“I am haunted by the genitalia I saw on screen,” my young teenage friend was referring to the full on fellatio scene in Gandu a Bengali film directed by the director simply known as Q. who describes the film as a rap musical. “It was the only scene in the move shot in colour. His penis filled the screen…” she insisted, “and many in the audience turned away.” Shot mainly in black and white—Gandu (hindi translation: Arsehole)—is set in a poor Kolkata neighborhood, and tells a tale about a frustrated aspiring rapper who steals money from his mother to finance a trip with his friend Ricksha ( an intriguing character who worships Bruce Lee.) The two go off in a heroin-induced haze, finding it increasingly difficult to separate reality from hallucination. I saw the movie at the recently concluded London Indian Film Festival (LIFF 2012.) The music provided by Five Little Indians, a Kolkata based alternative rock band was the highlight of the film. Merging melodic rock with hindustani ragas, their unique sound captures the rebellion and anger of Gandu’s pent up teenage frustration.
More surprising than the sex scenes (for me), was that the girl featuring in them was the director’s real life girl-friend. Sex is sex, isn’t it? On screen or off. I wondered if this had impacted Q and his girlfriend in real life. Is it easy to see your girlfriend with another man, even if it is just play-acting? If anything the sex-scenes between Gandu and Kaali the on-screen prostitute, had a poetic-pop-art-semi-dreamy feel to it. It’s Gandu’s first time, and overall the experience felt almost romantic to me. It was real, almost tender and far more passionate than any of the so called amorous-kinky-sex between the lead characters in Fifty Shades of Grey. Gandu is an indie Indian film, about teenage angst, about finding your way in the world, about trying to figure out what is real and what is hallucinatory (something which I still struggle with to this day.) The raw emotions in this film touch a nerve, the sex is critical to the narrative…unfortunately it is yet to find mainstream release.
Fifty Shades of Grey has sold millions of copies around the world. More the pity; for at heart it is porn. No! let me rephrase that. Its sheets of automation sex, paragraph after paragraph, where the characters lurch from one encounter to another in quite a robotic fashion really. Call me old school, but I still believe in romance. But I am now beginning to worry that I am probably the last one standing, one of the few who still believes that the suggestion of sex is more provocative than the full on penetrative act—or rather the blatant penetration of different orifices—page after excruciating page.
In parallel, I just watched The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. I went in fully expecting to be ambivalent towards this film, but imagine my surprise when it turned out to be a delightful story. It just so happens that the cast of characters are in their sixties; they may well have been in their twenties and embarked on a journey in search of themselves. In one of the last scenes of this film, Bill Nighy’s character turns to Judi Dench’s and asks how she takes her tea? That one gentle sentence conveys a wealth of passion, and is actually much more powerful in its declaration of intent than a sex-act. So, perhaps there is hope after all. I for one, refuse to accept that “I want to fuck you” has replaced “I love you” as a declaration of emotion for many of us today.
What are your thoughts on Fifty Shades of Grey? Did you love it? Or do you like me take romance over straight sex any-day, Do write in and tell me.
Laxmi Hariharan is the author of epic fantasy, kindle bestseller The Destiny of Shaitan, and a technophile. Follow her on twitter @laxmi