(this Film Review is filled to the brim with expletives, which I felt the film warranted. I thus caution the reader and recommend that he/she discontinue reading right now if unwilling to encounter the same. I hope you'd understand that it's that kind of a film)
DIRECTED BY KAUSHIK MUKHERJEE
STARRING: ANUBRATA, JOYRAJ, KAMALIKA, SHILAJIT and RITUPARNA
Kaushik Mukherjee’s ‘Gandu’ is not a film. But it is a revelation. It brings to our notice a bunch of people in India who would do a things on screen than anyone else within the country would even dream of. The actors. The music department. The director himself, for that matter. I find that very reassuring, as well as intimidating and questionably so. On the one hand, I think they would inspire writers to come up with meaningful films about meaningful characters in a meaningful plot that would warrant the explicitness that ‘Gandu’ messes around with. On the other, they could spawn faithful stereotypes. Like a ‘Chuthiya’, for instance (excuse me for my language). Or a regional equivalent. The question is how well an actress like Rituparna (who plays every object of fantasy of the protagonist) would respond outside of her boyfriend’s territory – probably the same question that an actress like Kalki Koechlin faced post ‘Dev D.’ It pertains to Anubrata (who plays the fairly likeable ‘Gandu’) as well. We shall have to wait and watch.
I would rather not give away the plot of ‘Gandu.’ I do not wish to romanticize it, and I find myself incapable of telling a story without doing so. Hence I don’t want to. A film like this doesn’t deserve that. It is crass. It is deliberate. It doesn’t feel what it shows. Sex for Mukherjee is perversion. Perversion is compulsive. Films break taboos and remain intact with themselves. ‘Gandu’, I thought, was lost. It is absolutely non-erotic, wherein we know it tries to be. Mukherjee blends Gaspar Noe hallucinations with a Wong Kar Wai style. The effort is shamelessly visible. The result: a semi-erotic mess of a scene that holds one’s attention but for the wrong reasons. It’s bad pornography; worse cinema.
I talk about that one scene in particular, shot in colour that was meant to steal the show. I would credit the scene with as much potential as the encounter between Renato and his fantasized version of Malena Scordia in Giuseppe Tornatore’s ‘Malena’ (2000). My expectations only made the drop steeper. Sure Anubrata was hooked with eagerness; sure Rituparna sets the screen on fire. That is perhaps the problem in itself. Because the scene is ugly. It comes out as exhibitionist than celebratory. You watch the scene, you aren’t into it. Which makes me repeat my statement – it is bad pornography. A sex scene is like a concert experience: You’ve got to be there. This scene is badly edited, uninterestingly pieced. It’s plastic. It’s like a game of ‘Doctor’ at best, minus the innocence. Which is a big letdown for the engaging Rituparna, who, I thought, was feeling it.
I was reminded of Bertolucci’s ‘the Dreamers’ (2004) as I drifted off in search of a better place. Matthew (Michael Pitt) in the film endears with his helplessness. His charm is in his submission and the wild-eyed eagerness with which he’s up for the experience in the earlier stages of the film. Isabelle (Eva Green) is a warm place to be. Rituparna, I felt, was quite close. But our Gandu is no Julio or Tenoch (from Alfonso Cuaron’s delightful ‘Y Tu Mama Tambien’), let alone being Matthew. He does a Rocco Sifredi. You expect him to do a ‘stand and carry’ next. Inexperience walks out the door.
But Gandu is capable of such innocence. He is, actually, innocent enough. The film, I felt, takes a likeable adolescent and distorts him for the heck of it. His thoughts are perverted, his music is too. But he isn’t. I found that hard to deal with. What do you think? Seth (Jonah Hill) from ‘Superbad’ had a very dirty mind. But then he was still likeable with it. Gandu, on the other hand, shoves it up his namesake. The music is mind-blowing, Mukherjee has talent with words. Rickshaw (Joyraj) is adorable. There are things that put a smile on your face. There are things that kill it for you. They make the film unacceptable. The good things stand no chance.
In all, I found ‘Gandu’ tastelessly bold and pointedly defiant. I didn’t think it needed to be. It’s cocky, no doubt. But then it’s like a 4-inch intrusion in an 8-inch business, too noisy to make up for lost pace. It’s like a bad dick-joke that I didn't want to hear; that I wish was told differently. Throughout 'Gandu', I wished for a different movie. So I stand repulsed.