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A telling tale

SUDHISH KAMATH
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CHAT Director Q on his latest film that ventures into the hush-hush territory of sex and drugs

A s “Gandu”, directed by the enigmatic Q, becomes one of the rare Indian films to play at the prestigious Slamdance Film Festival (the platform that once discovered Christopher Nolan through “Following”), cult-film website TwitchFilm hailed it as “a film that straddles a heretofore unnoticed line between Danny Boyle's ‘Trainspotting' and Gaspar Noe's ‘Enter The Void'”.

Earlier, the largely black-and-white slow film had shocked the audience at New York (the film won runner-up to Grand Jury Prize and a Best Director award for Q at the South Asian International Film Festival) with its graphic, full-frontal sex sequence.

In an interview, Q talks about his radical indie shot with probably the smallest crew ever for a feature film and almost no resources — eight people, a high-definition digital SLR (the Canon EOS 7D) and no script..

The influences

“We just wanted to make a film that we would love to watch… in our language,” says Q, elaborating on his post-modern film influences from the 1990s, including Gasper Noe, Lars Von Trier and Tom Tywkver. “Yes, the Dogme movement too. It played a huge role in deconstruction of cinema... But, the essential problem with Dogme was that to break rules, they were creating more rules. So, we made our own rules.”

While most critics loved “Gandu”, there were some who compared it to an art-installation without any focussed storyline.

The story

“We live in a country where the same stories have been told forever. We make 800 films a year on the same subject. So at some point, the story becomes immaterial. Nobody watches a Bollywood film for the story. That form generates a certain experience, and there can be another form which is what we are trying to experiment — let the story form itself.”

Naming the film after a much-abused slang is part of Q's attempt to embrace the taboo. “It's a word I use regularly. Words are really mercurial, and language changes meaning all the time. The first victory is we have shifted ‘Gandu' from being an adjective to a noun… For me, that is communication.”

He's optimistic about his brand of extreme cinema. “Look at the kind of dramatic turns we are taking as a country with the way economy and technology are affecting us. We are such a young country growing up in an exposed environment. When we were growing up, they could hide porn from us. Now you can't. That changes the paradigm completely. I dare say that's where ‘Gandu' is striking a chord among the youth all over India.”

One of the biggest statements Q makes (and he maintains that wasn't the intention) is casting his girlfriend Rii in a role that required graphic nudity. “I cast her because she is the only one who could have done it. We had the actors go through a Theatre of the Oppressed workshop where people were naked and they had to confront their own bodies. The whole idea of the body being sacred or profane hasn't entered our paradigm at all. ”

Could the film have been made without drugs? “It couldn't have been possible. Because reality is overpowering, and society is ubiquitous. So, it's everywhere, engaging you at every level.”

Q employs idioms from Indian culture to legitimise sex and drugs. “We have every bit of this in our bones and blood. We have just forgotten it in our moralised years of oppression and repression. Look at the story of the Shiva Ling, and you realise what the power of that image can do, how far it has outlived every sort of repression and every form of oppression. It still lives and surrounds you.”

SUDHISH KAMATH

The whole idea of the body being sacred or profane hasn't entered our paradigm at all

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