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September 10, 2018

What Point Is Q’s Garbage Trying To Make?

Text by Shubham Ladha

From the prince of punk cinema, comes a film that’s left us feeling that not all dissent is significant

“I’m garbage. And garbage knows its place,” states a woman, facing an overflowing landfill, before she is wrapped into a kiss struck by flares from a bright streetlight. And that’s just the beginning of the groan-inducing pretentiousness that Q (Quashiq Mukherjee) doles out in his film Garbage.

One of India’s most subversive independent film-makers, Q’s work is defined by provocative subjects, modern visuals and a want to attract controversy. With Gandu (2010), Tasher Desh (2012) and Ludo (2015), Q made films that are socio-politically charged and sexually explicit. And like these films, Garbage too made most of its rounds across international film festivals; it was the only Indian one present at the this year’s Berlinale. But that isn’t necessarily an indicator for successful cinema. 

Garbage, set in Goa, tells the tale of a twisted relationship shared by a man and two women. A depressed med-student, Rami (Trimala Adhikari), plans on hiding underground in the state after her ex-boyfriend leaked a video of their threesome online, which goes viral. She is received by Phanishwar (Tanmay Dhanania), a taxi driver who moonlights as a social media troll for a saffron-clad Hindu right-wing nationalist group. His testicular cancer is metastasising, but no logic can break the devout’s fervent faith that the group’s fraudulent leader, Baba Satchitanand (Satchit Puranik) and his ideology, will cure him. At his home, he’s leashed Nanaam (Satarupa Das) — a scantily-clad mute woman without any background — to a wall.

There are sparks of good ideas. Q’s interest in portraying raw sexuality through film is commendable. One thing is for sure — it’s time we all stopped squirming when two people — regardless of orientation — are shown making love. What’s also noteworthy is that issues of patriarchy, misogyny and violence against women — instead of unravelling in a nuanced way — are radically hurled at the audience. There are no inhibitions.

But that’s also the film’s downfall. The film takes its self too seriously, convinced that its addressing deep, serious issues while the audience is subjected to a convoluted, turgid plot thats’s tedious, and at times incredulous. The lurid spectacle is so self-serving that there’s no genuine message or cultural impact that can be taken away. And you end up feeling a bit tired by the director’s constant attempts to shock and provoke. It’s a film that tries to disturb the comforted and comfort the disturbed, but can it really be called art?

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