Now here's something you don't see every day: a rap/kitchen sink drama/experimental/hardcore Indian movie mostly shot in black and white scope. Yes, indeed, it's Gandu, a deliberately provocative slice of cinematic outrage that wears its "Banned in India" status with pride, and with good reason. The film was shopped around under the translated title The Loser, though it actually means something a bit more obscene. (You can check IMDb to find out.)
Dense and stylistically aggressive, this is the story of Gandu (Basu), an increasingly angry and frustrated lower class Bengali dweller who expresses himself in volatile rap rather than traditional conversation, usually conveyed through fantasy sequences. His ambition to rise above his station is encouraged when he becomes friends with a rickshaw puller (Bhattacharya), who worships Bruce Lee and joins him for some freebasing drug sessions. His home life isn't very inspiring (he lives in Kolkata with his mother, a scuzzy businessman's kept woman), but his fondness for rap, buying lottery tickets, and porn fuels him and leads to a second act plot turn that may or may not be real. In either case, it's a turbulent, deliberately challenging journey for those brave enough to take it.
Obviously filmmaker "Q" (an alias for filmmaker Kaushik Mukherjee) realized the odds of this film ever seeing the light of a projector in its native country were completely nonexistent, and the nonlinear approach (which many might label as self-indulgent) is bound to be divisive even among film festival crowds. However, the more overt shock tactics -- constant profanity, drug use, graphic sex, spastic editing -- do serve the story and don't come off as gratuitous, especially when the film switches to color for a lengthy, eye-popping carnal encounter that hurls the film into a different realm entirely.
One of the newer labels on the market, Artsploitation has certainly pulled off an attention-grabbing coup with this title, which would obviously be way too much for some bigger companies to handle. The DVD features an anamorphic transfer that does what it can with the digital lensing of the film, which ranges from sharp and clear to riddled with aliasing depending on the scene. The two-channel stereo Bengali soundtrack sounds solid, doing justice to a film the creators refer to as a musical (which, technically speaking, is true). The English subtitles were delivered burned onto the master in sometimes erratic and stylized methods (not unlike Night Watch from several years back), with often idiosyncratic typography and emphasis on arbitrary words to presumably capture the feeling of stream-of-consciousness rap into the subtitles themselves. The plentiful extras begin with a 33-minute featurette, ostensibly a making-of video that's almost as dizzying as the main feature. Loading with split screens and alternating between B&W and color, it begins with participants offering their own take on the meaning of the title, following by footage of the production and editing and panel discussions from festival screenings. There's also a music video (good luck watching it without feeling dizzy), the American trailer, a promo "Escape" trailer for a Gandu concert, a vague six-minute "Berlin" video presumably made to tie in with its festival showing, a ten-minute "WTRFV" music promo, and a pretty baffling "Gandu Circus" promo (barely over a minute) promoting another live music appearance. On top of that you get a 12-page insert booklet containing a statement by Q about the film ("A representation of the India we have right now. Repressed, angry, young, confused, and very horny."), excellent liner notes by Travis Crawford, and a brief text Q&A with the director about the film's censorship, his distaste for Bollywood, and the complexities of Bengali culture.