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'Gandu' receives acclaim

February 17, 2011

The yet-to-be released Indian film 'Gandu' is receiving a good response at the Berlinale this year. It has been hailed as "anti-Bollywood excellence". But analysts say it might not do so well in India.

An "anti-Bollywood excellence", Tagesspiegel
An "anti-Bollywood excellence", TagesspiegelImage: Internationale Filmfestspiele Berlin

The word "gandu" is a derogatory word in Bengali for homosexual. That is the title of the Bengali film that has become a hit at the Berlinale. Critics are rating the film among the very best at the film show in Germany’s capital city.

While it is a low budget film, it is very outspoken and delivers a strong message. The name of the film itself breaks the boundaries. 'Gandu' is not a formal word in India. It's a common and popular slang, used for idiots and losers. The 36-year-old director who goes by the name of Q told Deutsche Welle why he has used this word as the title of the film:

"Weird lot"

Director of the film, Kaushik Mukherjee, or Q
Director of the film, Kaushik Mukherjee, or QImage: Internationale Filmfestspiele Berlin

"What I have shown in the film is, I think, the root frustration linked to sexuality or identity, or identity as a sexual human being and a social human being-your identity as a person, as an individual and what you are to yourself."

He said he believes Indian youth these days is a weird lot because they grow up with many misconceptions. "And then you have these weird sort of ideas about things that you form through public opinion and you are never really sure of what you are getting. So you grow up with this kind of confusion. By the time you are 25, you are like an utterly confused soul, although you think you are a perfectly compatible social machine."

The lead role of 'Gandu' is played by 21-year-old Anubrata. In real life, he is a college drop out. But, in "reel" life he lives in Kolkata with his mother. She is a prostitute who gets long visits from a client each day. This causes her son to go through a phase of anxiety, spending as much time away from home as possible in order to avoid the reality of his mother.

World of illusions

Soon he is sucked into a world of illusions. For the sake of fun, he starts copying famous personalities in everyday life. In street fights, he acts like Bruce Lee. He behaves likes a music star while roaming around the city. Very soon, he finds that there is no place for such behavior in society.

He becomes the subject of jokes. This infuriates him and in his state of despair, he slips deeper into a dark world of lust and anger. He soon befriends a young rickshaw puller. Both start getting into trouble; they become addicted to drugs, indulge in sex and participate in illegal activities. They go to cyber cafés to watch pornography and download pornographic pictures and videos to fill the ever-growing hole in their souls.

"Anti-Bollywood excellence"

Berlinale is one of Europe's premier film festivals
Berlinale is one of Europe's premier film festivalsImage: dapd

The film slowly gets darker and darker with the protagonist gathering the momentum of despair that eventually drives him into the ground. Anubrata, who plays the main protagonist, said in an interview, "its not a story of Kolkata's boys, it is happening everywhere in India. I love my character in film and I can say its very realistic."

The film, yet to be released in India, getting a very good response at the Berlinale. The "Tagesspiegel", a German newspaper in Berlin, writes, "Its anti bollywood excellence." And Wall Street Journal is calling 'Gandu' a ''new wave." But the good reviews do not necessarily mean good news for the film in India, where there are old censorship laws that could block its release.

Author: Onkar Singh Janoti
Editor: Sarah Berning