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3.5

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Gandu
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by Jay Seaver

"A film that's occasionally as ferocious as its title."
3 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2012 BOSTON UNDERGROUND FILM FESTIVAL: "Gandu" is almost more interesting for what it is - an "anti-Bollywood" movie - than as a movie with characters and story and all. Shot in stark black-and-white, and musically propelled by hard-edged Bengali rap, it focuses on everyday life rather than a strong plot or story. It's not likely to be similar to any Indian movie the audience has seen before, for better or worse.

"Gandu" means "asshole" in Bengali slang, which makes it kind of a crummy nickname for a guy to have, but that's what the title character (Anubrata Basu) is stuck with. He spends his days hanging out with Ricksha (Joyraj Bhattacharya), the neighborhood's aptly-monickered Bruce Lee-worshipping rickshaw puller. His mother is the mistress of a wealthy man, and while they're screwing Gandu picks the man's pocket, although he mostly spends the money at the internet cafe owned by the same man. He dreams of making it big in the hip-hop world.

And repeat. Early on, Gandu falls into a sort of rhythm, and that's not exactly a bad thing. Filmmaker Kaushik Murkherjee - credited as "Q" - does an impressive job of showing the characters' lives basically going nowhere without feeling slow. Part of it is how he uses music; where Bollywood musical numbers come in predictable patterns and tell are generally fluffy filler, Gandu's raps are angry, direct, and serve as exclamation points. They're a thudding bass-line to the rest of the movie, with subtitled lyrics leaping right to the center of the screen and keeping it moving for quite a while.

That can only bring it so far, though, and Gandu kind of runs out of story halfway through. At that point, it gets weirdly self-referential for a bit before throwing in an explicit sex scene (that got little more than polite attention) and kicking up a number of other bits that seemed to have very little to do do with how the movie started. Black and white shifts to color, a second set of opening titles pop up, and the lean simplicity falls by the wayside. It's a weird thing, but as soon as things started happening, the movie got much less exciting; a movie that seemed to channel a guy's life directly becomes a weird series of gimmicks that take the emphasis away from Gandu and put it onto Q.

Maybe, at that point, it had gotten as far as Anubrata could take it. He gives a raw but entertaining performance, capturing how Gandu is angry and downtrodden but also kind of an idiot, moving smoothly from physical comedy to ranting that sounds incoherent but expresses a power fantasy in the way that only rap can. There's a fine coiled-spring intensity to him, and while he can no more sustain it than the rest of the movie can (and the other actors are only so-so), he's something to see while the movie is still working.

Give "Gandu" credit; a lot of movies like this will just peter out and drag the audience to the end. Q and company do everything to keep is things going, and while they don't achieve greatness, they do manage something different and do well enough not to torpedo the exciting work that came before.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=23075&reviewer=371
originally posted: 04/22/12 15:04:15
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 47th Chicago International Film Festival For more in the 47th Chicago International Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2012 Boston Underground Film Festival For more in the 2012 Boston Underground Film Festival series, click here.

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USA
  N/A (NR)
  DVD: 18-Dec-2012

UK
  N/A

Australia
  N/A


Directed by
  Kaushik Mukherjee

Written by
  Kaushik Mukherjee

Cast
  Anubrata Basu
  Joyraj Bhattacharaya
  Rituparna Sen
  Rii



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