GANDU's Indian Public Premiere: A Conversation With Q

Editor, U.S. ; Dallas, Texas (@HatefulJosh)
GANDU's Indian Public Premiere: A Conversation With Q
Life has been a whirlwind adventure lately for Gandu director, Q. His magnificent breakthrough feature premiered less than a year ago at New York's South Asian International Film Festival, where Q earned a Best Director Award.  In the time since, Gandu has been to the Berlinale, the Cannes Marche du film, The Seattle International Film Festival at which Q earned a Grand Jury Prize in the New Directors Competition, and played a special screening at Slamdance 2011. Recently Q bundled up the film and some of his partners to tour smaller European film festivals and halls with what has become known as the Gandu Circus.

Gandu Circus is a film/performance art event at which Q shows the film and then takes his musical partner Neel Adhikari to a local venue to play music from and inspired by the film.  The event is typically highly charged, and for anyone who has seen the film, you wouldn't expect anything less from Q's highly political rapping with a driving punk fury.  The Gandu Circus has played all across Europe, but has never played in India, which brings us here.

Gandu is a film of extremes, the film's attitude, editing, acting, scripting, cinematography, and direction are all extreme.  There is vulgar language (though nothing you wouldn't hear on the streets of Kolkata one hundred times on any given day), there is explicit sex and nudity (though that shouldn't be shocking coming from the country that gave the world the Kama Sutra and tantra), and there is drug use and generally anti-social behavior (the kind of stuff you'll find on any street corner in any major city, and Kolkata has a population on nearly five million).  It is these extremes that make the film problematic for public show in India. 

India has a very powerful censor board.  They can effectively ban a film from playing in public cinemas with very little trouble.  Pornography, which Gandu would probably be classifed as, is never passed, even with the A certificate which restricts a screening to adult viewers.  Q is making an aggressive drive to change that.  While the film hasn't been officially submitted yet, Q expects a fight, and he is prepared, and eager, to engage. The first step for Q is to get the film seen, no matter how, this brings us to this Friday, July 30th.

This Friday, India will see the first public screenings of Gandu. Q took the film to BYOFF in Puri, Orissa, India.  This screening was private, and was therefore out of the reach of the censors, but demand for Gandu is growing in India, especially among the younger, increasingly urban population.  Recently some enterprising film fans in Mumbai organized a showing which was originally scheduled for July 15th.  However, on July 13th, Mumbai was rocked by three bomb blasts, and in the name of pragmatism and respect, the screenings were postponed until July 30th.  Now the stage is set for Mumbai to finally see what the world has seen and make up their own minds.  I've spoken with several people in the Indian film industry and they are very excited for this opportunity to support free expression in a country which lags behind many of its contemporaries in terms of such expression. I spoke with Q about how this all came about and what it all means.  (Apologies for this interview appearing to begin mid-conversation, but it did, in fact, occur mid-conversation)

J: Have you attempted to run Gandu by the censor board, or have you decided that it is still a waste of time?
Q: No, we are applying for the certificate which is to put it into the system, and we've been talking to them. The bill will be presented in parliament this winter session, September.
J: How are you getting around censors?
Q: Basically the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has given an exemption certificate for one overground screening.
J: Is the film censor board a division of the Ministry of Information?
Q: They are under the ministry, yes.
J: Do you think that submitting Gandu and having it rejected, if that is the case, works to your benefit when the bill comes around in the fall?
Q: Yeah, they will be forced to reconsider because of the pressure.
J: I know it is miles from what you are doing, but what do you think of Delhi Belly and all of its "fucks" and blowjob talk?
Q: Yeah, its doing pretty well, and yes to very far. It's 'Dude, Where's My Car' when seen in comparison to Gandu. The problem with Gandu is the assault on public morality, whereas Delhi Belly is very obviously a commercial film that is designed to make people laugh.
J: Can you think of any other Indian films that attack public morality like yours either in India or elsewhere that you would compare to Gandu?
Q: Baise Moi, and Kids, I guess.
J: Those are good comparisons. Baise Moi, especially, maybe Ken Park?
Q: Yeah, that too.
J: Thirteen?
Q: And Japanese hardcore, including pink series of films.
J: [Regarding the Gandu Circus] So, it will be the film, and are you going to be performing the music from the film, or other music?
Q: Gandu Circus gigs include soundtrack and also new material that we are writing. We just did a European tour.
J: Are 5 Little Indians [the group who played the backing tracks in the film] playing with you, or is it another group or a backing track?
Q: Gandu Circus is more lecture inspired than the sound of Gandu. It's me and Neel [Adhikari], and we will use other musicians to collaborate on stage, like Steve from Asian Dub Foundation in the UK.
J: Is there any history of Indian filmmakers making the kind of films you've made?
Q: Yeah, there is. In the '70s during the counter culture period there were a lot of films, lit and stuff. That was the last scene and Bengal was the main spot.
J: Do you have any names I could look into?
Q: Ritwik Ghatak. Main man, even Mani Kaul, who died this week (July 6th, 2011), and i like this Buster Keatonish guy called Bhanu Banerjee.
Unfortunately, at this point, we both had to go our separate ways, but I've managed to glean some more information from Q regarding the struggle to release Gandu domestically and the interest the film has gained internationally.  Gandu has already got an interested party in Germany waiting to produce a Blu-ray/DVD edition of the film for that market, and Q has mentioned to me that he is in talks for distribution in other territories as well.  He hopes to do some barnstorming, including a possible Gandu Circus tour of the US.

Q has high hopes for Gandu's eventual success in India.  Despite all of the international acclaim, his primary goal remains to be recognized and be free to express himself in whatever fashion he sees fit in his own country.  He has been all over the Indian news media, as newspapers and online news outlets find him incredibly engaging, and I must admit I find myself among that camp, and he seems to be making good headway.  He's managed to get the film in front of some of the more forward thinking film minds in India to great effect.  We reported here not too long ago that Anurag Kashyap will be co-producing Q's next narrative feature, Tasher Desh.  His goal is to garner enough public, grass-roots support for Gandu that when he submits it to the Film Censor Board, there will be pressure to recognize the film as the art that it is.

All of that begins in earnest on Friday. The Naya Cinema and the Enlighten Film Society in Mumbai have taken the initiative to get the special permission from the Ministry of Information, and they will be showing the film for one day only, July 30th, all day.  Admission is free, but priority will be given to Naya Cinema supporters.  In celebration, Gandu and the Gandu Circus have made the aggressively awesome Gandu Theme available for free download, and you can check out the link for that below.

Support truly independent film and filmmakers, support Q and Gandu.
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Qaushiq MukherjeeAnubrata BasuJoyraj BhattacharyaRiiKamalika BanerjeeDrama

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Visit The Enlighten Film Society of India online for more information

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