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December 7, 2012

Movie Review: Gandu (aka Asshole, 2010)

Movie Review by Greg Goodsell

Directed by Q

A ne’er-do-well with a shaved head in Modern India with the nickname of Gandu (which translates to the equivalent term of “Asshole” in Bengali) has a series of misadventures with his Bruce Lee-obsessed rickshaw driving buddy (Joyraj Bhattacharya). Unemployed, Gandu’s main source of income is picking the pocket of his mother’s boyfriend as they noisily make love. Squandering what he does have on a daily lottery, Gandu dreams of making it as a rapper. After a lifetime of grinding poverty and thwarted ambitions, Gandu’s fortunes suddenly take a turn for the better – will he have success in the music biz and finally lose his virginity to the hooker of his dreams?

GANDU is making waves as an anti-“Bollywood” film straight from India. To its credit, it’s filmed mostly in black-and-white (it does turn to color during his lovemaking scene with the prostitute) and revels in the dirt-poor desperation that is a reality for the majority of people in India. It must be noted that the plotline – a downtrodden hero making it big in the music industry is the template of countless Bollywood movies. GANDU graphically depicts scenes of XXX-rated sex, including a fearless scene of the hero (Anubrata Basu) flogging the hog to a porno video. The film also addresses the “Slumdog” reality of India. There are no babies crying for food with distended bellies. Rather, poverty here is marked by no sanitation, deprivation – the hero only has one shirt, while those with any cash at all while away their unemployed hours on cyber chat lines and watching VCDs of old Indian musicals.

The majority of the film appears unscripted, with the two friends spouting about whatever pops into their heads. Director Q is self-consciously arty with dissolves and split screens, but it’s nothing any schooled film fan has seen before. The only really radical or new idea appears to having the English subtitles, which are typically confined to the bottom of the screen, to pop out in all sort of wild, colored typography. For this reviewer, the film’s main virtue was its relatively brisk 86-minute running time. I didn’t relish the prospect of spending two to three hours, the average running time for a film from India, on such depressing subject matter.

GANDU is the premiere release of the Artsploitation DVD company. Packed with extras, it has a making of feature, a music video (one has to admit that the rap theme song is rather catchy and enjoyable), trailers as well as many other features. There’s always room for daring and innovative films, but there’s nothing in GANDU that hasn’t been done previously. One should approach the film for what it is, and NOT as something daring and unconventional. In tone and style, GANDU is much more akin to early Jean-Luc Goddard and NOT Gaspar Noe. Those who say otherwise seem to miss the point that like its hero, this emperor wears very little clothes.   

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