Being a progressive film-maker in the current social and political climate of the country is a gamble. One that Kolkata-born Qaushiq Mukherjee is willing to take. Known for his controversial and often sexually provocative films like Gandu (2010), Tasher Desh (2012), Ludo (2015) and Brahman Naman (2016), the director premiered his latest movie, Garbage, at the 86th Berlin International Film Festival last month.
Co-produced by Q (as Mukherjee calls himself), Shaailesh R Singh and Hansal Mehta, the Hinglish film was the only Indian entry to be screened as part of the Panorama section of the Berlinale. The sociopolitical drama narrates the story of a young woman, Nanaam (Satarupa Das), in Goa who is kept in chains by a taxi driver named Phanishwar (Tanmay Dhanania). When a medical student, Rami (Trimala Adhikari), a victim of revenge porn, seeks asylum in Goa, she becomes enveloped in the bizarre but placid lives of the two. The film, about women who are subjected to male violence, is largely unscripted, and as Q describes it, “workshop-driven”.
Still from Garbage
“To really get into character, Tanmay was our production driver for the entire month. We weren’t allowed to communicate with him outside of filming,” he says. The director played it by ear, finding many such ways to give life to this largely personal, real-life “joyless story”. A year and a half ago, while dealing with the deaths of a few close ones, he began to write a story that best described his state of mind. “It was extremely difficult to script and convey,” Q admits. “It makes you realise that death is the only reality,” he elucidates. The working title was Fucked, which was later changed to Garbage.
Q’s most popular title, Gandu, which was screened at the Berlinale in 2011, never had a theatrical release and went straight to Netflix. But this did not bother the film-maker much—he treats his second round in the festival as ample validation for the kind of movies he’s trying to make. Garbage, too, will not see a theatrical release. “I normally don’t make films that will be passed for screening, but that’s the whole point of my work,” he says.
Still from Garbage
The moviemaker, who now lives in Goa, is currently working on an action series for ZEE5, the newly launched digital platform of ZEE. “So, after Garbage, it’s coming right out of the depression and into boom, boom, boom!” he laughs. When asked to describe himself as a film-maker, he says, “Gandu. Or wait...Doctor Gandu,” joking that he’s been working this genre of searing, unafraid films long enough to have a PhD in it.