is supposed to. It’s an achievement.

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12. Manmarziyaan (2018)

Runtime: 2h 36m  | Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Abhishek Bachchan & Taapsee Pannu in Manmarziyaan (2018)
Abhishek Bachchan & Taapsee Pannu in Manmarziyaan (2018)

‘Manmarziyaan’ is a technically brilliant film. From its opening shots to the very end, it gorgeously captures every setting. Tracking and close-up shots are employed to a great measure, especially in intimate moments. The music is phenomenal. There’s no song and dance routine. Instead, it truly blends into the background and becomes a part of the narrative propelling it forward.

‘Manmarziyaan’ is a showcase of talent both in front of and behind the camera. Well-acted and technically polished, it could have been among the finest films of the year. Unfortunately, the film is let down by its narrative. It loses its grip on you in the second half and never recovers as it plods along to its climax. There are so many individual components to appreciate in this film. Sadly, Anurag Kashyap fails to unite them in an enticing package that would leave a mark.

Read the Complete Review: Manmarziyaan [2018]: Crazy, Stupid Love Indeed

11. Choked (2020)

Runtime: 1h 54m  | Genre: Drama

Anurag Kashyap Ranked

Inherently, all Anurag Kashyap characters have a grey side. They look and act in ways that make for an all-inclusive party of darkly comical hounds who are always on the lookout for something better. In his newest Netflix presentation, ‘Choked ‘, Kashyap carefully constructs the lives of middle-class Mumbai people.

Every film made by a filmmaker is political, wherein they do not have to necessarily draw a line and explain the reason for the line being there. In Kashyap’s ‘Choked’, the line is drawn again and again, putting aside the narrative that could have made it more memorable. I mean, a middle-class family struggling with their morality and greed as their kitchen-sink problem turns into a mess of magic could have yielded a more hefty and complex human drama than the one we actually get here. Choked will divide its viewers. Much like the demonetization phase it propagates, the film will be divided into pre-Choked Kashyap and post-Choked Kashyap.

Also, Related to Anurag Kashyap – Choked [2020] Netflix Review – A tale of a crumbling marriage crushed by a socio-political metaphor

10. DoBaaraa

Runtime: 2h 12m  | Genre: Drama, Fantasy, Mystery

Still from Anurag Kshyap’s Movie 'DoBaaraa' having Taapsee Pannu

Time travel has forever fascinated a writer’s mind as much as it has tingled with the people of science. As a plotting instrument, it enables a filmmaker to create thrills by merely by playing with the arrangement of sequences in the screenplay as tweaking the flow of time leads to the realization of “what would happen if” scenarios over “what was supposed to happen” ones. The film’s idea has novelty only because it belongs to that family of films in which characters affect themselves by affecting time. However, it fails to emerge into an original film.

The film’s premise mimics that of ‘The Girl Who Leapt Through Time’. To make it an adherent of genre conventions, a number of cinematic tropes are imposed on the film. In his latest interview with Bhardwaj Rangan, Anurag Kashyap proclaimed to be a genre freak, and he most certainly is, as a cinephile. ‘Dobaara’ looks like his attempt at a pastiche, but it is so sanitized and unremarkably crafted that you fail to find anything you can call Kashyap’s own.

Read More: Dobaaraa Movie Ending Explained

Even as a pastiche, no sequence is actually recreated to honor cinema’s heritage. Therefore, plot elements such as accidental murder, love transcending the dimension of time, as well as the mother-child relationship turn out to be impersonal, for neither have they been assigned tributary aesthetics nor have they been allowed to be built in Kashyap’s signature ways. When cliches are executed without originality in the effort, they become a source of boredom. Dobaaraa might not be Kashyap’s weakest film because it is not a bad film per se, but it has no character that can be attributed to Kashyap.

