The Indiscreet Charm of Gandu or Everything you wanted to know about Gandu but were afraid to ask Zizek

A blog essay in progress by Piklu aka St. Paul of Gandu


“Gandur jiban … to bnara ganduri jiban”

[‘An asshole’s life fucking stinks as it should’]

—- Gandu (Asshole, Q, 2010)

[All translations are mine]

Prologue: Reflections on farting as a socially symbolic act

There is a poignant moment in the contemporary Bengali film Gandu where the middle class protagonist Gandu (Anubrata) accuses his only friend, a cycle rickshaw puller (Joyraj), for farting repeatedly in response to his earnest expression of the miseries pervading his social existence. But what could be closer to an act of true friendship? Ricksha thus sums up his primal response in unambiguous terms: “gas hoechey bnara…” [‘it’s the fuckin’ wind’]. A perfectly organic response to the call of the other (habitually misinterpreted as an act of sheer disdain!). Herein lies the distinction between ‘humanity’ and it’s alleged other—the sensitive domain of affect and bonhomie versus the blind, mechanical propensities of purely biological forces. At one level, as I explain below,  this lewdly witty conversation staged on a derelict rooftop subverts such a opposition by staging an authentic act of ‘intimate’ exchange that foregrounds an essential feature of human nature— it’s purely inter subjective and inhuman core.  The scenario that could considered as a ‘mise-en-abyme’ of Gandu’s constitutive narrative logic, provokes two contrasting responses—-to denounce such offensive expressions as instances of cheap sensationalism and bad taste or to celebrate the same rhetoric as a scathing attack on humanist values and middle class behavourial norms. Both responses would miss the point. Ricksha’s act in fact stages the very ‘human’ drama that such critics would nostalgically desire or compulsively attack, but in the form of its staging the act unearths a fundamental illusion sustaining social habitation. Continue reading


Sthaniya Sambaad Parikrama 3

A couple of weeks have passed since we saw Sthaniya Sambaad, first day first show, then went to a nearby pub (which got featured in the film), got drunk and had heady discussions about the film over the night and thus collected some happiest hours in recent times – we people who thirst for better Bengali films and are cursed with almost none. It is still early to gather in precision why this film is so important to us, but here I am trying to sketch out few early impressions, in overwrought and incomplete posts. As all intense discussions over a freshly released film, we followed a familiar pattern again: gushing over the film, regretting why it won’t be better appreciated by the ‘mass’ and ‘media’ at large, then also picking up sequences or scenes which would have been better. This we found healthy: a film triggering personal takes within us, other sequences unshot/unwritten, lines-references-nuances added, a film generating films within us.

Had we, younger ones, made this film, it would have been more edgy, a bit more insane, a bit redder. But the film would have lost much. Here is a film marked with restraint, reticence, understatement and a more melancholic sort of the poetic, certain charms so much associated with the better ages of Bengali cinema. It is just about different perspectives, a couple of different generations.

One of the pieces I am pondering over will be about the role of poetry in the film. But about perspectives…I’ll end this piece mentioning perspectives while I might steer through the poetic briefly.

Let us talk a bit about Atin and Dipankar. That’s something strange in the film: Atin, teenage persisting in his early twenties, looks and sounds more old-fashioned than Dipankar, in his early forties. It becomes easier for us to identify with the intellectual than the younger poet. If Atin is in the phase of the lyrical, Dipankar has graduated to the novelistic; but Atin abhors eccentrics and drunkards, Dipankar can’t recall falling in love without a fight or two. Hearing those lines, I had an uncanny feeling that they are talking neither about love nor about alcohol, but about youthful political engagements. Might be, need to think about my displaced hearings. They are probably talking in a private language which we need to recode.

But those of us – who have spent their early youth at mofussils – might not find it difficult to identify Atin. Sensing a bit of affection for that age with a hint of regret recalling those years or those neighborhoods when and where girls were less accessible, when all of them mutated into spring-fairies during Saraswati pujas and Rabindrasangeet in chorus were more effective than you admitted it to be, you might start liking him. You might recall how those girls’ ‘culture’ in unison derided your lack of it and since modernism in Bengali poetry seldom crossed miles from the metropolis, how your feeble attempts at poesy didn’t lack much confidence. Peeping at your neighbor’s drawing rooms would have revealed to you a young Mahua Roychoudhuri and a younger Debasree Roy as the source of a sublime crooning over a piano, – might be penned by Tagore, might be a Brahmo prayer, you thought – you felt better. Continue reading


Sthaniya Sambaad Parikrama 2

In those films which we carry in our fatigued hearts and crammed heads, the city we inhabit is almost always the overwhelming setting and a woman always fleets in and out of those ephemeral spaces, partially real, almost always culled from memories of images, slowly gaining a sort of metonymic value: she becomes the city. Somehow like those femme fatales of noir, the blonde killer in perpetual shades in Chungking Express, this woman is always magical, mysterious, marinated in sin. You know, the films we carry in our heads and hearts, Bengali viewers are unfortunate enough to miss those better films because they are never made.

