MUMBAI (Reuters) - Don’t expect the expected from Dibakar Banerjee.
This new age Bollywood filmmaker has a unique sensibility and a keen eye for the idiosyncrasies and problems a new India is facing.
Whether it was the corrupt property dealer in “Khosla ka Ghosla” or the bittersweet tale of a crook in “Oye Lucky Lucky Oye” he pulls off his films with just the right amount of sauciness and dry humour.
His next, provocatively titled “Love Sex aur Dhokha” deals with the idea and concepts of sex in small-town India, told from the point of view of different cameras and hitherto unknown actors.
Banerjee spoke to Reuters about the film, what he learnt about love in small-town India and why Bollywood is so central to our ideas of love.
Q: Your next film has been shot on a hidden camera and a security camera. How did that happen?
A: ”Well, it has been shot on many more cameras than that. It’s been shot on a handycam, an amateur film-making camera. It has been shot on security cameras placed in shops and underwater cameras, spy cameras which are smaller than lipstick and night vision cameras. The story is told from the point of view of the camera.
“There are three stories within the film, and the first one is about a film student who is shooting a film so we view it from the camera. It is almost as if the camera is a character and to do that you have to give the camera character.”
Q: Your film deals with love and sex in small-town India. What did shooting this film tell you about those concepts?
A: ”Well, this film could be based anywhere. I think there are so many small towns within Mumbai or Delhi or Bangalore. What my camera is doing is that it’s recording a story that is changing in front of the camera.
“Something has happened to contemporary India -- we are all hungry to be in front of the camera and hungry to be famous. We want to be on TV, we want to be an idol or whatever, win a reality contest and become the nation’s heartthrob. So whenever we see a camera, our behaviour changes.”
Q: There are three stories in your film, aren’t there?
A: ”The first story in my film is about a filmmaker who is making a film and at the same time falling in love with the girl in the film. He somehow manages to shoot himself falling in love.
”The second story -- we often hear of these sex scandals, perhaps look at clips on our mobiles or the internet and then forget about them, but we forget that the same camera has recorded these same people before that. So how about recording that too?
“The third story is the story of a journalist, on his last sting who is trying to entrap India’s biggest rock star into a casting couch scandal, and through this camera, we not only get a glimpse of this rock star, how we consume news these days and journalists are forced to cover entertainment instead of hard news.”
Q: Do you get the feeling that the meaning of sex has changed for the youth in India at least.
A: “Earlier, we would have sex because we wanted to have sex. Today, we have sex to get caught on a tape, to further their career or to make friends. That is the issue that the film is examining.”
Q: The attitudes towards sex differ greatly in different parts of India, don’t they?
A: ”They do. India is two or three countries rolled into one. On one hand here we are in the cities with our televisions and our direct connection to the west, which is one world. And away from that is another world, which is caught between tradition and modernity and somehow manages to stick to the worst of both. And then there is a world which is totally away from this. They don’t know anything -- all they know is that they need to be here to belong, to succeed.
“All our advertisements, marketing, tells them that this is where life is -- your life means nothing. This film is about those people and about the fact they are being pulled in two different directions. I don’t think we have understood how to enrich our lives outside the cities.”
Q: How did the idea for the film come about?
A: ”I have no special recollection of the time when I thought of this film but it was festering in my mind for a while just like ‘Khosla Ka Ghosla’. There was a MMS scandal and I wanted to do something on what led to that incident.
”I wrote a two-page story, rather like a stream of consciousness piece on a guy who is in love and the contrast between what he thinks love should be and what it actually is in a country like ours -- where it is defined by richness or poorness, your caste, fairness, darkness, language but our films teach us that love conquers all. But it is when you start practising that you realise the paradox we are living in.
“I wanted to make it then, but then my other two films happened. Also I wanted to make it as a digital film because that was the premise and I was successful in bringing that and the story together.”
Q: Something you just said struck me about Bollywood and our concepts of love. Is that where we get our ideas of love from?
A: ”It doesn’t happen consciously but if you see that love conquers all and that ultimately everybody will be happy, there is an air of belief in that. How many thinking intelligent people do you know who come out of a Bollywood film and say ‘I loved it’.
”You and I watch Hollywood films and think the same about them because we see that as a superior connection. So we think that somewhere in this world there is a cosy New York flat where George Clooney will hold a baby in his harms and snore and Michelle Pfeiffer will hold his hand.
“Someone who feels emotions seeing that has turned up his nose at the same in a Bollywood film. So there will also be someone who sees Bollywood as the epitome of emotion that the New York apartment has for some people.”
Q: Bollywood does have somewhat of a holier-than-thou attitude towards love and sex, doesn’t it? So does that reflect in us too?
A: ”I don’t think Bollywood has any attitude towards sex, I think it reflects our attitude towards sex. The urban society is waking up and it is a Western-led frankness to sex. I don’t think the peasant in the village who is working from sun up to sundown has time to think about sex. He just goes ahead and does it -- or doesn’t do it and that’s the end of that.
”In an urban environment, consumerism is using sexual signals to sell and here by sexual I mean when you show the lips or the eyes of woman at its core that is a sexual signal.
“Sex as a selling tool is all pervasive and all around us. Earlier, sex used to be behind closed doors but now that is changing and we find ourselves in that awkward phase where we might talk about it comfortably between us but may not talk about it to our parents. When I spoke to LSD to my mother, she didn’t repeat the name of my film to me because she didn’t want to say the word ‘Sex’.”
Q: Your film is being compared to Hollywood films like “Paranormal Activity” and “The Blair Witch Project” because of the camera usage. Is that a valid comparison?
A: “Partly valid. The concept is the same which is using footage from a camera but my film has three films within one and so three different sets of visuals. But the idea and story are entirely Indian.”