9. Paanch (2003)

Runtime: 2h 10m  | Genre: Crime, Thriller

Anurag kashyap 1

‘Paanch’ is a commentary on the childish nature of evil, which also serves as a cautionary tale. As the title suggests, ‘Paanch’ is a story of five slackers, whose only business is too fool around and get wasted. Every act of iniquity starts with a tiny step, the second step and so on until involved people realize that they are neck deep into the deadening mire of evil, but they keep at it, firstly out of pleasure, then out of compulsion. Those who set a foot in this vicious mire are bound to sink in the deepest trench of hell; there is no escaping.

High On Films in collaboration with Avanté

Luke (Kay Kay Menon) is an agent of Evil. His unpredictable and menacing nature has every band member frightened, but they need money to get by and to record the album. A rich brat voluntarily proposes to be kidnapped by them, to extract money from his miser father. And then, as Murphy’s Law suggests, whatever can go wrong, goes wrong.

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The beginning of Paanch is reminiscent of Fight Club. It has enough pop culture references to intrigue any movie buff. Though it suffers from unnecessarily stretched songs, ‘Paanch’ is a grotesque thriller. Sadly, it did not get a theatrical release in India.

Also, Related to Anurag Kashyap: 20 Years of ‘Paanch’

8. Mukkabaaz (2018)

Runtime: 2h 34m  | Genre: Action, Drama, Sport

Movie still Brawler - By Anurag Kashyap

‘Mukkabaaz’, on its surface, is a love story of an amateur boxer, Shravan (Vineet Kumar Singh) Singh from Bareilly. His passion for boxing is eternal. In one of the scenes, Shravan’s father ridicules him by displaying how useless the winning cup is. Shravan retaliates savagely that boxing is his passion and he does not know anything else to do in life. The whole crescendo of Sharavan reflects Anurag’s constant struggle to survive and tell the stories he wants to , in his intransigent voice in this commercially-driven Bollywood ‘industry’. And that could be one of the reasons the headstrong passion of Shravan is so tangible that it breaks your heart to see him getting punched, literally and metaphorically.

‘Mukkabaaz’ is dense and insightful though some scenes are theatrical and thoroughly cinematic. Anurag Kashyap lands a satisfying punch against the injustices and hypocrisies that keep India’s sporting underdogs exactly where they are. While he punches the last crude knock by ending the film by saying ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’. A tight slap in the face of over-enthusiast patriots? Or just heartfelt gratitude to the native for giving such a content-worthy landscape? Or perhaps both.

Also on Mukkabaaz: Art and the Obstinate Expectations Of Avant-Gardism

7. No Smoking (2007)

Runtime: 2h 8m  | Genre: Drama, Horror, Mystery

Anurag Kashyap 5

‘No Smoking’ is Hindi Cinema’s own mind-fuck, an undaunting experimental movie straight out of Anurag Kashyap’s ‘Prayogshala’. A movie that was supposed to be all about smoking gets more perplexing and bizarre as it progresses, and the climax is bound to leave the viewer’s mind numb. It also has some surrealistic elements rarely found in Indian cinema.

The protagonist of the movie, oddly known as ‘K’ (John Abraham), is a chain smoker and a narcissist. Tired of his smoking habits, his wife Anjali (Ayesha Takia) abandons him. This leaves no option for K but to visit Prayogshala. Prayogshala is a strange rehabilitation center run by an idiosyncratic Baba Bengali (Paresh Rawal). Baba Bengali is assertive and is prepared to take any measure to help K get rid of the smoking habit, even if it means killing him. K is forced to sign a contract and has a stamp attached to his forehead to trace him. K has to suffer dire consequences because of his non-compliance.

No smoking is also a commentary on men who are slaves to their own desires. Despite its inconsistencies, ‘No Smoking’ is a highly original film and has rightfully gained cult status with time.

6. Raman Raghav 2.0 (2016)

Runtime: 2h 13m  | Genre: Crime, Drama, Thriller

Raman Raghav 5

There’s a strange smile that appears on your face as you watch Ramanna dismantling his victims in Anurag Kashyap’s Raman Raghav 2.0. It’s not because Kashyap somehow magically manages to justify the mystifying murders in his film. It is also not because he tries to ground you into rooting for his killing machine; but because the film jabs at the side of the human brain that has violence and anarchy all over its surface. He kicks a dark, blunt hole in your head, one that shakes you and takes you to a moment of spine-chilling, psychotic disorder. Here is a film that never steps back on its delivery of evil. It piles a dozen grim shenanigans in front of your eyes and just keeps increasing the weight until you gasp or possibly choke yourself to death.

