Saturday, December 15, 2012

Ballsywood: "Gandu" (2012)

"Gandu" is a hardcore and fast paced experimental look at the life of a young aspiring rapper growing up in India.

Anubrata is Gandu (slang Hindi for "asshole") who lives with his youngish-looking mother (Kamalika), who makes a living sleeping with the owner of the local internet cafe, Das Babu (Shilajit). Gandu doesn't work, and hangs around the cafe and back streets of his hometown, constantly playing a lottery and losing. He literally runs into ricksha driver/Bruce Lee worshipper Ricksha (Joyraj), and the two become friends. The duo begins dabbling in drugs, and the film takes a bizarre turn into the downward spiral that is Gandu's life. The director even makes a cameo appearance in the film, playing a director of a film entitled "Gandu"...

While the film is light on plot, "Gandu" is heavy with showy editing and enough bells and whistles to keep the viewer interested. Q turns many film cliches on their ears. The film's credits are placed at an odd point in the running time. The black and white photography gives way to blinding, saturated color toward the end, and this does feature some very un-Bollywood hardcore sex scenes. Even the subtitles are played with, brilliantly. I am not a fan of rap or hip-hop by any stretch of the imagination, but Gandu's angry and explosive raps are very good, and Q films them in such a way that I appreciated both the use of the songs as characterization, as well as the songs themselves.

My one major drawback with the film is the almost nonexistent plot. Watching a character descend into a drug induced life has been done before, and while Q brings all sort of new ideas to his film technically, he comes up short with any sort of character arc. Some of the main plot points that occur are telegraphed undeliberately, and I got the feeling that I was having a bait and switch being pulled on me.

That being said, not many out there can say they have seen a film like "Gandu" before. The drug hallucination scenes are simple and creepy. The cast is excellent, with Anubrata anchoring everything well. His Gandu is not nobly angry, and not unlikable. He is a confused, pained young man who I eventually came to care about. The supporting cast is all good, and the setting is gritty and unexotic, losing the viewer in this dark world. Much has been made of the film's hardcore sex scenes, but this is one of the few films I have seen where they actually add to the entire experience. They are not erotic. They play realistically, although you wonder where the hallucinations end and the sex and success begin.

Throughout "Gandu" I kept thinking back to Abel Ferrara's body of work. This film is grim and fascinating, and not one you will soon forget. (* * * *) out of five stars.