That Girl in Yellow Boots (pictured), written by Kashyap and his girlfriend, lead actress Kalki Koechlin, is the story of Ruth, a woman who travels to India to find the father she has neither met nor seen, not even in a photograph. Without valid employment permits, Ruth finds herself working in a massage parlour and is eventually embroiled in Bombay's underworld. The film contains explicit sexual content, language and themes.
When I speak with Kashyap, it is days before That Girl premieres as part of the out-of-competition section of the 67th Venice Film Festival, billed as a showcase for films by established directors. Kashyap is no stranger to Venice; That Girl is his third film to screen at the festival (the previous two were Gulaal and Dev.D) and he was also a member of the jury in 2009. It was during that time that he first felt compelled by the story of Ruth. “I knew that until I made this story I wouldn't be able to move on to another subject,” he tells me. “While I was on the jury, Kalki was accompanying me in Venice. She started writing and by the end of it we had what looked like a script.”
Kashyap found it tough to finance the film in India, not least because it was not commercial enough. Says Kashyap, “At the last moment, people who were financing the film had some problems, and they backed out and I had to see it through. I just had to go and do it because there was a lot of momentum. I called up all my friends, took all the money they could give me, and started the film.”
The film was shot digitally with a small cast and crew, over 13 days on the streets of Bombay and commenced without post-production financing. Says Kashyap, “A lot of Indian financiers were worried what would happen when they film went to the censors, or how would people react. Thematically there was something that scared them. The National Film Development Corporation was the only one who saw the potential for the film and they decided to give me money for post-production but until then the film was in a post-production limbo.”
The film's sexually explicit scenes and content have already caused frenzy in the Indian media, with key scenes from That Girl being leaked online before the Venice premiere. For Kashyap, the response to the leak is an example of India's conservative nature. “Because it was shocking for them, it became big news,” the director says. “India is very moralistic and conservative society, uncomfortable dealing with their demons. I think this will probably shock them into growing up a little bit!”
In India, That Girl in Yellow Boots will screen with an R rating. Kashyap knows he can rely on his loyal Indian audience to support the film and, with the budget kept low, is certain it will recoup costs. He's currently in discussions with an Australian distributor for the film. Meanwhile, he awaits the international response in Venice and Toronto.