Indian director Q not only has an unconventional name but an untraditional approach to his filmmaking. So much so that 'Gandu' found itself banned from Indian cinemas. And perhaps unsurprisingly so, with its overly provocative post-modern comedy exploration of the frustrations of a young Bengali rapper.
Twenty year old Gandu (Anubrata Basu) spends most of his uninspiring life in an internet café, due to his mother's prostitution in more than one sense - he funds this venture by frequently stealing money from his mother's most regular client's trousers, while they are mid-coitus.
He scraps with a similarly youthful rickshaw driver one day, who is unexpectedly a devotee of Bruce Lee. The two became friends and Gandu embraces his new friend's drug-induced lifestyle, which allows him to escape into his own fantasy of becoming a rap star.
Along the way, Gandu finds himself in quite disturbing situations thanks to his drug-induced hallucinations. By the end of the film, we're left to ponder whether Gandu has indeed achieved his dream of rap stardom or whether this is simply another hallucination.
The film's director (also known as Kaushik Mukherjee) deliberately pushes boundaries in 'Gandu', most notably in terms of sexual imagery. The scenes are graphic, to say the least, while the general humour of the film means that 'Gandu' veers from the disarming to the alarming increasingly fluidly. A confusing proposition.
The film's provocative sexual scenes are more of a negative than a positive, even in the context of pushing forward Indian cinema. However, the film's electrifying score conversely invigorate each scene. Supposedly inspired by our own Asian Dub Foundation, the soundtrack is used both to drive forward the narrative of Gandu's aspiring rapper as well as ramming home the punk elements of the film.
Undoubtedly, director Q is a brave man and deserves (some) credit for attempting something new in terms of Indian cinema. Yet it all seems a little too try-hard, too deliberately provocative and controversial. To some extent, this echoes Gandu's own frustrating life experiences but this existentialism only goes so far before the viewer is repelled.
'Gandu'/'Asshole' is showing tonight at the London Indian Film Festival. The film also screened at the BFI London Film Festival 2011.