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Starting off in true Tarantino fashion, Raman Raghav 2.0 works in chapters. It does not overuse the gimmick of going back and forth in time in order to trap you into an unnecessary mystery. The narrative of Kashyap’s film takes up a basic ‘serial-killer’ story arc and builds a solid, darkly delicious tale of insanity, anger and self-discovery. It is a disturbing character study of two people, one on the verge of complete and total chaos of his psyche and one on the playful aftermath; where no relations, no emotions, no religion and no tragedy matters; where gaining a godly figure in its harshest sense is the ultimate and final aim.

Anurag Kashyap’s Raman Raghav 2.0 is dark, delirious and stylistically delicious. It does not leave any stone unturned and is a true Kashyap film in all measures. Cheers to getting fucked inside out!

Read the complete review of Raman Raghav 2.0.

5. DEV.D (2009)

Runtime: 2h 24m  | Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Anurag Kashyap 7

Abhay Deol’s rendition of the titular character Dev is not likable. Unlike Bimal Roy’s charming Dilip Kumar or Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s tragic Shah Rukh Khan, he is an avant-garde dick (The D in Dev D. stands for Dick). He jumps into the easiest possible way out of feeling hopeless, mostly dissolving and drinking himself to death. Most of all, he is confused. He never seems to take the right path.

While all versions of Dev, Paro, and Chandramukhi end signifying undeniable love, Anurag Kashyap’s Dev D. signifies understanding life and death, while love is a pathway. When Dev D. came out in 2009, it received rave reviews from everyone. Critics praised it for its near-perfect defiant charm that will make your jaw drop. In all the filth, Anurag managed to create a hypnotic environment. Also, Kashyap’s film is so densely detailed that you wish they were mere accidents. There’s a shot in the film where Dev receives a phone call after having drowned himself in alcohol the previous day. We see him putting his shades on before receiving the call in classy Kashyap style.

By Anurag Kashyap: Dev.D [2009]: A Refreshingly Unusual Black Comedy

When the film ends, the credits seem as confused as its protagonist who only understands the meaning of his life when a car hits a wall beside him as he is busy collecting pennies out a public telephone. When you leave aside all the greatness that surrounds the film, there are still 18 other reasons to love it. Laced up with the most experimental, and possibly the best soundtrack in any Hindi film ever, Amit Trivedi emerges as the unsung hero. His songs dance along with this masterpiece in complete sync.

4. Ugly (2014)

Runtime: 2h 8m  | Genre: Crime, Drama, Mystery

Rahut Bhatt in Ugly 2013
Rahut Bhatt in Ugly (2013)

The subject of ‘Ugly’ is not an unique one; we have seen child abduction in films before, like Ben Affleck’s ‘Gone Baby Gone’ and Denis Villeneuve’s ‘Prisoners’. But in those films, the focus constantly remains on what might have happened to the missing kid, which makes them a riveting thriller to watch. ‘Ugl’y is a different film altogether. It does not delve deep into finding the missing girl but focuses on the ever-changing mentalities of the key characters.

The parents, their divorce, the step-father, the father’s friend, the uncle; these are the players around whom the story revolves. Each one of them uses the kidnapping as an opportunity to benefit something from it. Most of them are trying to make some dirty money while some are using the incident to settle old scores. Of course, some do care for her, but she is not a priority. The kid is the center point of the film whose abduction extracts the ugly sides of these people. After ‘Paanch’ and ‘Black Friday’, ‘Ugly’ is the third film where Anurag Kashyap portrays a relentless Bombay we do not get to see often in cinema with all its glamour and glitz. I call it the Bombay Trilogy.

