Fearless is the first word that comes to mind when thinking of Gandu (Asshole), the third feature film from director Q (Quashiq Mukherjee) and the very first film from newfound distributor Artsploitation Films. The reason why this word comes to mind is because the film is a perfect distillation of teenage angst, a visceral representation of the unrestrained mind state of an adolescent male and an insight into Indian youth counter culture. The film follows a young man, who we only know as Gandu, as he steals money from his mother’s lover, idealizes about having a rap career and travels around with his Bruce Lee obsessed buddy, Rickshaw. While the film shows the various misadventures of this young man, Gandu is an outspoken work of art that manages to break plenty of rules, with a presentation that is in your face for every single frame of it.
The first thing that I was reminded of watching Gandu was Mathieu Kassovitz’s La Haine, with its use of black and white photography, raw portrait of youth culture and its use of Hip Hop to fuel its idealism and outspokenness. Q sings the lyrics to the main theme of Gandu, along with the group Five Little Indians, that gives him the opportunity to directly speak to his audience through his main character. Just about everything that Gandu is doing is radical, even to the point where we get the films credits in the middle of the movie, a meta appearance by Q himself and an explicit, hardcore sex scene that reinforces the daring choices that this film wishes to make, in the name of art.
On a technical level, Q’s experience making commercials is in full effect in Gandu. From the rapid fire editing, to the use of awkward fish eye lens techniques, Q manages to always make the visuals interesting, even if its a simple shot or scene. The acting is truly impressive and to find out that a majority of the cast were non-actor’s delivering a film on this intense level, not only shows their commitment to such a passion project, but Q’s abilities as a director.
With this being the first release for Artsploitation, the presentation that they’ve placed in their version of Gandu give me high hopes for this company. Along with having some fantastic extras like behind the scenes footage, a travelogue of the cast and crew going to the Berlin Film Festival and incredible video and audio presentation, there is also a 12 page booklet that shows a statement from Q about the film, an excellent essay by Travis Crawford and an interview with Q, that discusses many of the elements that went into the production. Artsploitation seems as though they’re emulating the care that goes into a release like the Criterion Collection. Any cinephile knows that Criterion treats their product with excellent quality and if Artsploitation is managing to do that with incredible art house films that other studios would pass on, I look forward to what else they manage to present to in the U.S. marketplace. Highly Recommended!
Gandu is available now on DVD from Artsploitation Films.