Is the film Garbage, Goa’s ‘Dirty Picture?’
Qaushik Mukherjee was the only Indian director with a film at the Berlin Film festival 2018world cinema Updated: Mar 05, 2018 17:32 IST
Filmmaker Qaushik Mukherjee aka Q revels in being the ‘controversial filmmaker’. It’s not a tag that you’re trying to avoid, if one of your most talked-about films is called Gandu.
But he uses shock value to draw attention to carefully crafted projects on alternative sexuality, hypocrisy, patriarchy.
The 43-year-old has nine films under his belt, and says, “I don’t need the Indian commercial film distribution to distribute my films. I have never needed them, I don’t need them now. If my film gets selected for a world premiere in a prestigious film festival like Cannes or Berlin International Film Festival, it validated that my film has met the standards of an international film.”
His wish got fulfilled as his latest film, Garbage, had its world premiere at the Panorama section in the prestigious Berlin International Film Festival last week. Q is the only Indian director to have a film at Berlin this year.
As the backdrop of his film, he has chosen Goa, his home for the last four years. But the difference is, instead of the breezy, colourful Goa we know, his film is set in the darker, seamier, side of the state — a place of sadism and entrapment.
“When you are not just a visitor, Goa is a very different experience. It has many sides to it and one of them is very dark. Also there has been a major shift in temperament and policies of the government in Goa since the last election. All that has an impact on me and how I think about the subject I choose to work with,” he says.
The story of Garbage, produced by Shaailesh R Singh and Hansal Mehta of Karma Entertainment and Media LLP, and co-produced by Q, revolves around the lives of Phaniswar (Tanmay Dhanania), Nanaam (Satarupa Das) and Rami (Trimala Adhikari).
Phanishwar lives with Nanaam, whom he keeps in chains. Rami, a medical student and victim of revenge porn, has sought refuge and escape in Goa, when she stumbles into the strange but placid lives of Phanishwar and Nanaam.
In its weird twists and turns, Q says, the story also represents the world’s current tendency to normalise the bizarre.
“I feel that we are in the age of the stupid. And things will get more and more chaotic. Basically what we are losing out is meaning. You don’t know what things mean anymore because meaning is being considered irrelevant as meaning is being changed all the time,” he says.
US President Donald Trump is the biggest example of this, he says — not only in how bizarre those words still sound together, but in the way he occupies the Oval Office and yet feels free to tinker with the meaning of reality all the time.
“Meanings are constantly shifting, changing, depending on the time and space,” Q says. “And people like him are benefiting from it. This kind of mass hoodwinking is considered to be okay right now.” According to Q, the change is happening in the kind of lens we used to wear to look at these things. The lens is shifting or just slipping away.
“Earlier there was political correctness, moral correctness, many other factors in each society that helped people to check themselves in or think twice before giving opinions on anything. Now that lens is not there anymore and that also is being heavily aided by the digital age. Suddenly people are accessing and sharing information without context and context has become immaterial. It’s quite unnerving how that is considered to be absolutely okay.”
Being at Berlin, he says, was inspiring.
“This is arguably the second biggest film festival in the world, after Cannes. Getting selected for the Panorama section is validation for the film and for me that we are on the right track in terms of world cinema. We are competing with the people who inspire us.”
It was also surreal, he adds, to be screened alongside Human, Space, Time and Human by the South Korean filmmaker Kim Ki-Duk.
“When we started doing Garbage, I was recommending films for everyone to watch. One of the films I was carefully referencing was The Isle by Kim Ki-Duk.”
But there’s still a question about accessing his films if someone wants to watch them. To this he laughingly mentions that only in India he is asked this question.
“My film doesn’t get commercial releases like other feature films do. But if you really want to watch it, you will find it like I have, all the films that I want to watch. They are harder to get than an average film and that makes the journey of watching the film more interesting or more engaging. “
He compares this to going to a library and finding a book.
“This is a film with a strong political message. So when I decided to co-produce, I didn’t think about getting it a typical release,” says co-producer Shaailesh R Singh. “The strong metaphor of Garbage is that our minds are also like garbage, in need of cleaning-up. And it makes me really proud that Garbage was the only Indian representation in Berlin. That says we are on the right path.”