Garbage, the subcontinent’s sole entry in 68th Berlin International Film Festival, is another film from the director of films like Gandu and Brahman Naman and bears his stamp of artistic rebellion against established social norms
The director of the subcontinent’s sole entry in 68th Berlin International Film Festival, Garbage, is 44-year-old Qaushik Mukherjee, usually credited as Q. He isn’t your average Indian (or Bengali) filmmaker. He has built his career around demolishing established creative shibboleths with his transgressive and subversive brand of filmmaking. He revels in scurrying off in prohibited directions to churn out cinematic romps that can at once be exciting, baffling and unsettling.
On his Twitter page, Q describes himself as a “film jockey, rapper and anarchist”. His films are infused with the spirit of all three identities – and more. The former adman is a history grad from Calcutta University.As a filmmaker, he has made it his mission to defy the history of the medium he serves. He is the founder and CEO of the production company Overdose Joint, which has co-produced Garbage in collaboration with Shailesh R Singh and Hansal Mehta of Karma Media and Entertainment.
Q’s films are clarion calls to artistic rebellion, none more so than Gandu (euphemistically referred to in English as Loser), a Bengali film unlike any ever made. It has rap music, full frontal nudity, scenes of masturbation and liberal doses of profanity. It shocked the wits out of the bhadralok, but went on to quickly become a cult film, following its screening in the 2011 Berlinale.
His 2016 film Brahman Naman, scripted by film critic and journalist Naman Ramachandran, premiered in the World Cinema Dramatic Competition section of the Sundance Film Festival. It was a staid affair in comparison. But the sex comedy about a group of young quizzers desperate to lose their virginity in 1980s Bangalore, was informed with Q’s signature streak of defiance and provocation. People sat up and took notice.
Debuting in 2009 with the Bengali drama Bishh, he has since also made the off-kilter Tagore play adaptation Tasher Desh and the horror fantasy Ludo.
If the synopsis is anything to go by, this promises to be another film with a clear Q stamp all across it. Set in Goa, the plot revolves around a taxi driver who keeps a mysterious, apparently mute woman in chains at home. She does his every bidding. The cabbie is a follower of a rightwing extremist and spews venom on social media. One day he meets a girl who has gone into hiding after a secretly filmed sex video has gone viral on the Internet. He drives her around while furtively stalking her online.
Garbage is a revenge tale about two women subjected to different forms of male oppression. It explores the vacuity of notions of masculinity propagated in popular culture, political spheres and religious sermons. In a statement, Q has said: “I see Garbage as a strong metaphor for human existence. I am shocked at the violent patriarchy and general apathy around me.”
We do not expect the film to pull any punches. Q’s stated take on Garbage only strengthens that feeling: “India has been changing and being sucked into an abyss of misunderstanding and delusion, aided strongly by mainstream religious sentiments. There is an imminent threat of the fragile social fabric imploding and affecting everyone. Garbage is my way of trying to understand the tension.”
The cast of Garbage includes Tanmay Dhanania, Trimala Adhikari, Satarupa Das and Gitanjali Dang.