When you meet Q, it doesn't take you long to realise that just as his name, there is something different about him as well. The director of GANDU is now all set with TASHER DESH, an adaptation of Rabindranath Tagore's play. In this freewheeling chat, the filmmaker talks about TASHER DESH, the scope of Indie films in India and why he would never make a big budget film with big stars.
How did you get the idea of making this film? I got this idea because I was in Tasher Desh from the time I was 6 or 7 years old. It's a very famous text actually by Tagore. I grew up listening to it on LPs. That's how I know him.
What was your purpose behind making this film? I don't know. There is not real pressure in doing anything for that matter. For this film, the main purpose for me at least is to get rid of the demon...of the baggage that I have of being a Bengali, of being constantly aware of my culture and where I come from, to start looking at my past in another way.
'There is added pressure on me after GANDU'
Have you made this film to change certain things? I always make films to change many things and not certain things - our society, the way we look at things. At least in my work, I try to look at identity, the issue of sexual identity. I don't want to sound presumptuous but basically the idea is to deal with social descent. So I would be criticizing whatever my society does. That's my main job.
Is it a conscious decision to go against society? Of course it is a conscious decision. It's not a random act. I am old enough to understand that. In any society, artists have to play the role of critiquing society, of constantly keeping it on its toes, showing it for what it is. I would like to do that. Now how much I succeed in doing it is not up to me. I can only try.
Liberation is a key aspect of TASHER DESH. What is your idea of liberation? It cannot be summed up like that. We've been struggling to understand what the meaning of liberation is for centuries. I am not in any way saying that I know what the meaning of liberation is. All I know is, I want to learn what liberation is. I want to be liberated myself. And I would like everyone to be liberated. Why do we have this feeling at all that we want to be liberated? Obviously because we aren't. Nobody is really completely happy. How many happy people have you seen in your life? I am talking about that kind of freedom. Freedom to be happy, freedom to be uninhibited and not be afraid of anything. You've been inspired by Tagore greatly. What attracted you towards him? That is not entirely correct. I'm not a big fan of Tagore actually. I'm a big fan of this particular text (Tasher Desh). This text for me is very interesting. Tagore has mostly done romantic classical work in his novels, his drama and everything surrounding him. Centrally he's a poet. I know Tagore because I'm from Bengal and I'm a Bengali. I've grown up with Tagore coming out of years. I have actually have had enough of Tagore which is why I'm making this film.
Why did you decide to have 19 songs in TASHER DESH? Will they be a deterrent in the overall narrative? The songs were already there. This is a standard text. It was written in 1933. We have not tried to meddle at all with the structure of the play. The original play had 24 songs; we have cut it down to 19.
Is TASHER DESH for the masses? No, it's not. Nothing is actually for the masses. We make them feel that they want things that they don't really need. I've been in advertising for 12 years and I know a little bit about that. I have sold many things that no one wanted, no one needed but they bought it because we told them that you need it. I'm now trying to do the same thing to content, which I think people should look at. But there is in India this whole idea that mass is stupid, mass is this blob of stupidity. They want to get into a theatre, in an AC zone which they otherwise cannot enjoy and spend three hours doing nothing. This I do not agree with. Cinema is a medium or art and while we will have complete trash which will make 100s of crores, there is need for some substance. I refuse to believe that in a country of one billion, there aren't people who are in any way concerned about any other thing than money or consumption.
Is India favourable for Indie films? It is very favourable because there's ultimate chaos. And in chaos and confusion you find the best possible subjects. So for making films and for subjects, it's a very brilliant place. As far as the filmmaking craft and trade is concerned, it's the most f*** all place that you'll find. But you have to live with it.
'Nothing is actually for the masses'
Do you feel things will change for Indie films in India? I think there are quite a few filmmakers in India who can safely be called independent filmmakers. They do not really work with the established system. And they are all, including myself, trying to search for ideas that could break the clutter. I think it's a great exciting time because we are all trying. It's that early time. When we get something and that becomes standard, it will no longer be fun.
After GANDU, do you feel there is added pressure on you? Yes, there is. The most irritating thing is that earlier no one knew me and no one cared a flying f**k who I was, which was great because I could shoot you and you wouldn't even know.
Will we see you making a big budget film with big stars? No. Because I hate it. I don't watch any of the commercial Hindi films.
Is your main motive to make money or rather to make sufficient money so that you can keep making films? This is a very interesting question. Everyone asks are you going to make money out of this which basically means that capitalism is the only truth. You are not even entertaining any other possibility. They ask what are you doing if you are not making money. Curious people are. Rewind 50 years ago. What is India's name? We are the socialist, then democratic and then republic of India. First we are socialist. Our every institution is governed by that. So doctors in India don't have to pay for their education. Filmmakers don't have to pay for their education. So we are not doing it for money. There are many other things you can work for. Money is not the only thing. It is hardly important. You just need a little bit to go by.