The filmmaker was speaking at the ongoing Fifth Bangalore International Film Festival
Ajay Bahl’s debut film B.A. Pass, as he puts it, has a strong “sexual spine” and is certified ‘A’ by the Censor Board. But the filmmaker is keen that these ought not to be factors that would draw people to theatres when the film releases in March.
“I have tried to make the film in a way that it is not manipulative and exploitative. It is important for me to position it for a viewer in a way that it is not exploitative,” said the director, speaking at the ongoing 5th Bangalore International Film Festival (Biffes), where his film was shown.
Even though sex is prominent in the film, it is not explicit like it would be in a typical European film on a similar theme. “There is no frontal nudity because I would not be able to show it in my own country without cuts. If I cannot show it here, then it is pointless,” said Ajay.
Based on Mohan Sikka’s story, The Railway Aunty, the film revolves around a young boy in Delhi who is drawn into the dangerous world of sex, crime and violence by an elderly woman.
The dark tale explores these characters in a society that “feeds on its own weak” but wears a thin veneer of sophistication and modernity.
While B.A. Pass takes a no-holds-barred look at the underbelly of the political capital of the country, Ajay did not want it to be a “poverty porn and gutter inspection” variety of Indian films that make it more easily to the international festival circuit. There are several instances of films which are “lesser in terms of craft” making it to film festivals abroad because they feed the stereotype of the third world that the West constructs, said Ajay.
Though deprivation forms the backdrop of the film, it is “driven by plot and characterisation”, said Ajay. “The intention translates through the film,” he said, arguing that an honest film speaks for itself.
Ajay is a self-taught film maker and cinematographer who has also funded his own film.
“I am working on the distribution aspect, but if that does not work, I will release it come what may in March,” said the 42-year-old director.
He may have been able to make the film earlier had he been formally trained. But then he “would perhaps have failed to relate to the theme or make the film in this fashion” had he been younger.