It was one of those rare days when I actually picked up a newspaper. Of course its the Times Of India, what did you think? And then, strangely I actually got to the op-ed page. It was about Mr. Husain giving up his Indian citizenship for a Qatar one. A good article, well argued and essentially saying that if you do not like something, don’t see/hear/touch it. Its a free country and no-one is forcing anything down your throat.
True, but maybe easier said than done. Its true, I opted to go see Love Sex & Dhoka at a screen near home. True, being a free country, I walked out a quarter of the way into the film. You see, its more about having the choice to do so than the heady power of rejecting someone’s creation. But even then, even then, the editor I mentioned above assumes that I would have full information as to the nature of what I will be exposed to. That isn’t the case, and it shouldn’t be either because otherwise the experience would suffer too much.
Undoubtedly Mr. Banerjee created something he thinks is cinema; something that he thinks is pushing the existing boundaries of what is accepted and what is not; and also, without having any choice over it, telling us he thinks it is good cinema. I do not think these are unreal assumptions to make.
Having said that, when I left, all I could think of the utter ridiculousness of believing a certain kind of voyuerism a.k.a sexual intimacy is not acceptable for public viewing (So we have lyrics, yes lyrics of a film changed so that it does promote vulgarity and eve-teasing). But on the other hand, it is perfectly acceptable to let an “adult” audience sit through a meticulous, and this is the tipping point, “how dare you” hacking to dead with a hockey stick of a young couple who ran way and got married.
I am not going to ask for a point or purpose. That would be idiotic. Bu I remember seeing another film, 8MM (1999) which was pretty gruesome and shocking. Its not about how unpalettable it was. It was more like watching, or trying to watch that famous scene from Irreversible (2002). One is never quite sure what Mr. Banerjee expects of us. To be revulsed? To be afraid? To think a little more about the symbolism of a hockey stick as a murder weapon in post-1984 India where riots are a part of our sub-conscious guilt? Or that of the handy-cam as a new form of narrative ? (it isn’t). Does he want to warn a generation which is already fighting centuries of patriarchy and bigotry and a city (his city), where for the ordinary man on the street, women are not human but holes in the wall?
Were the hat-ke take on the running between the trees and writing on them, or the romantic moments and references to a cult film an inside joke? Or just in bad taste?
Or is he, like he seemed to suggest in the opening moments of the film – just sharing his revulsion for contemporary television. Being of course, an aborted viewing, I am unable to form a final conclusion. But the fact that television would never show that scene makes me doubtful as to the possibility of that one.
But I am tempted to believe Mr. Dasgupta’s review because somewhere deep inside, what I saw made me very angry. Because if I am seeing through the director’s eyes, all I really want is that he should not seem to represent people insensitive to context and meaning.