3. Black Friday (2004)

Runtime: 2h 23m  | Genre: Action, Crime, Drama

Anurag kashyap 2

One of the boldest Anurag Kashyap movies, ‘Black Friday’ is raw in its narration, impartial in its characterization, melancholic for its entire length and gritty in its look. From the first scene of the bomb exploding that leaves your heart pounding in horror till the end credit rolls, ‘Black Friday’ never ceases to ease the tension and thrill that will chill your bones and soul.  It shows the events of the 1993 Mumbai Bomb blast that resulted in hundreds of casualties and left thousands of people injured as the manifestation of religious hatred between the Hindu majority and the Muslim minority.

The best thing about ‘Black Friday’ is that it never takes sides, whether it is a character or a religion, nor does it try to justify the act of anyone. It oscillates splendidly between the pre-blast phase and the post-blast phase without sensationalizing or glorifying any character or the event itself. It very sensitively captures the psyche of Rakesh Maria, Dawood Ibrahim, Tiger Memon, and one of the main bombers, Baadshah Khan, without even making an effort to draw sympathy for anyone. ‘Black Friday’ is a film we all should be proud of, the film that defines realism, the film that is brave enough to use real names and locations, the kind of film that should be sent to the Oscars.

2. Gulaal (2009)

Runtime: 2h 20m  | Genre: Crime, Drama, Thriller

gulal

Among one of the best political movies of the decade, Anurag Kashyap’s ‘Gulaal’ is a socio-political drama at its outset. When peeled layer by layer, it shows the labyrinth of humane characters who have never been so angry with themselves, with their own people, and with the political structure of the state. They are deeply drowning in the plume, their revenge turns into vendetta, they seek only power, and their fight against the injustice inflicted on the Rajputana community is blinded by greed, hypocrisy, betrayal, and deception.

If you closely look, all the characters are quite monotonous. Their arc does not undergo any change except for Dileep’s (played by Raja Singh Chaudhary), and we see issues like campus ragging, student activism, and caste biases through the eyes of Dileep. Ironically, he comes out as the weak performer in this ‘actor’ studded film.

‘Gulaal’ is a multidimensional film where every subplot stands on its own, and still, they all come together as a powerful story supporting the core plot. If you wish to indulge in-depth, it has many references from real-life characters, and they are amusingly done in a very subtle manner. However, the ace in the hole of ‘Gulaal’ is eccentric poet Prithvi Bana played by Piyush Mishra. Mishra’s music and lyrics are majestic and act as catalysts for the narrative. ‘Gulaal’ is a very impressive and mature piece of Indian cinema that is unconventional in its storytelling.

Gulaal was featured in our list of The 10 Best Hindi Movies of the Decade (2000s)

1. Gangs of Wasseypur (2012)

Runtime: 5h 21m  | Genre: Action, Comedy, Crime

Image from the Anurag Kashyap’s Movie Gangs of Wasseypur

Anurag Kashyap had made some three great movies before 2012. But ‘Gangs of Wasseypur’ is his ultimate masterpiece, one that will go down as an important film of Hindi cinema’s canon for decades to come. Released in two parts, ‘Gangs of Wasseypur’ is Anurag Kashyap’s most ambitious and, arguably, one of the best movies to date. It is an epic gangster saga that portrays the life and times of a small Indian town across seven decades.

From the man of few words, Shahid Khan, to the colorful yet ruthless, Sardar Khan, to the romantic and flimsy, Faizal Khan, this film travels through generations of violence in the name of revenge and rivalry. On the other side of the ring are the Qureshis and the men from Singh Mansion. Each one of them wins a round or two, but the film is not about who wins a battle because everyone here is a criminal with a different ideology; the film is rather about a place, a hellhole that constantly witnesses a change in its landscape, a place which is constantly becoming more violent by the minute, no matter who is the proprietor of violence.

‘City of God’, ‘The Godfather’ – people drew all kinds of comparisons with ‘Gangs of Wasseypur’. Indeed, it is a love letter to the crime genre, and it will remind you of every masterpiece that belongs to the genre.

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