Saturday, March 24, 2012

To 'Q' or not to 'Q'...!!

As one enters the dimly lit room, cuss words and the choicest expletives stand out tall in the wall that is decorated with haphazardly created graffiti. The smoke swirls emanating from his cigarette die down and you can see the wise looking face of Kaushik Mukherjee aka Q the Kolkata based director who made waves last year for his explicitly shot and in your face film ‘Gandu- the Loser’. Having directed a bunch of ‘different’ films for about a decade, which chose a different path, yet failed ‘Gandu’ propelled him unexpectedly into the limelight.  37 year old Q is now making full use of his new found popularity and trying to make more ‘path-breaking’ and different films to satiate his creative buds to the T.

However, not much is known of this ‘rebel’ like director who chooses not to talk about his past or his background as he considers them ‘inconsequential’.  He just wants to be Director Q.  Why choose such a weird name though? “Q is basically a character which I created. When I started making these films I realized Kaushik Mukherjee wasn’t making them. I had to create a film-maker. I wanted to be reborn and so I created Q.” explains Q.  Another source where he got inspired from was Japanese director Takameshi Mike’s Visitor Q, where a troubled family find their lives intruded by a mysterious stranger who seems to help find a balance in their disturbing natures. “I felt like the central character and thought that let me be that trouble maker.”  he further adds.

Q started his career in an advertising agency in his mid 20s but gradually got bored with it and wanted to explore different fields. Film-making was something which always intrigued him, but since he didn’t have any professional education in it he had no idea how to go about it. It was in Sri Lanka where his advertising career had taken him, that he finally got the answers to his queries. “I was exposed to a completely different value system .I realized that there was a completely different kind of cinema that was happening that never comes to India. My exposure to these forms made me realize that I too could make films like these.”  reminisces Q.

For five – six years he developed this craft inspired by many famous filmmakers across the globe and after that finally entered the field by making short films and documentaries. Some of them which got noticed were Le Pocha(2004) a short documentary , a short film That Boy (2009), the critically acclaimed Bissh (2009) and the award winning documentary feature Love in India (2009).

However it was with ‘Gandu’ that the long and hard journey of about 11 years finally reaped him some rewards by getting him noticed all over. The unexpected wave that it created took even the the makers by surprise.  “We never thought that Gandu would release in India. We never looked at Indian popularity, but somehow its trailer got leaked and a wave was created soon afterwards. Whoever leaked the trailer did us a huge favour really.” he says candidly. ‘Gandu’  incidentally had extreme reactions in India. While some people loved it for its narrative style, many where completely appalled by its representation of in your face sex.  So was the crude use of sex deliberate? To catch eyeballs? “See, we are basically provocative people. Gandu isn’t even half as provocative as we all are. We see a lot of such stuff all day but refuse to talk about it openly. I put all of those in ‘Gandu’. If some found it bothersome. That’s fine by me. You needn’t watch it.”  he says shrugging his shoulders and blowing another puff of smoke into the room. So doesn’t it bother him that perturbed by his film’s content a particular section of the audience might ignore his works? Q has his own aboveboard take on that too. “Who gives a f***. Target audience is a myth. It works for guys like Yash Raj. We are throwing a stone, wherever it hits, it’s a good thing.”   

More than this ‘don’t care about the world’ attitude the thing that intrigues many about him  is on how Q is suddenly become sort of a trendsetter by depicting these sex scenes in most of his films in such a straightforward manner. How does he manage to convince his actors to enact such scenes then? “That too has a process. Like for ‘Gandu’ we conducted severe workshops for about a month.  This consisted of a hardcore theatre form developed by Jerzy Grotowski (Polish theatre director and innovator of experimental theatre); where actors just loose themselves completely and after four hours of training they don’t care what is happening to their bodies.”   explains Q.

Post the success of Gandu, Q and his small team has got the much needed impetus that was required for them to move forward with their future projects. Q has his own small production unit now, Overdose Joint, which is trying in earnest to keep making different kinds of cinema. They are planning to collaborate with many production houses from all over the country to make different- genered films and documentaries. That is his real motive for now; to not fall into the commercially driven path and try and create some real and diverse cinema.

His immediate project is Tasher Desh ( Land of Cards ) which is about to hit the screens in a few months time.  Based on a popular children’s play by legendary Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore by the same name, Tasher Desh would be Q’s most commercial venture as yet. It’s a story where a prince and his friends go for an adventure.  “I was never fond of Tagore. But Tasher Desh was the only one I liked. Nobody took Tasher Desh seriously for all this while, which has given me an opportunity to explore. I decided to give it my own version and completely f*** it up.”  Q explains with a glint in his eye and sipping black coffee.

The thing that makes Q unique is his no hold barred film-making approach and the daring to explore the path that conventional filmmakers in our country hesitate to take. He’s been working with the same small unit for a very long time that includes his long time girlfriend and actress Rii and Tolly actor Joyraj Bhattacharjee who have been a pillar of strength for him.  Joyraj who besides acting in most of Q’s films also doubles up as his production designer, is all praises for the director. “I have been working with Q for about 10 years now and can safely say that we understand each other very well and don’t have to verbally communicate every time. I have a lot of respect for him as I believe that in Bengal he has changed the scenario of film-making altogether. He really is a path-breaker. He failed initially, but never gave up. That’s what’s inspiring about him.”  says Joyraj .

Despite the initial failures however Q is happy to announce that he has his kitty full with upcoming projects, both under his direction and many under his production house.  Besides Tasher Desh there is The Greater Elephant by Mumbai based film-maker Srinivas Sundarajan , a docu-feature called Sari and many others.

As the interview is about to wind up Q is busy on his phone and making constant instructions to his production unit, before finally settling down to give me a last word. As I congratulate him one final time for his new found success he surprises us again. “I am no one buddy. You should focus more on many alternative people who are out there surviving a tough life. Kolkata itself has many poets, little magazine owners who despite many adversities somehow manage to survive. That’s the real vibe of India. Focus on them. Films can never have that.”  he says nonchalantly.  Before I try and register how to go about his advice, he just smiles and says, “It’s just you buddy. How tough is it? If you seriously want to do something, you would go ahead and do it.”  That’s Q for you, no holds-barred and in your face, just like his films. 

 (This story was originally published in 'the Good News Chronicle'.. You can read it by clicking here )

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