Gandu (Hindi offensive term for anus), the brilliant, provocative, explicit Bengali rap film by Q (Kaushik Mukherjee), which got a full house at the Berlin Film Festival, is rewriting new Indian cinema.
The film has already won the grand jury award and the jury award (runner-up) at the South Asian International Film Festival in New York. Its Slamdance Film Festival screening got a glowing review from Variety magazine.
Says Q, “I am very happy to be at both Berlin and Slamdance. Slamdance is a prime independent cinema festival where G--- is seen as arthouse cinema, whereas Berlin is a major festival and mainstream. It reflects European and American acceptance of an Indian independent film.”
The film is about two no-hopers, G--- and Riksha (a rickshaw driver) in Kolkata, bonding over coke, hash, pornography and rap.
G---’s mother is the mistress of a creepy businessman — from whose wallet he steals money even as they are doing their thing next to it — and his rage finds expression in rap.
Variety’s John Anderson wrote, “A high-energy example of a rarefied genre, Bengali thrash-metal rap musical G--- grabs auds by the throat and gradually works its way down... G--- seems guaranteed to win over fans exhausted with the tried and true.”
No wonder Q, who is here in Berlin with his team, including cast Anubrata Basu, Joyraj Bhattacharya and Rii, executive producer Dipankar Chaki and editor Manas Mittal, celebrated by doing a gig at the after-party in a Kreuzberg bar.
There are three India-related films in the Berlin Film Festival’s Panorama section that highlights both arthouse and homosexual-themed films — Vishal Bhardwaj’s 7 Khoon Maaf, Q’s film, and Phillip Cox’s The Bengali Detective.
Says Wieland Speck, Panorama section director, “7 Khoon Maaf is much more than a Bollywood film. I really liked G--- because it is the first time I’ve seen an Indian film talking back to us in our own language. Usually the Western audience looks for Indian films seeking exotica. While G--- is Indian in subject and context, the way it is shot and uses rap is Western in a way that is thrilling and exciting. And The Bengali Detective is a British documentary set in Kolkata that is unexpectedly very funny.”
G--- is something of an underground cult film without even being released. But it was screened at the Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute (SRFTI) Kolkata. “I’m willing to test the censors now,” says Q.
The filmmaker's earlier work includes Tepantorer Maathe (In the Land of Nowhere), That Boy (a short film), and Bish and Love in India, an Indo-German co-produced documentary.
“In India, cinema has not crossed into the post-modern space. There are no reference points for such a film in India,” says Q. “It is a Dogma film [using naturalistic techniques].
"I was playing with the music band Five Little Indians, and we came up with this music. Then we thought, let’s have a film around this music. So the music was the starting point. It is entrenched in Bengali culture, but the language of the film is electronica, rap and cinema.
"They don’t know what to make of me in Kolkata, since it’s neither a Buddhadeb Dasgupta nor an Anjan Dutt kind of film.”
Meanwhile, Q’s mum is learning to mouth the name of his latest film without batting an eyelid, while uncles and aunts refer to it discreetly as “Achcha, that film of yours....”
Meenakshi Shedde is India consultant to the Berlin, Locarno and Amsterdam film festivals and curator to international festivals worldwide. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org