Hardly do you expect her to appear in the gentler ambiance of  Sthaniya Sambaad, you might almost miss her because the film sees her from outside. But if you – slowly – excavate that teenager buried within yourself and project him on Atin, if you then unleash yourself in the nocturnal metropolitan glitz of Park Street, then if you start searching for your neighborhood princess whom you desperately court with your quaint poetry and have already deemed her as your lover before she considered you, then if she is simultaneously there and missing, the apparition of that girl might be either dangerous or threatened by danger or – depending upon your increasingly displaced paranoia or frailty of your masculinity – both. She is – afterall – happening inside your head. Continue reading

Copy of Copy of spring-in-the-colony (1)

Sthaniya Sambaad Parikrama 1

Five guys perched on a platform, surveying things and overseeing none. One of them diligently pursuing the erstwhile colonialist’s language at one end, the other end manned by a reluctant arrogant who will show that he has more grasp over the language of yesteryears than he might appear to have. Discerning viewers have noted their presence as choric. Named ‘Barnamala/Alphabets’ – they seem to be a strange chorus – commenting less or reflecting hardly a word on the couple of strands of narrative that flow on. They seldom face each other; aligned horizontally they watch the neighborhood world stationed like frescoes in the wall.

Providing glosses and footnotes over events, characters and situations, playing with words and turn of phrases dropped by language and local news, they speak in a lingo verging towards the aphoristic and gradually being clipped to the minimal. These idlers are reduced to eyes, ears and tongues, bodies hung in all their weariness from invisible pegs, robbing themselves of all possibilities or intentions of mobility or actions. Continue reading

Ritwik Ghatak’s Komal Gandhar

Well, the last post quoting Chief Seattle’s speech triggered memories of my MA dissertation on Ritwik Kumar Ghatak’s (1925-1976) films. Since writer’s block continues, here is a revised section on one of this great Bengali filmmaker’s autobiographical works. The connection with the earlier post might be evident. The following has been published earlier…elsewhere.

Komal Gandhar (1961)

Komal Gandhar can be described as Ritwik Ghatak’s thesis-film. The film is a semi-autobiographical account of both the radical theatre movements in the 1940s and 1950s, particularly recalling Indian People’s Theatre Association, an important leftist cultural platform of which Ghatak was an active member and relatively calmer Bengal in the latter half of 1950s. So unabashed it was in its candor that the film landed Ghatak in major differences with the pro-soviet Communist Party of India, from which his distance increased slowly. The dialogue that triggers off the film is from a play which is being staged within the film, describing the effects of the Partition of India: “They have other-ed my mother, my own mother”. The narrative is about a couple of rival radical theatre groups, one led by Bhrigu, and the other by Shanta, of which Anasuya, the heroine of the film, is a member. Anasuya tries to bridge the groups. During the staging of a resultant joint-production of Bhrigu’s version of the Sanskrit classic Shakuntala, Shanta and her cronies deliberately sabotages it. Bhrigu and Anasuya, in between productions and journeys, fall in love. Now Anasuya has to choose between Bhrigu and Samar, her fiancée who lives in Paris.
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The West: End of Living and the Beginning of Survival

Sorry folks, this prolonged and unending writer’s block is really turning out to be a pain in the posterior. Dhriti requested me yesterday to write about my impressions on John Ford’s Cheyenne Autumn (1964). Now here is a damaging reply to that: I intend to write a series of posts on the plethora of westerns I immersed myself in for the last couple of months. So you get it, a man suffering severe writer’s block promising a series of 30 or so posts!

Let me instead present you something poignantly beautiful. This might act as a preamble to our possible discussions on the Westerns. This is excerpted from the famous speech given in the 1850s by Chief Seattle, the famous leader of the Suquamish and Duwamish Native American tribes of Washington, USA in a response to the authorities’ decision to buy Indian lands. Of course the speech is translated and the authenticity of the text is questioned by many. Continue reading

Hallucination as a Fact

Sorry folks for keeping few of you (unfortunately and thankfully) waiting! Remember I told something about my discipline in that first post? For further excuses: had to reformat my computer the day before yesterday. Below are those images referred in the classroom. I will not comment much regarding why I cited the first couple of photographs which are definitely not surrealist ones; but I consider them to be more surreal – stuff out which nightmares are made – than the latter, properly surreal one. Before you view them, the passage which provoked it…

Photography can even surpass art in creative power. The aesthetic world of the painter is of a different kind from that of the world about him. Its boundaries enclose a substantially and essentially different microcosm. The photograph as such and the object in itself share a common being, after the fashion of a fingerprint. Wherefore, photography actually contributes something to the order of natural creation instead of providing a substitute for it. The surrealists had an inkling of this when they looked to the photographic plate to provide them with their monstrosities and for this reason: the surrealist does not consider his aesthetic purpose and the the mechanical effect of the image on our imaginations as things apart. For him, the logical distinction between what is imaginary and what is real tends to disappear. Every image is to be seen as an object and every object as an image. Hence photography ranks high in order of surrealist creativity because it produces an image that is a reality of nature, namely, an hallucination that is also a fact. The fact that surrealist painting combines tricks of visual deception with meticulous attention to detail substantiates this

— Andre Bazin, The Ontology of the Photographic Image (translated by Hugh Gray).

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