None of my films are for the squeamish – Q
Q (Qaushiq Mukherjee) has been described as a provocative, controversial, original voice with dazzling visuals to offer right from his breakthrough film, Gandu. Which has also earned him the moniker of Gasper Noe of India. Since then Q has dabbled in an eclectic mix of genres from horror to satire always managing to pique the curiosity of the audience and critics alike. His recent film Brahman Naman has already been picked up by Netflix and is scheduled for release later this year. Q in an interview with Pandolin talks about his upcoming film going to IFFLA and also what goes into making a ‘Q film’.
India has hardly seen any good movies in the nerd genre and to combine that with an esoteric subject like the world of quizzing is really unique. What interested you to work on this project?
It was a film that came to me. I did not develop it so the world of quizzing and the world of sexual comeuppance are both Naman’s (Writer Naman Ramachandran) milieu. For me the interesting thing was that we are almost of the same age so I could relate to the whole idea immediately. And I am a quizzer myself and could connect with the idea of the eighties, how it used to be at that time, how we were and that’s where I came in. I joined the project almost two years after they had already been working on it.
From the title of the movie to its synopsis and also taking a hint from the early reviews of the movie, is it also a reflection on the caste system?
Basically the underlying tone of the film right from the name itself had the caste system in it. When I came aboard this project I saw a great opportunity in this film to make a social statement as well as deliver a comedy. There is a historical tradition of satire and we have referred to the kind of satire that we had in our cinema in the seventies and eighties. So from that angle itself the caste system creates unique problematic situations but we look at it in a funny way. We thought that comedy as a genre allows you to look at something in a much more refreshing way than if you were looking at it with a greater degree of seriousness.
Comedy as a genre allows you to look at something in a much more refreshing way
In the film, is quizzing a metaphor for the knowledge reserved for the upper strata of society? And are you expecting a furor post the film’s release in India?
You have hit it right on the head! If you look back at it, you will see that quizzing is a very elitist, upper class idea of a pastime. You can also say that there is a sort of issue of supremacy hanging on from the colonial times, however it was always connected to a knowledge base. That knowledge base though is very flimsy since it deals with just trivia. There is no data gathering about serious things but you just know a lot of random facts. Though we don’t talk about this in the film through dialogue or in any specific scene but the underlying message of the film is that itself, a reflection on some kind of class dynamics.
Your film has a very interesting cast of relative unknowns (except Shashank Arora from Titli). How did you decide to cast Siddhartha Mallya as the chief antagonist?
Sid (Siddhartha Mallya) was actually very easy to cast and was an obvious choice since we were casting the cameo characters from Bangalore. We wanted these characters to be real, like someone coming from Bangalore itself. Sid is a Bangalore boy and was a natural fit in the film.
You have developed a very distinctive visual style from your breakout film Gandu itself. Do you tend to imagine scripts visually as in images first or is that an intuitive call taken on the sets?
It is fully organic. Usually it is in the workshops, that we do before the film, that a style emerges. It also emerges from the characters, mood of the film and music, which I rely upon heavily as an informative piece. I kick off the exercise with music, lots of classic tracks. And a lot of visual style also emerges from the locations we go to.
This is not at all just an Indian film, it is a universal story and could have happened anywhere in the world
Brahman Naman will be screened at IFFLA. What was the selection procedure like?
We had our premiere at Sundance and the audience reaction over there was fantastic. Lots of festival directors and programmers were present there and that’s how they (IFFLA) picked it up.
What kind of reactions do you expect from the audience there?
This is not at all just an Indian film, it is a universal story and could have happened anywhere in the world. This universality in the film is the backbone of the film. The unique thing is the place and time where we have set it in but that just works as the cinematic bonus.
Will the film do the full festival circuit round before we see a theatrical release? How do festivals help unconventional films like Brahman Naman?
I don’t think so because Netflix has handpicked it for a release. Their strategy is different than the conventional route and they are the most important partner in the film right now. We are looking at a big Netflix release and that is our primary concern currently. So we will do probably just three or four more festivals.
None of my films are for the squeamish for sure
What prompted you to go the Netflix way? Will that delay the theatrical release?
It always depends. With Brahman Naman they wanted it to be a Netflix original so that’s a stand they have similar to their other original releases. It is still a cinematic experience but more of a Netflix experience rather than a theatrical one. This is purely a new way of distribution of cinema across the world.
After your interesting warning before Ludo’s premiere, “Don’t eat before the show”, any heads up for the audience while they go in for Brahman Naman?
(laughs) Well, none of my films are for the squeamish for sure. For this particular film there is nothing to worry about or to be scared. But since this is a film on quizzing we will be able to give you certain trivia that you will be able to use in real life laughs). There will be practical application so to speak.